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Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) Career Education in Nevada

More than 15,300 violent crimes were committed in Nevada in 2011.  Forensic scientists helped to solve a number of these cases.  190 crime scene investigators were employed in Nevada in 2012, earning an average annual salary of $64,450.  The Reno-Sparks area has the seventh highest concentration of forensic professionals of any metropolitan area in the country.

Many of these forensic scientists are specialists in analyzing crime scenes and documenting the evidence.  Although glamorized in the popular media, these crime scene investigators (CSIs) are on call round the clock and can be exposed to horrific crime scenes including decomposing bodies and hazardous chemicals.

Despite the quick turnover seen on TV, it can take up to a week to analyze a crime scene.  CSIs typically:

  • Document the crime scene by sketching, photography, and videography
  • Analyze the crime scene to locate physical evidence
  • Inspect the crime scene in detail to locate evidence
  • Collect and preserve any physical evidence for further analysis

Nevada Crime Scene Investigation Units

Most of the crime scene investigator jobs in Nevada are with state and local governments.  Ninety percent of CSIs are employed in this manner.  Some of the agencies in Nevada that employ CSIs include the following:

  • Nevada Department of Public Safety
    • Investigation Division
  • Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department
  • Washoe County Sheriff’s Office
    • Forensic Investigation Section (FIS)
  • Henderson Police Department
  • Boulder City Police Department
    • Investigation Division
      • Detective Bureau
  • Carson City Sheriff’s Office
    • Crime Lab

Types of CSI Jobs in Nevada

The types and responsibilities of CSIs vary greatly with different law enforcement agencies in Nevada.  Some departments employ civilians to be CSIs, while others use detectives.

Civilian CSIs.  One of the departments that employs civilians as CSIs is the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department that has over 30 such crime scene analysts.  In this department, a crime scene analyst I is the entry level position for CSIs.  The equivalent of an associate science degree with major science course work is required for these positions.  Specialized training in CSI must be part of that coursework.  In contrast to this position, experience is required for those applying for crime scene analyst II positions.

In the Henderson Police Department, the entry level CSI job is a crime scene technician.  This position requires a bachelor’s degree with major science course work, including specialized CSI training, or an equivalent amount of training, education, and work experience.  Individuals with more experience are hired as crime scene analysts by this department.  Crime scene technicians generally process property crimes, while crime scene analysts investigate crimes involving violence.

Individuals can obtain CSI training from criminal justice schools within Nevada or by enrolling in one of the online schools that offer such degrees.

LEO CSIs.  The forensic specialists in other departments that analyze crime scenes are detectives in investigation units.  They are generally chosen from patrol officers that have several years of distinguished service.

While a high school diploma is often the minimum requirement to become a law enforcement official, having an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can give applicants an enhanced level of training.  Applicants will have to undergo formal academy training before they are sworn in as officers.

All types of CSIs continue their education and training by taking further coursework to stay abreast of the ever-changing technology in the fields of forensics.  In some cases, CSIs in Oregon are required to complete the forensic science correspondence course of the American Institute of Applied Science within their first year on the job.

CSI Certification in Nevada

CSIs working in Nevada may want to join the Nevada State Division of the International Association for Identification.  This organization of forensic scientists fosters enhanced education and training for individuals in these fields.  It offers highly prized certification in various forensic specialties, including crime scene investigation.  Having this certification confers enhanced credibility upon the recipients.


Forensics Salary for Lab Technicians and CSIs in Nevada

As is the case throughout the U.S., the number of jobs in the forensic sciences is growing in Nevada.  The state’s Department of Workforce Solutions projects that demand for these professionals will increase by 18.5% from 2010 to 2020.

The average annual salary for a forensic science technician in Nevada was $64,450 in 2012 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  Experienced professionals earned substantially more than this.  The average wage of those in the top 90th percentile was 44% greater than average at $93,020 a year.

Of the 190 people that had forensic science jobs in Nevada in 2012, 32% of them were located in the Reno-Sparks area.  This is a large number for the size of this metropolitan area, and Reno-Sparks had the seventh highest concentration of forensic science jobs of any metropolitan area in the U.S.

In addition to having lab positions as technicians, some forensic scientists specialize in processing forensic evidence in the field.  These crime scene investigators (CSIs) document crime scenes and collect physical evidence to preserve and analyze it.

