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How long do you have to go to school to be a crime scene investigator?

I want to maybe go into something forensics but I want to know the details about college.

Thank you comment icon Aislin, Look into the University of New Haven. They have an excellent Forensic Sience program. James Duke

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Michael’s Answer

Hi Aislin,

For a Forensic Crime Scene Investigator, the position requires a Bachelor of Science Degree in Forensics, Criminal Justice or a related field. This is a 4 year program at a college or university.

Here are some careers in Forensic Science, descriptions, duties and salaries according to this link from

- Fingerprint Technician
- Evidence Technician
- Forensic Science Technician
- Forensic Specialist
- Forensic Manager
- Forensic Investigator
- Forensic Accountant
- Forensic Structural Engineer
- Forensic Psychologist
- Forensic Pathologist

Here are some colleges and universities to consider for Forensic Science:

- Penn State University
- Syracuse University
- Texas A&M University
- Virginia Commonwealth University
- George Mason University
- Michigan State University
- University of Tennessee (*There is a body farm that is located on campus).

When reviewing colleges and universities, it is best to check the following:

- In-State vs Out of State Tuition
- Internships
- Scholarships
- Career Placement upon graduation
- Course work and offered classes
- Post-Graduate Degrees

Hope this helps and best wishes for your education and career in Forensic Science!
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Michelle’s Answer

Having a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice, Forensics, any hard sciences (Biology, Chemistry, etc.) is your best bet. Having the four year degree is required by most agencies or departments with civilian crime scene units. However, if you are going to be a law enforcement officer who also does crime scene processing, then having your Associates will be a good starting point. It just depends on the agency or department, what their qualifications and requirements are. The Criminal Justice programs out there are basic courses to help you understand the systems used in corrections, policing and the courts. If you go into Forensics, then they are more specific in the course work. And, if you go hard science, then you would be looking at either basic Biology or Chemistry, or more specific Molecular Cell Biology and such.

There are programs just for Crime Scene Investigations, but getting a job or career started from those programs is very difficult. Most employers want you to be working on a bachelor's or already graduated. If you go to school, get a volunteer job with a police department, sheriff's office, or with another law enforcement agency - they sometimes have volunteer programs or internships that will help you figure out what you are interested in. The medical examiner's office may also have a volunteer program as well. They have investigators and that's a good place to start if trying to get into law enforcement and CSI work.

I have a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and was able to obtain a career as a Crime Scene Technician. My title then changed to Crime Scene Investigator when the job titles were updated. I am currently a Latent Print Examiner. And now have my Masters of Science in Criminal Justice. You may have to start in one area and work your way to what you really want. Being an Evidence Technician is also a great starting off point to get into Crime Scene. You have to explore options that are available to you.

Depending on what you want to do - work at the scene or in the lab, will be up to you and your interests. Being a Crime Scene Investigator is mostly about documenting with photography, scanning, sketching and videotaping the scene. You also find and collect evidence, process for latent prints, and on occasion process for blood evidence (if the scene was cleaned up). Then you go back to the office and process the evidence you collected (photograph, process for blood, latents and fibers), package the evidence and turn it in. You type your report and sometimes go to court to testify on what you did and why.

If you want to process evidence at the crime lab...then you must have a Bachelor of Science in Biology or Chemistry with specializations in the field you are interested in. The lab technicians tend to process evidence for DNA, fibers, drug typing, and other types of testing. The lab also has technicians for shoe and tire tread identification and matching, as well as weapons and ammunition testing, processing and matching. But they don't go to the crime scene.

The field of Criminal Justic is wide and diverse. You have to find what you like and get your qualifications and requirements met to obtain a career in these fields. Most colleges and universities have great programs. However, your best bet is to go to a university that has an accredited program in the field of study you want. Having the accredited degree will be your best starting point.

Best of luck to you.