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Qualifications for Becoming a Crime Scene Investigator

Updated March 23, 2017

Crime scene investigators, also known as forensic scientists, collect and analyse evidence from crime scenes, using scientific methods to help police solve crimes. Blood spatters, hair and tissue samples, DNA and bullet casings--all these and more are part of a forensic scientist's world. This work requires a sound scientific education, communication skills and a variety of personal qualities.

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Educational Qualifications

Crime scene investigation requires in-depth knowledge of science and mathematics. Therefore, a forensic scientist should have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in chemistry, biology, biochemistry, physics, forensic science or another scientific discipline. Science courses should include laboratory experience, as crime scene investigators spend many hours in crime labs, analysing all types of physical evidence. Their schooling also should include courses in advanced mathematics, including trigonometry, calculus and statistics. Crime scene investigators use their math skills, for example, when determining angles of blows or weapon trajectories. A master's degree in chemistry or biology may be necessary for advancement in a crime scene investigation career. Also, prospective forensic scientists may want to take a few basic criminal justice courses.

Communication Skills

Forensic scientists collect and analyse a wide range of physical evidence from crime scenes. To assist police, crime scene investigators must prepare written reports that explain their findings. They often present expert testimony in court, explaining the scientific evidence used against the accused. Crime scene investigators need excellent written and oral communication skills that allow them to make complex scientific information understandable to police investigators, prosecutors and members of the public.

Personal Qualifications

Because of the meticulous nature of forensic science work, crime scene investigators should have the deep intellectual curiosity needed to conduct the in-depth analyses required. Because science as a field constantly progresses with new knowledge and discoveries, crime scene investigators must be willing to stay abreast of new scientific knowledge so they can apply it to their jobs. They also should be detail-oriented and familiar with proper safety and health procedures. Forensic scientists, after all, handle blood and tissue samples, which could be contaminated with HIV or infectious diseases. They also handle other potentially hazardous materials. Crime scene investigators must know and observe proper procedures for handling such evidence.

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About the Author

Shane Hall

Shane Hall is a writer and research analyst with more than 20 years of experience. His work has appeared in "Brookings Papers on Education Policy," "Population and Development" and various Texas newspapers. Hall has a Doctor of Philosophy in political economy and is a former college instructor of economics and political science.

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