Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) Career Education in Washington, DC

Washington D.C. was in the news recently because of a mass shooting that left 13 people dead at the DC Navy Yard. The government building was closed as crime scene investigators (CSIs) carried out the massive job of collecting evidence from the incredibly large crime scene.

October 2012 marked the grand opening of the Consolidated Forensic Lab in DC, a $220 million, 351,000 square foot state-of-the-arts forensic lab that replaced the Metropolitan Police Department’s forensic lab, the DC Public Health Lab and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner all under one roof. The U.S. Green Building Council granted the magnificent facility LEED Platinum Building certification for meeting energy, water efficiency and indoor environment sustainable building standards.

The plan is to hire more civilian CSIs to relieve the burden of crime scene investigations from DC police officers. Max Houck, director of the newly formed Department of Forensic Services, said he sees the lab becoming a training ground that will partner with local universities.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, CSIs in DC are the highest paid in the nation, earning an annual mean wage of $94,629, or $45.49/hour.

Elsewhere in the nation CSIs earn an average mean wage of between $37,960 and $99,980 with a median of $62,110. In general, local government jobs pay more than state government positions but federal jobs pay the most.

Requirements for Becoming a Crime Scene Investigator in Washington, DC

A love of science and math, mixed with a strong dose of intellectual curiosity, is a prerequisite for a successful career as a CSI. CSIs collect and analyze blood, hair, bodily fluids and fibers (chemistry) but also analyze firearms trajectories and the angle of blows (math). Although some entry-level crime scene investigator jobs in DC are open to individuals with an associate’s degree, most jobs require a bachelor’s degree in forensic science, chemistry, biology or a related field.

Other abilities/characteristics useful for a CSI career include:

  • Detail oriented
  • Patient
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Physically fit
  • Willing to work long hours
  • Able and willing to work weekends and holidays

DC Schools with Degree Programs in Crime Scene Investigation

There are six schools near (and one in) DC with CSI programs from which 126 students graduated in 2010, 140 with bachelor’s degrees and 85 with master’s degrees.

CSI training programs in DC utilize state-of-the-art scientific principles and equipment for simulated crime scene exercises during which time students use digital photography to record evidence. They learn to collect/process fingerprints, shoeprints, blood spatters, fibers and analyze firearms trajectories. The program includes a visit to NCIS where special agents demonstrate their forensic know-how.

National Museum of Crime and Punishment

This popular Washington tourist attraction also offers a variety of CSI-oriented workshops that provide the public and persons considering a CSI career a genuine look at the work of a crime scene investigator. One workshop, “CSI: TV v. Reality,” points out misconceptions and erroneous scientific facts portrayed on fictional TV shows. Other workshop topics are:

  • Blood and DNA
  • Fingerprints
  • Autopsies
  • Bones
  • Firearms/Ballistics

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