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. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Forensic Science
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Corrections and Case Management
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Generalist
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Homeland Security and Crisis Management
      • Bachelor of Information Technology - Digital Investigation
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Criminal Justice
      • MS in Cybersecurity Management
    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 Public Safety and Security
      • AAS in Criminal Justice and Criminology
      • Associate: Fire Science
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Criminal Justice
      • MS in Criminal Justice Intelligence & Crime Analysis
      • MS in Criminal Justice Behavior Analysis
      • MS in Criminal Justice Homeland Security
      • MS in Criminal Justice Federal Law Enforcement
      • MS in Criminal Justice Behavior Management
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Utica College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Professional Studies in Cyber Policy and Risk Analysis
      • MS in Data Science: Financial Crime
      • MBA - Cyber Policy
      • MBA - Cybersecurity
      • MBA Economic Crime and Fraud Management
      • MS in Cybersecurity - Computer Forensics
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Cybercrime and Fraud Investigation
      • Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation
      • Online Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Financial Investigation
      • Online Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Fraud Prevention and Detection
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Operations
      • Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Baker College Online

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Criminal Justice - Bachelor
      • Law Enforcement Academy (Police) - Bachelor
  • 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
      • PhD in Business Admin - Homeland Security: Leadership & Policy
      • PhD-TIM - Cybersecurity
    Master's
      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Criminal Justice
      • MBA - Criminal Justice
      • MBA - Homeland Security
      • MSTIM - Cybersecurity
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Criminal Justice
      • B.A. - Homeland Security
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
      • Associate of Arts - Homeland Security
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
    Bachelor's
      • Undergraduate Specialization - Criminal Forensics
      • BS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate - Cyber Security
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Argosy University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor - Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
      • Master of Science in Cyber Security
      • Master of Science in Cyber Security (Bridge)
      • MS in Leadership: Disaster Preparedness & Executive Fire Leadership
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Information Technology with an Emphasis in Cybersecurity

Featured Schools

American InterContinental University

  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Forensic Science
  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
  • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

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Kaplan University

  • Master: Criminal Justice
  • BSCJ: Crime Scene Investigation
  • Associate: Criminal Justice

Which subject are you interested in?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Criminal Justice
  • MS in Criminal Justice Intelligence & Crime Analysis
  • MS in Criminal Justice Behavior Analysis

What is your highest level of education completed?

Utica College

  • Master of Professional Studies in Cyber Policy and Risk Analysis
  • MS in Data Science: Financial Crime
  • BS in Cybersecurity - Cybercrime and Fraud Investigation
  • Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation

What is your highest level of education completed?

Baker College Online

  • Criminal Justice - Bachelor
  • Law Enforcement Academy (Police) - Bachelor

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Criminal Justice
  • PhD in Business Admin - Criminal Justice
  • MS - Organizational Leadership: Criminal Justice
  • MBA - Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Criminal Justice
  • B.A. - Homeland Security
  • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts - Homeland Security

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

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

What is your highest level of education?