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Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) Career Education in North Dakota

According to the attorney general of North Dakota, there was a 7.9 percent increase in the incidence of crime in the state from 2011 to 2012. This also represents an increase in violent crimes of 7.2 percent during the period. Law enforcement agents know that one of the best ways to reduce further incidences of crime is to catch criminals before they can strike again. Crime scene investigators are instrumental in putting the bad guys behind bars. Crime scene investigators work the scene of the crime, looking for evidence and clues that can build an effective case.

North Dakota’s law enforcement agencies are the main employers for qualified CSI officers. The duties of a CSI officer include: crime scene evidence cataloging, digital photography of crime scene evidence, drawing of crime suspects’ sketches, interviewing witnesses, and even assisting in identification and other processes in the morgue. For this reason CSI officers must have a diverse and varied skill set, ranging from being personable, to being a strict analytical thinker.

CSI agents may be called to work under very difficult conditions, for example, in the mountains of North Dakota if a homicide or other crime has been committed there. Also, in the case of a gory scene, CSI agents will have to maintain their mental poise as they objectively process the crime scene. This can be especially difficult if children are involved, but the job must be done.

Some agencies in North Dakota that employ CSI agents include:

  • Burlington Police Department
    • Investigations Department
  • Lamoure Police Department
    • Investigations
  • Wishek Police Department
    • Investigative unit
  • North Dakota Highway Patrol
    • CSI unit

There are several approaches to training for a career working as a CSI officer in North Dakota. Obtaining a degree, working as an officer, and finally being certified are among the common options many entry level CSI professionals take to get a foot in the door.

The University Degree Path to a CSI Position in North Dakota

Earning a degree is one way in which many people begin their path to getting a job in the field of CSI. But not all degrees are created equal. Degrees in sciences are definitely preferred, as they tend to train the applicant in analytical thinking, as well as give them a firm base in many of the scientific and technological aspects of any eventual CSI job.

Some degrees which may be highly considered by CSI employers include:

  • Physics
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Forensic sciences (biology, chemistry, etc.)
  • Forensic anthropology

In addition to science related degrees, a degree in criminal justice may also be of help. However, as CSI is largely a forensic based profession, forensic related degrees are preferred.

The Law enforcement Path to a CSI Position in North Dakota

Another way people enter in the field of CSI in North Dakota is to first enter directly into law enforcement.  This is because first becoming a police officer helps the applicant to acclimate themselves to police culture, and also helps them develop police training and skills. Law enforcement skills refer to crime scene photography, mastery of evidence management rules, patrol procedures, and even basic investigation and interrogation techniques.

Becoming a police officer is an attractive option, but there are a couple of notes which must be considered. The first is that many police departments in North Dakota will still require the CSI applicant to have a degree if they wish to be hired as a CSI, even if they have the relevant police experience. The second is that qualifying to become a police officer is not always a simple task. For example, to become a member of the North Dakota Highway Patrol one must:

  • Submit the application
  • Pass written tests
  • Pass an oral interview and written personality test
  • Pass a physical, psychological check, physical aptitude test
  • Pass a background check which includes:
    • Criminal record check
    • Check on background of anti-social behavior
    • Check for poor work record

The Certification Path to a CSI Position in North Dakota

One additional way many people prepare for a career in CSI in North Carolina is to become certified. The nation’s premiere CSI certification body, the International Association for Identification, provides certification in many aspects of CSI, including biometrics, forensic podiatry, and fingerprints. Getting certified in these areas is a great way to increase the chances of landing a job because it shows that the applicant is serious about becoming CSI professional.  Also, the website list job openings, which may be of use to those currently in the job market.


Forensics Salary for Lab Technicians and CSIs in North Dakota

The average salary for a forensic scientist in North Dakota was $58,000 in the period from September 2012 through October 2013 according to Indeed.com.  Bismarck is one prominent location of employment for forensic scientists in North Dakota.  It houses the following forensic centers:

  • North Dakota State University Forensic DNA Facility
  • North Dakota Crime Laboratory

The North Dakota Crime Lab processes cases from throughout the state.  It has sections for analyzing the following types of items:

  • Biological
  • Breath alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Fire debris
  • Firearms/toolmark
  • Latent prints
  • Toxicology
  • Trace evidence

This lab also trains law enforcement officers to analyze the breath alcohol levels of drivers suspected of driving under the influence.

In addition to jobs as technicians, other forensic scientists work crime scenes.  Crime scene investigators (CSIs) document the scene and gather evidence.  A crime scene investigator can be either a civilian or a sworn officer.  Both the Bismarck and Fargo Police Departments use sworn officers for this type of work.

In Fargo, crime scene processing assistants are a secondary assignment for police officers.  The starting pay for a police officer in Fargo is $43,977 a year.  Sergeants process crime scenes in Bismarck.  The salary of a police officer in this city ranges from $41,579 to $62,368 a year.


