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Certification Options for Crime Scene Investigators

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Crime scene investigation is multi-faceted career that requires individuals to possess a comprehensive knowledge in a number of disciplines. Crime scene investigators must be able to apply scientific methods, techniques, and knowledge in the application of the law and recognize and appreciate the intricacies involved with the examination of physical evidence at the crime scene.

Identifying and setting industry standards is crucial for ensuring that the professionals responsible for the investigation of the crime scene are skilled and trained to approach the identification, collection, and analysis of physical evidence similarly.  Professional certification for crime scene investigators is therefore commonplace, and many employers now look to professional certification as a way to ensure that crime scene investigators possess a high degree of expertise in their profession.

International Crime Scene Investigators Association (ICSIA)

Crime Scene Investigator Certification with the International Crime Scene Investigators Association (ICSIA) requires no fewer than two years of service processing crime scenes for a law enforcement agency. Applicants must be employed with a municipal police department, country sheriff’s office, state police department or other law enforcement agency when they apply for certification.

Given that these requirements are met, to be eligible for certification candidates must:

  • Complete no fewer than 50 hours of post-secondary courses related to crime scene processing
  • Pass an ICSIA-administered written exam that consists of 100 questions
  • Pass a paper test that covers proper processing and handling protocols of a mock crime scene

Applicants must also show proof of experience by:

  • Providing photos of a macro photography assessment (must be digital photos)
  • Providing photos of a crime scene being processed at night

Additionally, applicants must document and substantiate experience processing crime scenes related to 1) outdoor crime, 2) indoor crime, and 3) motor vehicle crime. For each type of crime scene, applicants must provide documentation of actual cases they have personally contributed work to (total of three).

Documentation for each of these must include:

  • Crime scene photos (digital)
  • Photos of crime scene evidence (wounds, tool marks, shoe prints, blood spatter, tire tracks, etc)
  • List of the evidence found and processed
  • Official crime scene report
  • Affidavit affirming the integrity of the submissions

When submitting their application for ICSIA certification, applicants must include a $50 application and processing fee. Candidates are then contacted to schedule the 100-question written exam (3 hours long). Those that pass the exam are contacted to schedule the mock crime scene exam (1 hour long). Those that successfully complete the mock crime scene exercise will be contacted and instructed to complete the macro photography assignment. After the assignment is submitted, assessed and determined to be complete and correct, applicants are then asked to submit documentation of the three different crime scenes they’ve contributed work to.

International Association for Identification (IAI)

The International Association for Identification (IAI), which holds the distinction of being the largest forensic association in the world, is focused on the physical forensic science disciplines. Within the field of crime scene investigation, individuals may be certified in one of four designations:

  • Certified Senior Crime Scene Analyst
  • Certified Crime Scene Reconstructionist
  • Certified Crime Scene Investigator
  • Certified Crime Scene Analyst

All certifications in CSI involve a demanding testing process with a minimum passing score.

Candidates for CSI certification must meet a set of minimum requirements before the certification process can begin:

  • Certified Crime Scene Investigator
    • Must have a minimum of 1 year experience in crime scene-related activities
    • Must have completed at least 48 hours of CSI Board-Approved instruction within the last 5 years
  • Certified Crime Scene Analyst
    • Must have at least 3 years of experience in crime-scene related activities
    • Must have completed at least 96 hours of CSI Board-approved instruction in crime-scene related courses in the last 5 years
  • Certified Crime Scene Reconstructionist
    • Must have at least 5 years of experience as a crime scene investigator in crime scene reconstruction
    • Must have completed at least 120 hours of CSI Board-approved instruction in crime scene and crime scene reconstruction within the last 5 years
  • Certified Senior Crime Scene Analyst
    • Must have at least 6 years of experience in crime-scene related activities
    • Must have completed at least 144 hours of CSI Board-approved instruction in crime scene-related activities and courses within the last 5 years
    • Must have co-authored or authored  an article, made a presentation to a professional organization, work as an active instructor in CSI, or submit a course transcription from an actual court testimony where the applicant gave testimony

All applicants for CSI certification must successfully pass a written test by achieving a minimum score of 75 percent.

In addition to completing an application and meeting the minimum requirements for certification, all candidates must submit two letters of endorsement and an application fee of $300 (for non-members) or $200 (for members).

CSI certifications through the IAI are valid for a period of 5 years.

The American College of Forensic Examiners Institute (ACFEI)

The American College of Forensic Examiners Institute (ACFEI), which is an independent professional association specifically aimed at the field of forensic examination, offers the Certified Criminal Investigator (CCI) certification program, which is aimed at crime scene investigators who identify the crime scene, identify evidence, conduct interviews, handle evidence, and testify in court.

Candidates for the CCI certification are assessed in the following areas of CSI:

  • History of forensic science
  • Crime scene investigation
  • Evidence
  • Digital forensics
  • Investigations
  • Trials
  • Homicide
  • Cyber predators
  • Death investigations
  • Psychological autopsy

Candidates for CCI certification must:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Have no felony convictions

And possess one of the following:

  • An associate’s degree with at least 4 years of experience; OR
  • A bachelor’s degree with at least 2 years of experience; OR
  • At least 7 years of experience in the field

In addition to completing an application, candidates must provide supporting documentation, including, which includes a current resume and at least two professional references.

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