Advice for CSI/Criminalist Careers

Interested in CSI? Crime Scene Evidence and Testing

Certification by the International Association for Identification (IAI), is recommended, and may eventually be required.  In order to become IAI-certified, the applicant must already be employed full-time by an agency and/or in the discipline for which they wish to become certified.  So, for crime scene investigator certification, an applicant must already be doing crime scene investigations for at least one full year at a local police department or coroner’s office.  Online classes and College/University courses are NOT accepted for IAI certification hours.


Earn a B.A. degree in Criminal Justice > Become employed as a police officer-- respond to calls involving potential crime scenes > Apply within that police department for CSI and/or certification


Most CSI’s are already sworn police officers who get the necessary crime scene experience on the job.

Some Civilian (non-sworn) CSI jobs exist in larger police departments, but the pay and benefits are significantly less (even half as much) as a sworn police CSI.


Earn a degree in Biology or Chemistry (minor in CJ) > Become employed in a crime lab, testing evidence


For ALL positions listed on the other side of this sheet, excellent writing skills are required to produce coherent written reports that can be used in court. Additionally, verbal communication skills are required to possibly testify in court about the evidence gathering process, chain of custody, and/or the nature of the tests performed.


Crime Scene Investigator/Analyst

Crime scene investigators secure the crime scene to ensure that potential evidence isn’t contaminated, and secure the evidence in transit from the field to the lab. .This includes evidence tagging, sketching, photographing and print gathering for lab processing.  In collecting evidence, CSAs must use approved methods and tools to collect DNA samples (blood, semen, hair, skin, blood stain patterns, bodily fluids and nails), and trace evidence (gunshot residue, fibers, accelerant, paint, glass, toolmarks, footprints, and tire marks). Autopsy attendance is required to gather evidence, document the corpse, and assist the medical examiner or pathologist.

CSAs work regularly with law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office. May be required to qualify with firearms, physical fitness tests, and defensive tactics standards. Requires ability to walk, stand, stoop, crawl, kneel, climb and push/pull objects. Must be able to visually identify or describe persons, vehicles, locations or describe physical evidence and crime scenes.

Certification by the International Association for Identification (IAI), Crime Scene Investigator Certification is recommended and may even be required within a certain time frame.


Crime Lab Analyst/Criminalist

Crime laboratory analysts conduct technical and scientific testing, gather data and document results. An analyst works with specialized equipment such as latent print kits, casting kits, electrostatic dust print lifters and meter testing equipment to identify and analyze various types of physical evidence collected from a crime scene, and they must take great care in the handling, packaging and preserving of evidence. Other duties of crime laboratory analysts can include conducting forensic science experiments, analyzing results, formulating conclusions and presenting findings verbally or in writing.  Criminalists may analyze and compare handwriting, printing, fingerprints, and foot and palm imprints for identification purposes. Criminalists are also called upon to identify bullet fragments and casings, and residues to help determine the use of firearms in crimes. They may examine physiological evidence, such as bloodstains, to help solve a crime. Certification as a Crime Scene Analyst by the International Association for Identification (IAI) may be required.


Forensic Scientist

Forensic scientists work in laboratories and oversee a variety of specialized tests. These specialists may be responsible for the identification and classification of biological and physical substances, materials, mechanical devices, liquids and other physical evidence. Their work often involves determining the chemical composition of materials and testing for the presence of specific substances, including through the use of infrared and ultraviolet light. Forensic scientists may reconstruct a crime scene by using plaster casts to preserve footprints or tire tracks. They may also be required to testify in court regarding testing of evidence collected from a crime scene.  A degree in biology or chemistry is required, and a minor in criminal justice may be helpful. Additional certifications by the International Association for Identification (IAI), may be required: