Unlike television programs that combine several specialized jobs into a single character, crime scene investigators in the field are very different from scientists in the laboratory. Each job has its own educational requirements and neither carry guns or chase suspects.


Crime scene investigators (CSI) are not sworn law enforcement offices but instead are civilian support personnel specialized in crime scene documentation and evidence collection. Educational course work depends on the specialty and where you work.

CSI’s who work for larger police departments such as Salt Lake City, West Valley City, Utah county etc. require a bachelor’s degree and specialized training. Although an emphasis in advanced science is desirable it is not necessary. Crime Scene Investigation, Fingerprints, Foot and Tire Track, and Blood Stain Pattern analysis are recommended UVU forensic science courses. After being hired additional training is available by “In Service Training” sponsored by your employer.

Small local agencies such as Orem PD usually do not have a dedicated team of civilian crime scene investigators. Instead, patrol officers and detectives process the crime scene and investigate the crime.


Forensic scientists who work in an accredited federal, military, state, and private crime laboratory are known as “Criminalists”. A bachelors degree in Forensic Science, Chemistry, Toxicology, Biotechnology, Molecular Biology, Anthropology, or a closely similar science degree combined with some criminal justice courses is required. Because of this strong science foundation, a BS in Forensic Science is also a good major for Pre-med students, especially for those who want to be Medical Examiners specializing in pathology, and for students continuing on to graduate school.

Although firearms examination is a discipline often found in crime laboratories, firearms examiners are usually trained in the military or cross-trained after first being hired in the crime lab in a different specialty. Some basic training in shooting reconstruction and basic identification techniques are offered at UVU but the majority of the training is In Service Training by the FBI or military.


Typical salaries and specific employment requirements vary widely from state to state. They usually can be found on the agency’s website or through the state’s employment service.


  • More science
  • Graduate degrees
  • Personal certification
  • Ongoing proficiency tests, drug and lie detector tests.


  • Clean background – Professional and Personal
    • An honest mistake is not okay but is recoverable
    • A professional lie, mishandling evidence, faking analytical results, etc, you will be fired and possibly prosecuted.
    • A misdeed in your personal life; domestic violence, debt, bankruptcy, civil disobedience, destroys your integrity and therefore, your career.
  • Personal certification
  • Early science courses
  • Scientific learning style
    • Observation
    • Curiosity
    • Details
    • Cause and effect
    • Analysis and conclusion
    • Critical thinking