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Thanks to the popularity of TV crime shows, both scripted and unscripted, working in crime scene investigation is a popular career goal these days. Collecting evidence that helps bring criminals to justice can be gratifying and exciting work. It can also be monotonous, uncomfortable and physically demanding. A CSI has to be able to move freely around crime scenes of all types, so this career isn't ideal for those people with physical disabilities or limitations.
Working as a Crime Scene Investigator
A crime scene investigator, who may also be called a crime scene examiner, reports to fresh crime scenes to document and collect evidence. A CSI may take photos and video of the scene, find and process fingerprints, make casts of footprints, take measurements, bag individual pieces of evidence and study the entire scene to create theories about what happened. If there are deceased bodies at the scene, the CSI doesn't handle or move them – that's usually the medical examiner's job – but may examine their positions as part of determining what happened to them.
CSIs spend much of their time working in labs, processing and studying the evidence they've collected using scientific techniques. They also meet with investigators, prepare written reports about their findings and sometimes attend autopsies to collect evidence from bodies. Although TV shows usually show CSIs participating in murder investigations, in real life these techs work on crime scenes of all types, including the scenes of car accidents and burglaries.
A lot of a CSI's essential job functions involve physical work, which means it would be challenging for people with certain physical disabilities to work as crime scene investigators. Working in a forensics lab, analyzing evidence that crime scene investigators bring back, is a good option for people whose disabilities keep them from work as CSIs.
Physical Fitness Requirements
It's imperative that a CSI be able to reach and move around a crime scene, no matter its location. These techs sometimes have to work in wooded areas and cramped basements, or on roofs, inside vehicles and so on. They must be able to get into and out of remote or cramped spaces. At the scene, a CSI may have to crouch or kneel for an extended period of time, while examining or collecting evidence. For these reasons, a CSI needs to have control of his limbs and to be able to move fairly quickly.
Fine Motor Requirements
A CSI needs to be able to collect fingerprints, single hairs, microscopic fibers and fluids. That work requires excellent fine motor skills and dexterity. Fine motor deficits may disqualify a candidate from becoming a CSI because clumsiness can destroy evidence.
Strength and Stamina Requirements
A CSI may spend many hours at a crime scene, working in scorching sunlight or freezing cold weather, so these scientists have to have physical stamina. Strength is important too because CSIs have to bring a lot of equipment to scenes and carry that equipment, and any collected evidence, back out of the scene.
Meeting Other Crime Scene Investigator Requirements
Because this is a scientific job that has to be done with precision, crime scene investigator requirements are strict. To get the education needed to become a crime scene investigator, earn a bachelor's degree in forensic science, criminal justice or a similar field. Having a master's degree in one of these fields may improve your chances at landing a prestigious job, but it's not a strict requirement.
Some CSI jobs are also open to candidates who have associate's degrees in forensic science, plus at least a few years of experience working in investigations. Going through the police academy is another route to becoming a CSI.
Kathryn has been a lifestyle writer for more than a decade. Her work has appeared on USAToday.com and Indeed.com.