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Be a Certified Crime Scene Technician: Develop an Interesting Specialty

written by: davidmakofsky•edited by: Heather Marie Kosur•updated: 6/29/2011

A specialty in crime scene investigation has appeal to professionals with a wide variety of backgrounds. People with an interest in law enforcement, private investigation, insurance investigation, and criminal justice can all find a rewarding experience in crime scene investigation.

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    Who would be interested in this specialty?

    A wide variety of professionals are attracted to crime scene investigation. The network for crime scene investigators lists the following organizations:

    • The Southern California Association of Fingerprint Officers
    • The International Crime Scene Investigators Association (ICSIA)
    • Association for Crime Scene Reconstruction (ACSR)
    • Firearm and Toolmark Examiners (AFTE)
    • International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI)

    In other words, this profession is central to law enforcement, private investigation, security operations, and criminal law.

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    What is a crime scene technician (CST)?

    A crime scene technician (CST) is someone trained to observe details at the scene and relate them to the crime. Also, a CST is trained to visually identify and describe persons, vehicles, and locations and to provide expert testimony about evidence in criminal court cases. Also included in the specialty are those who oversee investigations of homicides, sexual assaults, robberies, home invasions, and burglaries. A also CST secures crime scenes. Additionally a CST gathers, processes, photographs, and preserves evidence in support of law enforcement and prepares written reports detailing the crime scene.

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    Where can a certificatebe obtained?

    Many colleges and universities are now offering online training in a variety of programs. Some examples include:

    • Crime Scene Technician, Kaplan University
    • Crime Scene Evidence, Rasmussen College
    • Criminal Investigations, Everest University Online
    • Criminal Investigations, Everest College, Phoenix Online
    • Criminal Justice/Crime Scene Investigation, Kaplan University
    • Criminal Justice/Forensic Science, American InterContinental University Online
    • Criminal Justice/Certificate in Crime Scene Investigation, Colorado Technical University
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    What courses and skills are involved?

    Typically there is training in the collection and preservation of material evidence found at the crime scene. Other courses involve training to measure, record, and analyze chemical substances, tissue samples, physical materials, and ballistics evidence using advanced equipment. Courses also include the analysis of laboratory findings and results to classify evidence collected at the crime. Training is provided to allow the student to confer with experts in fingerprinting, ballistics, documents, handwriting, electronics, medicine, chemistry, or metallurgy.

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    Why obtain a certificate online?

    Often those interested in this specialty are working professionals in a related field. Crime scene investigation is also a field in itself with attractive possibilies for advancement. Some students may want to increase their skills in criminal justice or forensic science with a convenient online certificate.

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    Compensation for the Field

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics in its May 2008 bulletin reports that the average annual wage in the field of forensic science technicians was $52,960 and that employment in the field was expected to grow by twelve percent during the 2006-2016 decade. This was for the field of technical work 19-4092.The field of forensics is a technical field associated with legal issues in general and criminal justice issues in specific. It attracts those with a wide variety of education and skills. Compensation and job growth depends a great deal on the skills you bring to the field and acquire while working.

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    Sources and Notes

    For salary and employment, consult the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2008 for 19-4092 Forensic Science Technicians.

    For professional information about the field, you can also consult the Crime Science Investigator's Network at

    An important note on getting a certificate: The schools listed as offering certificates were drawn from the crime scene investigators network. This does not necessarily mean that the schools have the regional or national certification that would be appropriate for you. It would be wise to consult the Bright Hub articles listed below before committing yourself to any one school or specialty program.