Forensic investigation is a gruesome but necessary job that deals with crime scene reconstruction. Do you have what it takes?

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Behind the Scenes TV show introduction.

Forensic investigators (also known as crime scene investigators or "CSIs") are more than what TV shows make them out to be. Crime scenes can be nasty and repulsive.

Investigators aren't as glamorous as TV CSIs — no high heels or flowing hair is allowed. Most of the investigative work is done out of a CSI van, too. Lab work and evidence collection are done in two different places.

How forensic investigators contribute to society

Crime scene investigation involves examining the place where a crime has occurred. Forensic investigators scan these crime scenes looking for any evidence that will help identify the person responsible for committing the crime.

A CSI character saying,

They apply sciences such as physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, and engineering to matters of law to strengthen a legal case.

The forensic investigator's contribution to society comes in providing their research and findings to help "establish or exclude an association" between a suspect and a committed crime.

What roles they play and what they do daily

The role of a forensic investigator is to collect evidence, perform scientific and technical analysis, and provide evidence for legal cases.

Two forensic investigators walking into a room wearing personal protective equipment.

Forensic investigators work directly at crime scenes, but they may also work at law enforcement agencies. They remain on call since crime doesn't sleep, and their main job — what they do daily — is to collect evidence.

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A few pieces of evidence they search for at crime scenes include:

  • Fingerprints

  • Biologicals (blood, body fluids, etc.)

  • Tire tracks

  • Footprints

  • Hair & fibers

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A few other duties that forensic investigators perform include:

  • Taking photographs

  • Making sketches

  • Recording observations and findings

  • Cataloging and preserving evidence

  • Reconstructing crime scenes


Which of these activities would a forensic investigator do? Select all that apply.

Where and how they find work

You can find available work as a forensic investigator by doing a web search on a job site, such as Indeed or the Crime Scene Investigation Network. You'll need at least a bachelor's degree that is specific to the job you want to do.

Help wanted sign taped to a window Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

For example, earning a degree in criminal justice and forensic investigation will prepare you for various positions, but if you want to specialize in cyber/financial crime or digital forensics, you'll need specific courses.

What's to love and hate about the job

Since forensic investigators are first on the scene after the police and EMTs, they can experience a number of stressors, which can be as rewarding as they are distressing.

Grissom saying,

Here are a few pros and cons to consider before becoming a forensic investigator:

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  • Demand for investigators is growing

  • Many specialized jobs

  • Exciting & gratifying to solve crimes

  • Work schedules are flexible

  • Travel opportunities

  • Pay & benefits are good

  • Opportunities to solve puzzles

  • Opportunity to work with a team

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  • Possible exposure to hazardous materials

  • May see gruesome & disturbing crime scenes

  • Work environment may be challenging

  • Hours may be unpredictable

  • May have on-call shifts

  • May have to testify in court

Quiz: Who would make the best forensic investigator?

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  • She loves working in a lab

  • She enjoys comparing DNA samples

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  • He enjoys traveling

  • He loves taking photographs

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  • He enjoys solving puzzles

  • He doesn't like gruesome sites

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  • She enjoys collecting things

  • She faints at the sight of blood

Average Pay

Depending on the type of forensic work you're looking for, annual salaries can range from $30,000 to over $100,000 depending on the location and the job title.

Scrolling money


  • Average hourly pay = $24,22

  • Can be as high as $34.62

  • Can be as low as $10.82

  • Average annual salary = $77,001

United States

  • Average hourly pay = $38.96

  • Can be as high as $71.63

  • Can be as low as $15.14

  • Average annual salary = $89,091

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