CSIs can be either sworn officers with forensics training or civilians such as field evidence technicians.  Salaries can vary quite a bit, depending on the whether the position is enlisted or civilian and how much experience the CSI has.  According to Indeed.com, the average salary for a crime scene investigator in Nevada was $47,000 in the period from September 2012 to October 2013.

The BLS provides a detailed breakdown of hourly and annual salaries for all forensic science technicians located in the Reno-Sparks area.  They are shown in the following table:

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Reno-Sparks NV
60
56870

CSI and Forensic Scientist in Clark County, Nevada

The cities of Henderson and North Las Vegas each have their own police departments that dedicate significant resources to the field of forensic science. Professionals in these fields will occasionally find themselves called to some of the more grisly crime scenes in Clark County in order to gather evidence for analysis by forensic lab scientists. In the past year this has included over 2,000 total violent crimes, 18 or which were murders or non-negligent manslaughter cases.

Employers of crime scene investigators and forensic laboratory scientists in Clark County include the following agency divisions:

  • North Las Vegas Police Department’s Crime Scene Investigation Bureau
  • Henderson Police Department’s Criminalistics Bureau
  • Although Las Vegas is also located in Clark County, their Metro Police Department is a separate entity

Education for Forensic Science Jobs in Clark County

The police departments of North Las Vegas and Henderson each have their own requirements when it comes to hiring crime scene investigators and forensic lab scientists, however common among them is the requirement for education.

The following are examples of the education requirements for the Henderson Police Department:

  • Crime Scene Analyst: To properly document a crime scene, including through photography and evidence recovery, candidates interested in these CSI jobs will need to have a bachelor degree with major course work in:
    • Chemistry
    • Forensic Technology
    • Biology
    • Physical Science
    • Forensic Science
    • Other closely related field
  • Crime Scene Technician: These employees perform the more basic tasks of crime scene forensic science under the supervision of a crime scene analyst. Candidates for these positions will need to have the same education credentials as those of a crime scene analyst, although experience and training can be substituted for this.
  • Forensic Laboratory Technician: As this position involves the careful laboratory analysis of evidence, incumbents must have at least a year of experience working in a laboratory environment using basic techniques and practices. Additionally candidates must possess a bachelor degree in:
    • Criminalistics
    • Natural Science
    • Toxicology
    • Chemistry
    • Other closely related field

It is also preferred that candidates have a certification in drug chemistry or toxicology.

The eight colleges located in the vicinity of Clark County offer students ample opportunity to obtain the right education for forensic science careers. There are additional schools online offering appropriate certification and degree programs for the residents of Clark County and Nevada.

Cold Cases in Clark County

Both North Las Vegas and Henderson have personnel devoted to finding leads in cases where justice has not yet been served. In Henderson alone there are still 23 murders that remain unsolved to this day. Forensic science professionals may be able to shed light on some of these; thanks to the CSI and evidence technicians of past who properly handled and stored evidence, new technological means of analysis employed by forensic technicians of the present may be able to finally bring resolution to the families of the victims. DNA analysis is one promising analysis technique, and combined with a nation-wide fingerprint databank these two tools have helped to solve hundreds of crimes.


CSI and Forensic Scientist in Las Vegas, Nevada

The Las Vegas Metro Police Department counts 20 cold cases that it has been unable to solve since the year 2000. Employed with the biggest law enforcement agency in Nevada as well as one of the largest police forces in the country, forensic lab scientists, crime scene analysts and evidence technicians work tirelessly to investigate crimes including homicides, rapes, and burglaries – as well as cold cases, within the Las Vegas metropolitan area. In 2012 this included investigating over 11,500 violent crimes, occurring in coverage areas such as:

  • Enterprise
  • Sunrise Manor
  • Paradise
  • Spring Valley

Forensic science jobs in Las Vegas involve both field work at crime scenes and analysis conducted by qualified forensic science technicians in the LVMPD’s Forensic Laboratory. Learning how to become a crime scene investigator or forensic laboratory scientist in Las Vegas involves training, certification, and education.

