The educational requirements for crime scene investigators vary by employer. Forensic science technicians need a bachelor’s degree to work in crime labs. Extensive amounts of on-the-job training are required for both those who investigate crime scenes and those who work in labs.
Many crime scene investigators are sworn police officers and have met educational requirements necessary for admittance to the police academy. Applicants for non-uniform crime scene investigator jobs at larger law enforcement agencies should have a bachelor’s degree in either forensic science or a natural science, but many rural agencies hire applicants with a high school diploma. Technicians who work in crime laboratories typically need a bachelor’s degree in either forensic science or a natural science such as biology or chemistry. Students who major in forensic science should ensure that their program includes extensive coursework in mathematics, chemistry, and biology.
Forensic science technicians need extensive on-the-job training before they are ready to work on cases independently. Newly hired crime scene investigators serve as apprentices to more experienced investigators. During their apprenticeship, investigators learn proper procedures and methods for collecting and documenting evidence. They learn laboratory specialties on the job. The length of this training varies by specialty. Most DNA-analysis training programs last six to 12 months, but firearms-analysis training may last up to three years.
Technicians need to pass a proficiency exam before they may perform independent casework or testify in court. Throughout their careers, they need to keep abreast of advances in technology and science that improve the collection or analysis of evidence.