Fed up of boring career choices? Fancy your hand as the next Sherlock Holmes rather than something as dull as an accountant, lawyer or computer programmer?
Then this guide is for you. If you want to know how to become a crime scene investigator then read on.
What’s it all about?
Ok, you may consume TV crime drama like most of us consume air, but do you really know what it’s all about?
A crime scene investigator uses their problem-solving, observation and sleuthing skills to scientifically and rigorously investigate crimes. It involves evidence collection and assessment and you can expect processing and categorising evidence to take up a fair chunk of your time.
You’ll be part of the police force and may be known as a ‘scene of crime officer’ or ‘forensic scene investigator’.
We’re going to level with you – in the early days at least, being a crime scene investigator is about doing a job you love and earning your stripes.
The pay isn’t amazing. But once you level up and reach senior levels you could be looking at £30k-£40k+. You’ll be doing shift work and irregular hours given those criminals have no respect for the 9-5.
Also, how’s your stomach? As a crime scene investigator, you’re going to see some pretty gruesome and heart-wrenching stuff. There will be times it comes close to the bone and other times it’s cold, wet and frustrating.
But, you’ll get a buzz like in few other jobs when you solve puzzles, put pieces together, and are the one to nail that baddie.
How to become a crime scene investigator: Qualifications & Skills
You’ll need a good clutch of decent GCSEs and ideally A levels with at least one in a lab-based subject. Typically applicants for crime scene investigation have a degree and good courses for this are criminology, forensics, biology, chemistry and psychology.
The College of Policing offers additional qualifications that are often undertaken as you work. Extra qualifications that will help you out include photography. You’ll almost certainly need a driving license.
Beyond qualifications, you’re going to need to be a particular kind of person to make it in this role. You’ll be the pernickety, diligent, always-a-stickler-for –detail character that can be like a dog with a bone.
You’ll be a pro at observation – of people and things – but you’ll also have the patience of a saint for cataloguing and doing repetitive admin. Being a techy geek will increasingly help you in this career.
Yet, you’ll also need to be able to work with others, drawing on strengths of everyone and be able to communicate effectively both in the written word and verbally. You’ll need to have a pretty decent love affair with processes and procedures and be fully capable of keeping your mouth shut when it matters.
At all times you’ll be working under the standards set by the Forensic Science Regulator and within the Forensic Quality Management framework, so to give yourself the edge you can acquaint yourself with these.
How to get experience as a crime scene investigator
Unfortunately binge-watching police shows won’t count as experience, and getting experience in CSI is hard. You’re going to have to put on your investigator’s hat and come up with some lateral approaches.
Any work experience with the police is a definite good thing. Other good avenues for gaining somewhat relevant experience include working with private security services or a private forensic service provider. Applying through the Police Now graduate scheme can set you off on the right course.
Getting experience to get your foot in the door will be one of the hardest things as, funnily enough, it’s a pretty popular career option. So show your tenacity from the word go and keep plugging away until you crack the case.
You can also start a career on a different police track to gain experience, and shift over once you’ve proved your mettle.
Scaling the career
Working as a crime scene investigator allows plenty of professional development and you can build a rewarding and interesting career that beats a plain old desk job.
You’ll always be undertaking new training as crime scene investigation methods develop and the science and tech moves forwards. Remember, you’re trying to stay one step ahead of master criminals who are doing everything they can not to get caught. Certainly at the moment, a lot of ongoing development is in the field of cybercrime.
Police forces do love their structured progression avenues, so expect to be able to climb each rung bit by bit, finally ending up with a job title like Senior Crime Scene Investigator or Crime Scene Manager.
Becoming a crime scene investigator isn’t an easy field to get into but it can deliver an engaging and unusual career that will give you a bunch of stories to entertain audiences and a status to repel the dodgy people.
Just want to have a go without the career path? Find a CSI event near you.
Please bear in mind that this article is written with wannabe UK crime scene investigators in mind.