There are two main career paths that stem from a degree in criminal investigations: criminal investigators (detectives) and crime scene investigators (CSI). The two often work closely together to help solve crimes and bring criminals to justice.
Detective and Criminal Investigations Programs
Detectives and criminal investigators work to prevent and solve crimes against Federal, State or local laws. Criminal investigators conduct interviews, gather facts and evidence to help mace a case against criminals. Detectives typically specialize in investigating one type of crime, such as homicide or fraud. Larger cases, or crimes that involve more than one state may bring in Federal Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to assist.
Criminal investigations programs can help students gain the skills they need to:
- Investigate crimes
- Collect and secure evidence from crime scenes
- Observe activities of suspects
- Obtain warrants and arrest suspects
- Write detailed crime reports
- Prepare cases and testify in court
Most police and detectives must graduate from their agency’s training academy and a successfully complete a period of on-the-job training. Criminal investigations programs help candidates understand basic skills and procedures to become successful criminal investigators.
Crime Scene Investigation programs
Crime scene investigators are on-site forensic experts who are called in to a crime scene to gather and process evidence like fingerprints, footprints, blood, hair and DNA samples, ballistics and more. They work with law enforcement officers, detectives and forensic scientists to make sure the investigation of a crime scene is thorough.
Preparing for a career in crime scene investigation demands extensive training and knowledge that can gained through college crime scene investigations programs. Courses in forensic science or criminal investigations programs are generally offered through a school’s criminal justice department and may include courses that cover:
- Evidence Rules
- Evidence Analysis
- Biological Evidence
- Fingerprint Collection
- Trace Evidence
- Crime Scene Photography
- Management of a Crime Scene
- Criminal Law Procedures
- Biological Evidence
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Forensic Science Technicians and Crime Scene Investigators make $52,840/year on average. Also, “Forensic science technicians typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in the natural sciences, such as chemistry or biology. On-the-job training is usually required for both those who investigate crime scenes and those who work in labs.”