Crime Scene Analyst Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a career as a crime scene analyst? Get real job descriptions and salary info to see if becoming a crime scene analyst is the right career for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Crime Scene Analyst

Crime scene analysts, also called forensic science technicians, are criminal justice professionals who investigate the scenes of crimes. Get the pros and cons and see if this career is for you.

Pros of a Career as a Crime Scene Analyst
Salaries for forensic science technicians are higher than the average for all jobs ($59,000 compared to national average salary of $47,000 as of 2014)*
Good employment opportunities for analysts who have earned a bachelor's degree*
Crime scene analysts who work for the government may belong to public unions**
Intellectually stimulating (the complex nature of the job requires strong problem-solving skills and the ability to pay close attention)*

Cons of a Career as a Crime Scene Analyst
Work hazards (as a crime scene analyst, you'll be exposed to chemicals, fumes and diseases associated with physical evidence, among other hazards)**
Erratic work hours (crime scene analysts who work in the field are often on call at all times of the day and night)*
Dealing with disturbing images and conditions everyday may be emotionally draining*
Tough competition (the popularity of crime scene analysis means that you'll be up against many applicants for entry-level employment)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **California Employment Development Department.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Crime scene analysts are largely responsible for investigating the scenes of crimes and analyzing the physical evidence that gets left behind. Within these two primary tasks are a diverse range of subtler professional duties, such as preparing drawings of crime scenes, determining strategies to collect crime scene evidence while causing the least contamination, testing weapons for fingerprints and cataloging evidence slated to be sent to the laboratory. Analysts who work in labs may be required to employ chemical and physical analysis techniques to connecting suspects with evidence, consult with experts in other fields about evidence and build reconstructed crime scenes based on the evidence that's been collected in the field.

Job Prospects and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that nationwide employment of forensic science technicians is expected to increase by 6% from 2012-2022, which is slower than the average for all occupations. This increase will be driven, in part, by the heightened awareness of forensics among many people due to popular culture. In May 2014, the mean annual wage of these professionals was about $59,000, the BLS reported.

Career Paths and Specializations

Crime scene analysts may either work in the field, investigating the scenes of crimes, or in the laboratory, where they are required to analyze the evidence transferred from the crime in detail. Nearly all analysts, about 9 in 10 according to the BLS, work for state and local governments. They may be employed in crime laboratories, morgues, police departments and/or coroner offices. Analysts may specialize in a variety of specific areas, such as fingerprint identification and forensic imaging.

Career Skills and Requirements

The requirements for entry-level employment as a crime scene analyst may vary depending on where you aspire to work, although nearly all employers will require you to have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent. Analysts who work in labs are typically required to hold at least a bachelor's degree in forensic science, natural science or a similar field, the BLS reports. You'll also need a significant amount of on-the-job training, for both lab and field positions. This training may consist of programs in a variety of specialty areas, such as firearms analysis and DNA analysis.

Useful Skills

To successfully complete your professional tasks, you'll need a variety of skills and abilities. These may include the ability to:

  • Keep your composure when faced with potentially grisly images
  • Speak clearly and concisely about potentially complex circumstances
  • Write cogent, legally sound reports
  • Creatively solve complex problems
  • Pay close attention to an enormous amount of sometimes conflicting detail

Job Postings from Real Employers

An April 2012 search for crime scene analysts came up with a variety of postings, most of which were from police departments seeking forensics technicians. Most positions required at least an associate's degree in forensic science, biology, criminal justice or a similar field. The requisite professional experience varied among employers. The following is a list summarizing several representative postings from that search:

  • A police department in North Carolina advertised for a crime scene investigator with at least one year of related professional experience and an associate's degree in forensic science or a related field.
  • A Massachusetts police department advertised for a senior identification technician responsible for collecting and processing fingerprint evidence at crime scenes. Applicants were required to have at least a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, or a related field, and at least 2 years of professional experience in fingerprint identification.
  • A Missouri law enforcement agency advertised for a latent technician, which is a crime scene analyst who specializes in fingerprint identification. Applicants were required to hold at least a high school diploma or its equivalent and 2 years of relevant professional experience.

