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If you find yourself addicted to television shows like "CSI Miami" and "Law & Order," you probably dream of being a crime scene investigator. But not every job is exactly how it appears on cable television, so before you try to become a crime scene investigator, look into other career options. Learning a little about each of the options will help you decide which career in criminal justice might be right for you.
Crime Scene Investigator
Crime scene investigators are forensic scientists who inspect crime scenes alongside detectives. Because of the unpredictable nature of crimes, crime scene investigators must be willing to work on an "on call" basis. This means that they work when and wherever crimes occur, within jurisdictions, of course. Crime scene investigators must have a strong tolerance for the sight of blood, since it is often at the crime scene when they arrive. Some of their routine duties include documenting evidence, looking for fingerprints and taking DNA samples from any available source. Being a crime scene investigator might interest you if you have strong science skills, are unfazed by the sight of blood, are detail-oriented and like a little bit of mystery.
Forensic psychologists practice psychology within the legal system. Their work often deals with criminal investigations, law suits and insurance claims. Forensic psychologists also are commonly employed by prisons or correctional institutions. Some typical duties for forensic psychologists are observing and analyzing offender behavior, implementing correctional procedures and providing psychological research to support or refute criminal evidence. If you have a passion for how the mind works and you want to work in criminal justice, forensic psychology just might be the perfect career for you.
Medical examiners inspect the bodies of victims killed in suspicious or potentially homicidal circumstances. To be a medical examiner, you must be willing to dedicate yourself to seven or more years of study, since you must be medically qualified and have no qualms about dissecting bodies. Medical examiners must often work odd and sometimes unpredictable hours, but they are highly compensated. Being a medical examiner might be your dream career if you like science, problem-solving and anatomy, and are not afraid of getting dirty.
Crime Laboratory Analyst
Because crime laboratory analysts work in laboratories instead of at crime scenes, this career often is not as exciting as crime scene investigation. However, it can still be a great fit for science-minded people who are looking for a position in criminal justice with a little more job stability. Most crime scene laboratory analysts have studied some form of chemistry, as DNA analysis is one of their main responsibilities.
Kelly Berry began writing in 2008. Her work has appeared in Harvard University publications, "Southeast Ohio Magazine" and online at the CIMMYT website. Berry graduated from Ohio University's Scripps School of Journalism with a degree in magazine journalism and Spanish.