I keep hearing that you absolutely have to become a police officer first before being a crime scene investigator. Is this true ? I was wondering if you can do other things in the police field other than an actual police officer like for example , being the person who takes inmates fingerprints when they first arrive in jail or whatever. I just do not want to be a police officer at all. I was thinking if I get a certificate in forensics then maybe that'll help me get closer to my career than starting off with becoming a police officer. I'm about to be a senior in college and I need answers because I'm getting close to the real world.
While some departments have their police officers or detectives collect evidence (especially small departments), many use civilian employees. If you look at the employment opportunity page of the Crime Scene Investigator Network you will find over 400 job openings listed. None of them require the person to be a police officer, sheriff's deputy or state trooper to apply. Look through the job announcements to see what employers require.
What is your major in college? Is it something that will lead to a crime scene investigator job? It could be a hard science such as biology or chemistry, or a degree in forensic science. Criminal Justice degrees do not carry much weight other than to show you can stick it out in a degree program. Most agencies are looking for someone with a bit more CSI specific training.
For someone who can't do a four year degree in Biology or Chemistry, or just has a Criminal Justice degree, I suggest they consider getting specialized training in Crime Scene Investigations. There are programs that focus just on Crime Scene Investigations. One such program is the Crime Scene Investigation Certificate Program offered at the University of California. They have a Summer Academy in which you can receive specialized training in Crime Scene Investigations and receive a certificate upon successful completion of the program. The Summer Academy starts in July each year and runs for five weeks. People come from all over the United States for the five week training. A certificate for more specialized training will make you more marketable. Here is the link for a brochure on last year's program: CSI Academy brochure. To enroll or receive more information for this year's program: Crime Scene Investigation Summer Certificate Program.
I happen to teach in the CSI Certificate program and can tell you we have had several students go on to get jobs as Crime Scene Investigators.
I think the best advice on education is to decide where you want to work, find out what they require in education, and then get that level of education. There are over 400 jobs listed on the employment opportunity page of the Crime Scene Investigator Network. Look through the job listings to see what the different agencies require in education.