How to Stand out

Continuing Education

Since forensics is a discipline that is highly sensitive to changing technology, crime scene analysts who want to maintain their competitive edge may benefit greatly from staying abreast of the most advanced equipment and techniques. An effective way to gain access to continuing education opportunities is by joining a professional association, such as the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS). Organizations such as the AAFS provide a variety of continuing education opportunities, including access to industry journals, conferences, seminars and professional networks.

Get Certified

While not required, you may also consider acquiring certification in crime scene investigation in order to increase your legitimacy and credibility in the field. The International Association for Identification (IAI) offers 4 certification options, including the Certified Crime Scene Investigator and the Certified Crime Scene Analyst. To earn credentials from the IAI, you'll need to meet experience and education requirements and take an exam.

Other Careers to Consider

Police Officer

If you've changed your mind about pursuing a career as a crime scene analyst, but still want a job with similar duties, you may think about becoming either a police officer or private investigator. Police officers share many responsibilities with the crime scene analyst. They must also investigate crime scenes and deal with criminal evidence. However, unlike analysts, they're not responsible for closely evaluating the evidence. In addition to a high school diploma or a college degree, you'll need to attend a training academy before you can start working in this field.

Growth was expected to be slow in this field; the BLS reported only seven percent growth expected from 2010-2020. However, you could earn about the same wage as crime scene analysts; the average salary as of May 2011 was around $56,000 for police and sheriff's patrol officers, according to the BLS.

Private Investigator

Private investigator is another occupation very similar to crime scene analyst. Investigators must piece together information and evidence in order to obtain the facts about a range of personal circumstances. Unlike analysts, however, they don't investigate the scenes of crime. Investigators can work alone and may be involved in confrontations. Growth in this field was expected to be faster than average, with 21% growth expected from 2010-2020, the BLS reported. However, private detectives and investigators earned an average salary of around $49,000 as of May 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BSCJ: Crime Scene Investigation
      • BS in Corrections
      • Bachelor: Auditing-Forensic Accountancy
      • Bachelor: Criminal Justice
      • BS in Cybersecurity
      • BSCJ: Forensic Psychology
    Associate's
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
      • AAS in Criminal Justice and Criminology
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Criminal Justice: Education
      • Doctor of Criminal Justice: Homeland Security
    Master's
      • MS: Criminal Justice - Forensic Science
      • MS: Criminal Justice
      • MS: Criminal Justice - Corrections
      • MS: Criminal Justice - Criminal Investigation
      • MS: Criminal Justice - Critical Incident Management
      • MS: Criminal Justice - Legal Studies
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.A. in Law - Alternative Dispute Resolution
      • Master of Public Administration - Emergency Management and Homeland Security
      • M.A. in Government - National Security Studies
      • M.A. in Law - Cybersecurity Law
      • M.A. in National Security Studies - Cybersecurity Policy
      • M.A. in National Security Studies - Homeland Security
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Applied Science in Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Criminal Justice
      • B.S. in Cyber & Digital Forensics
      • Bachelor of Arts in Law and National Security
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate - Cyber Security
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Florida Tech

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA in Criminal Justice
    Associate's
      • AA in Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Criminal Justice
      • PhD in Business Admin - Criminal Justice
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Homeland Security: Leadership & Policy
  • Campus and Online Programs
    7. Miller-Motte College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Criminal Justice - Associate of Applied Science
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
      • Master of Science in Cyber Security
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Trident University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Homeland Security (BSHLS)
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • HS Diploma

Featured Schools

Purdue University Global

  • BSCJ: Crime Scene Investigation
  • BS in Corrections
  • Associate: Criminal Justice
  • AAS in Criminal Justice and Criminology

Which subject are you interested in?

Saint Leo University

  • Doctor of Criminal Justice: Education
  • Doctor of Criminal Justice: Homeland Security
  • MS: Criminal Justice - Forensic Science
  • MS: Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education completed?

Regent University

  • M.A. in Law - Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Master of Public Administration - Emergency Management and Homeland Security
  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
  • Graduate Certificate - Cyber Security

What is your highest level of education?

Florida Tech

  • BA in Criminal Justice
  • AA in Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education completed?

Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Criminal Justice
  • PhD in Business Admin - Criminal Justice
  • Doctor of Business Admin - Homeland Security: Leadership & Policy

What is your highest level of education?

Miller-Motte College

  • Criminal Justice - Associate of Applied Science

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • MS in Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
  • Master of Science in Cyber Security

What is your highest level of education?