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How To Become A Crime Scene Technician: Career & Salary Information
When you think of the profession of a crime scene technician, the first thing that may come to mind is walking onto a crime scene with The Who's "Who Are You" playing in the background as you slowly take off your aviator sunglasses and get to work assessing the crime scene. While it may not be as glamourous as the hit TV show, crime scene investigation is a fascinating career path to follow.
Becoming a crime scene technician (CST) comes with a unique blend of experience, expertise, and qualification. If you want to know how to become a CST, you will first need to obtain a qualification in forensic sciences, as well as several related licenses and certifications.
Let us take a deeper look into these licenses and certifications you would need, as well as take a deeper look into the CST profession.
What Is A Crime Scene Technician?
Before we go deeper into the nitty gritty details of becoming a CST, let us take a look at what exactly a CST is and what they do.
A CST is a law enforcement professional that works together with other law enforcement personnel in carrying out extremely important and vital roles in crime scene analysis. CSTs report on the scene of a crime shortly after the first responders.
They work together with other law enforcement professionals to ensure that a crime scene remains uncontaminated, and to collect evidence for analysis that takes place in a lab.
What Does A Crime Scene Technician Do?
CSTs can branch off into different specializations within the field. There are both on-site crime scene investigators, and there are lab technicians. While on-site crime scene investigators may carry out a variety of duties such as collecting evidence and analyzing the scene, lab technicians analyze collected evidence through the use of extremely specialized equipment.
CSTs can assess a crime scene by collecting multiple forms of evidence. However, the skill does not just come from collecting the evidence, but rather from pinpointing what may be valuable evidence on the scene and what isn't. From blood splatter, to locating, collecting, and analyzing other forms of bodily fluids on a crime scene, CSTs need to have a keen sense of observation.
Additionally, they would recreate crime scenes for the most accurate portrayal and most likely scenario of what may have happened on the scene, and they take detailed photographs or draw sketches of the scene.
Laboratory CSTs play a significant role in analyzing the evidence that comes in directly from the crime scene. Using state of the art forensic technology, laboratory technicians can run DNA testing on bodily fluids, and in the past, they needed to possess the knowledge to correctly store evidence for future analysis if current technology couldn't provide the answers for which they were hoping.
Furthermore, CSTs have extensive knowledge in ballistics, handwriting analysis, fingerprint analysis, and biochemistry.
While pulling fingerprints from a crime scene may look straightforward and easy, it requires skill, precision, and expertise that only CSTs have.
Steps To Become A Crime Scene Technician
Being a CST is a very specialized and niche profession. This means that a combination of minimum requirements is necessary before one even pursues this career. Let us look at the steps you would need to take to become a CST.
Step One: Education
Just in the same way as some people work hard and aspire towards becoming a coroner or a pathologist, the same amount of hard work and passion needs to be involved in becoming a CST.
The minimum education requirements for this role are a bachelor's degree in either forensic sciences, biology, or chemistry. If you choose to pursue a degree in biology or chemistry, you would be recommended to register for courses that specifically pertain to forensic sciences such as toxicology, pathology, and DNA analysis.
However, it is often seen that many CSTs have a master's degree, which is more prevalent in individuals who have chosen to pursue an undergraduate degree in natural sciences.
Additionally, as part of law enforcement, many CSTs are sworn in members of the police force and are required to have successfully complete training through a police academy.
Step Two: Experience And Training
Book knowledge will only get you so far in a career as field-based and practical as CSTs. It is for that reason that practical knowledge, industry experience, and intense training is required for success in this role.
Gaining this experience can be achieved through an internship or apprenticeships. Alternatively, up to one year of on-the-job training is required where CSTs will work under the supervision of more experienced investigators.
Much like medical practitioners who need to stay abreast of all advancements in the medical and pharmaceutical industry, CSTs are also required to go for ongoing training so they may keep up with technological advancements that take place in the forensic and pathology field.
Step Three: Obtaining Licenses And Certifications
Within the CST field, there are a number of subfields in which one can specialize. It is therefore required for CSTs to obtain specialized licenses and certificates for the subfield they hope to specialize in.
While these certifications may not be needed at an entry level, as one progresses in the field, they are required to obtain these certifications.
Specializations in the field can include blood splatter analysis, the analysis of footwear and shoe tracks, forensic photography, and latent print investigation. Each of these subfields have their own certification that qualifies a CST to perform the required tasks accurately and effectively.
Step Four: Pursuing And Maintaining Your Career
Once you have applied for, and successfully landed your desired CST role, you will need to maintain your licenses and also, further your qualifications by studying further.
You can also become an accredited member of an organization that is directly linked to this field. Such organizations include the American Academy of Forensic Psychology and the Association for Crime Scene Reconstruction.
What Degree Do You Need To Be A Crime Scene Technician?
As previously mentioned, a bachelor's degree in either chemistry, biology, or forensic science is a must to pursue a career as a CST. If, however, you have completed a degree in chemistry or biology, many often complete their master's in forensic science or are sure to take forensic science modules in their degree.
What Is The Average Salary For A Crime Scene Technician?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as at May 2021, the average annual salary for a forensic science technician was $61,930. While entry level roles were on the lower end of the scale, highly qualified and experienced professional were earning up to $103,430 per annum.
What Makes A Good Crime Scene Technician?
As with any other industry, there are certain innate skills that will propel an individual forward in their career. Specific to CSTs, communication skills and the ability to work as part of a team is of paramount importance. As you work with other investigators and other members of the police force, and as you may be required to present evidence to the court, communication is vital.
Additionally, critical thinking, problem solving, and having an acute eye for detail is sure to provide you with successes in your career as a CST. This may seem obvious, but the identifying, analyzing, and handling of evidence requires these skills for the evidence to remain uncontaminated and to provide accurate results.
What Do Crime Scene Technicians Do?
Crime scene technicians play an integral role in the collection, transportation, and analysis of evidence from a crime scene. The roles of a crime scene technician are two-fold, the first is on the scene, and the second is in the laboratory.
On the scene, they would analyze bodily fluids, they will collect evidence, they will maintain the scene so it remains uncontaminated, they will take photographs of the scene, and even compile sketches of the scene.
At the lab, they will analyze the evidence that was collected at the scene, and they may even attempt to recreate the crime scene.
They also compile detailed reports based on the evidence that has been found at the scene.
What Skills Are Required To Be A Crime Scene Technician?
Aside from skills that one would obtain from academic training, crime scene technicians would need acute skills of critical thinking, problem solving, and attention to detail. This will not only give you a natural upper hand and inclination to the field, but it will also allow for the best outcome in any case you may work on.
What Is The Difference Between A CSI And A Crime Scene Technician?
While there are some differences that people may try to point out in terms of a crime scene investigator, and a crime scene technician, the best way to look at it is that crime scene technicians operate within a branch of crime scene investigation.
While crime scene investigators may conduct interviews with potential witnesses and may carry out investigations that go beyond the crime scene, crime scene technicians have a particular focus on the physical evidence that is related to the crime scene only.
While forensic pathology is a unique branch of criminal justice, and there are few roles as interesting as this one, some roles such as that of a coroner, pathologists, and crime scene technicians have piqued the interests of most, and this rage has only been enhanced by the lifestyle portrayed in the hit televisions series CSI.
Whether you were inspired by the television show, or whether you have found your passion for this role for as long as you can remember, pursuing this career will require hard work and passion. Once you have these two aspects, you will be guaranteed to succeed in this unique law enforcement role.
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