Preparing for Forensic Science and CSI jobs in Las Vegas

In addition to the normal CSI detective work carried out by sworn officers with the LVMPD, the department also hires civilian CSI specialists, evidence technicians, and forensic scientists. However these forensic science jobs do have prerequisites as they are specialized positions, including:

Crime Scene Analyst: Processing latent prints, photography, and evidence recovery are just some of the investigative tasks these professionals must be prepared to do at the scene of a crime. That is why incumbents must possess at least one of the following:

  • Equivalent to an associate degree that includes major coursework in crime scene investigation plus:
    • Chemistry
    • Forensic Science
    • Biology
    • Physical Science
    • Forensic Technology
    • Any other closely related field
  • Forensic Science Certification from the American Institute of Applied Science must be obtained within one year of hire

Forensic Scientist Trainee: Working in the controlled environment of the LVMPD’s Forensic Laboratory, prospective forensic scientists must come from an appropriate educational background for their field of expertise, such as the following:

  • DNA/Biology specialists must have a bachelor degree in:
    • Biology
    • Forensic Science
    • Any other closely related field
  • Trace Evidence/Toxicology/Controlled Substance specialists must have at least 24 college-level chemistry credits and a bachelor degree in:
    • Physical Science
    • Natural Science
    • Forensic Science
    • Any other closely related field
  • Firearms and Toolmarks/Questioned Documents/Latent Print specialists must have a bachelor degree in one of the required areas for Trace Evidence professionals

Evidence Technician: Because these specialists perform a variety of technical duties that involves the processing, storing, delivery, and protection of evidence, candidates for these positions must have at least a high school diploma or GED and at least one year of experience in any of the following:

  • Law enforcement support
  • Inventory storage and retrieval
  • Customer service

Forensic Science Schools and Colleges in Las Vegas

Residents of Las Vegas have a variety of schools and colleges in their immediate vicinity as well as online which offer appropriate degrees and certification in forensic science fields. There are eight different campus locations in and around the city, including the third-largest community college in the nation.

The American Institute of Applied Science is one of many institutions with online and correspondence courses offering admission to the Las Vegas CSI analysts of tomorrow.


CSI and Forensic Scientist in Washoe County, Nevada

There are many reasons why Washoe County’s violent crime rate is lower than it has been in the past eight years. A significant part of the decline is due to the work of law enforcement agencies in the county, who are supported by qualified and skilled forensic science experts, including CSI professionals and forensic laboratory scientists. Criminals are also aware of the increasing capabilities brought by advances in the forensic science field, which provides an additional pause for thought.

In Washoe County in 2012 there were 188 total violent offenses, coming in below the preceding decade’s average yearly violent crime amount of 220. Forensic science professionals work with the following local law enforcement agencies in Washoe County:

  • Washoe County Sheriff’s Office
  • Reno Police Department
  • Sparks Police Department

Forensic Science Degrees in Washoe County

In addition to sworn law enforcement, agencies also hire civilian CSI experts who specialize in particular areas such as reconstruction, photography, and DNA evidence to name a few. It stands to reason that being eligible for these positions requires a certain amount of education.

For example Reno requires its Evidence Technicians, who secure crime scene evidence for preservation and transportation, to meet the following requirements:

  • Be specially trained in an area of expertise- this could be accomplished through certification in:
    • Forensic photography
    • Latent fingerprint lifting
    • Footwear identification
  • Already possess or be able to obtain certification for the NCIC (National Crime Information Center)

Prospective candidates researching how to become a crime scene investigator and forensic scientist in Washoe County can also consider what the sheriff’s office has to offer; the following are the job titles and their associated education prerequisites:

  • Criminalist CSI Trainee: Bachelor degree or its equivalent of education and experience in:
    • Molecular Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Pharmacology
    • Physics
    • Criminalistics
  • Forensic Technician: Associate degree or its equivalent of education and experience in:
    • Photography
    • Natural Science
    • Criminal Justice
  • Forensic Chemist: Bachelor degree or its equivalent of education and experience in:
    • Bacteriology
    • Chemistry
    • Criminalistics
    • Microbiology
    • Physics
    • Pharmacology

Education and Work in Washoe County

Students can become qualified for forensic lab science and CSI jobs through at least four colleges located in Reno as well as a number of online schools that offer forensic science and other relevant certifications and degrees. There are additional opportunities throughout the state.

As mentioned, the main employers of professionals in the forensic science and CSI field in Washoe County are the police departments of Reno and Sparks, as well as the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office. This latter agency operates the region’s primary forensics laboratory, conducting examinations and analysis of:

  • Latent prints
  • Fingerprints and their entry into the AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System)
  • Alternate Light Source (ALS) evaluations
  • Impression evidence

CSI specialists with the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office also respond to cases including:

  • Homicide
  • Bank robberies that result in severe physical injuries
  • Kidnapping
  • Sexual assault resulting in severe injury or in cases where the perpetrator is not identified
  • Child abuse

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