While forensic crime scene investigators have long played critical roles in solving crimes, it wasn't until the television show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation became a ratings sensation that crime scene investigators were thrust into the spotlight. Outside of the big network production, however, crime scene investigation has practical job responsibilities and working conditions just like every other job.
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Forensic crime scene investigators are responsible for a variety of tasks that span initial investigation and collection of evidence to testifying in a court of law. Depending upon fields of specialisation, crime scene investigators may also perform technical forensic analysis as well. Equally important, however, is the crime scene investigator's ability to thoroughly and accurately document investigations, including evidence collected as well as collection methods, so that other officers and attorneys can use that evidence for solving and prosecuting crimes.
Crime scene investigators keep regular office hours but are usually on-call for designated shifts as well, meaning that they may be called to a crime scene outside of standard office hours. Working conditions vary considerably based on the crime being investigated, from homicide to burglary and a range of crimes in between. In addition, depending upon the environment in which the crime scene investigator lives, weather will also play a role in working conditions.
Most, but not all, agencies require a four-year degree to be considered as a crime scene investigator. While some positions focus solely on basic forensic tasks, others require a working knowledge of subjects as chemistry, anatomy and criminal law. These latter positions require a four-year degree or extended experience in a closely related field. For those looking to become crime scene investigators, an education that includes some combination of science and criminal law provides a solid educational foundation.
As of May 2010, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics listed the mean annual wage for crime scene investigators or forensic science technicians as £35,776, which works out to an mean hourly wage of £17.20. The lowest 10 percentile of crime scene investigators earn an annual salary of £21,385, while the top 10 percentile earn an annual salary of £53,943. Some agencies also offer bonuses that can add another up to another £3,250 to the annual salary.
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