As one of the most popular shows on television, CSI has undoubtedly inspired many people to pursue the enticing career of being a crime scene investigator. As exciting as it appears to be on TV, some viewers interested in pursuing a career in crime scene investigation may be wondering how accurate the media’s depiction of it is. Do popular television shows glam up the profession? Or is it really as exciting as it’s made out to be?
Simply put, crime scene investigators are responsible solely for investigating crime scenes. Their main job is to carry out the evaluation of the scene and secure any physical evidence that may have been left behind, which will later be used for additional research and testing in a laboratory or database center. After initial research, investigators write up detailed reports including how they took care of the crime scene and what types of evidence they may have found. Once these reports are created, they are then given to the local police station or FBI who is investigating the crime. Investigators may even be asked to testify within the courtroom in relation to evidence they may have found. Crime scene investigators play one of the most crucial roles in solving crimes and catching criminals, and they work closely with various law enforcement agencies.
But How Is It?
As exciting as it may look on TV, a crime scene investigator’s job can be grueling at times and can often be quite tough to deal with even on a daily basis. Most investigators will be visiting places where burglaries, assaults or even murders have all taken place. When visiting, the investigators must process the scene themselves, which means putting up that famous yellow tape, packaging up evidence for later use, talking closely with the local police department, and taking tons of photos. This work can often times take an extremely long time as everything must be done as carefully and with as much attention to detail as possible to avoid any negative consequences. Investigators have to be this careful because even one small mistake could play a huge role in a court case, or cause a case to fall apart on lack of evidence.
Most of these crime scene investigators will work a 40 hour workweek like anyone else, but must also be available at all times. This is similar to the duties of a doctor, except with much shorter hours. It doesn’t matter if you receive a phone call at 4 A.M. while sleeping. Crime can happen at any time, and if you are needed, you must come in for assistance. This means that you must be on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For the average person, this can impart quite a bit of stress on their life because they must constantly be near their work place at all times.
Get To the Gym!
Crime scene investigators must also be in excellent shape. Some of you may be thinking: “Why do you need to be in great shape? All you’re doing is collecting evidence and writing reports.” While this is true, investigators are often required to investigate tight spaces, must be able to kneel for long periods of time, and may even have to climb certain areas. These investigators must also carry a standard-issued firearm with them at all times, just like a traditional police officer. Because of this, they undergo weapons training and are also subject to a physical fitness test.
Be Willing to Put in the Hours
As far as getting hired in as an investigator, the applicant should possess a criminal justice degree from an accredited institution. Along with this, after being hired, they must complete a minimum of 720 hours of training in crime scene processing, 80 hours with latent fingerprint processing, 40 hours in advanced death investigations, 40 hours in major death investigation, 40 hours in blood splatter interpretation, 40 hours in photography, and other course such as forensic pathology. The Crime Scene Certification Board must also certify the crime scene investigator.
While television shows may offer a fairly accurate portrayal of crime scene investigation in that investigators are taking photos, collecting evidence, and creating reports, what these shows forget to demonstrate is how grueling the work can actually be and how taxing it is on your body. However, for the right type of person—someone who is passionate about forensics and loves to work hard—a career as a crime scene investigator may be the perfect career choice, and more exciting and rewarding than any television show.
Travis Paulson pursued his degree in forensic science where he has been a part of large crime scene investigations.