CSI and Forensic Scientist in Bismarck, North Dakota

Two high powered forensic labs support jobs for forensic scientists are located in Bismarck:

  • North Dakota Attorney General Crime Laboratory
  • North Dakota State University Forensic DNA Facility

The Attorney General’s crime lab provides support to the criminal justice system in North Dakota by analyzing, identifying, and comparing physical evidence that is linked to crimes in the state.  Forensic scientists in this lab analyze the following types of evidence:

  • Biological (including DNA)
  • Breath alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Fire debris
  • Firearms/toolmark
  • Latent print
  • Toxicology
  • Trace

North Dakota State’s forensic DNA lab uses a number of techniques to analyze DNA evidence for law enforcement officials in the state.  They have a robotic instrument to isolate DNA from samples that greatly minimizes the chances of cross-contamination between samples.

The Bismarck Police Department conducts its investigation of crime scenes using sworn officers as part of its Criminal Investigations Section.  Sergeants are the CSIs and gather physical evidence from crime scenes in addition to preparing sketches and diagrams to document the scenes of accidents or crimes.

Becoming a CSI Forensic Investigator in Bismarck

Bismarck Police Sergeants are required to have at least an associate’s degree in criminal justice or a related field.  There is an additional experience requirement to have served as a police officer for four years.  If the candidate has a bachelor’s degree, the service requirement is lower, and three years of service will suffice.

To become a forensic scientist in a lab, a bachelor’s degree in forensic science or another hard science is generally required.  Forensic DNA analysts in the state’s forensic DNA laboratory had a B.S. in Microbiology or a Master’s in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2013.

Forensic Science and CSI Schools Located in Bismarck

The field of forensic science is growing nationally.  The number of forensic science technicians in the U.S. is projected to increase by 19% from 2010 to 2020 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Prospective forensic science students can get a degree in the field from a state school in North Dakota.  Aspirants for CSI positions in the Bismarck Police Department can get an associate’s degree in criminal justice from a number of colleges located in Bismarck.  Another local option is to get a bachelor of science in the field.  A number of accredited online schools also offer criminal justice training for degrees ranging from associate’s to graduate level.


CSI and Forensic Scientist in Fargo, North Dakota

The Fargo Police Department processes the evidence from crimes that take place in the city.  Thus jobs as forensic science CSIs in Fargo are found with the local police department.  Sworn officers who are part of the Investigations Division conduct this work.  CSI work can include:

  • Documenting the scene of the crime
    • Diagrams
    • Photography
    • Videography
  • Collecting physical evidence
    • Bodily fluids
    • Blood patterns
    • Impressions from shoes or tires
    • Firearms
    • Latent fingerprints
    • Documents

Requirements to Become a CSI Forensic Investigator in Fargo

Joining the Fargo Police Department is the first step to becoming a crime scene investigator forensic scientist in this city.  Applicants must have the equivalent of a two-year education.

This can be in the form of the following:

  • An associate’s degree
  • Semester credits:  60 hours
  • Quarter credits:  90 hours

While the field of study is not specified, prospective law enforcement officials frequently study criminal justice to prepare themselves for a career in this field.

The process of choosing candidates for the Fargo Police is quite rigorous.  Applicants must pass the following steps:

  • A physical agility test
  • A written exam
  • An oral interview
  • A background check
  • An interview with the Chief of Police
  • Medical, psychological, and polygraph examinations

Applicants will also have to obtain academy training.  This is not provided by the Fargo Police Department.

Once they have been hired as police officers, prospective CSIs must complete their probationary period. Then, they can apply for secondary positions in the department.  Crime scene processing falls under this category.  The department provides specialized forensic training to these officers on how to become a crime scene investigator.

Education Options for Forensic Crime Scene Investigators in Fargo

Prospective students in Fargo who seek an education in CSI can do so by enrolling in a criminal justice program.  Forensic CSI work is frequently a component of these programs.  Fargo contains a university that offers a bachelor’s of science degree in criminal justice.  Options for those seeking associate degrees include a large number of online colleges that offer a range of degrees in this area.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks the number of forensic science technician jobs in the U.S. and estimates the number of new jobs that will become available in the next several years.  According to their estimate, employment in this field is projected to increase nationally by 19% in the period between 2010 and 2020.


CSI and Forensic Scientist in Grand Forks, North Dakota

The field of forensic sciences is growing in the U.S. with the number of jobs expected to increase by 19% from 2010 to 2020 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  North Dakota has two high tech crime labs, along with a number of crime scene investigation units.

In Grand Forks, crime scene investigator (CSI) jobs are found with the local Police Department.  Unlike some departments that have individuals specializing solely in crime scene investigation, detectives with the Criminal Investigations Bureau (CIB) are responsible for processing crime scenes in Grand Forks. These detectives receive advanced training in forensics.  They process the sites, collect physical evidence for analysis, and interview victims, suspects, and witnesses. Some cases may only require a few interviews, while others may require extensive detective work and the use of forensic analysis.

The CIB has a number of pieces of equipment that aid in its forensic work, including one that aids in obtaining footprints out of dust.  It also specializes in the following types of analysis:

  • Fingerprints
  • Computers
  • Handwriting
  • Digital video

How to Become a Crime Scene Investigator Forensic Scientist in Grand Forks

The first step in becoming a crime scene investigator forensic scientist in Grand Forks is to apply to join the Grand Forks Police Department.  The educational requirements include having a high school diploma or GED and one of the following:

  • College credit
    • 60 semester hours with a C average
    • 90 quarter hours with a C average
    • Completion of a law enforcement basic training academy

While there is no particular type of coursework specified, individuals seeking to become law enforcement officials frequently obtain at least an associate’s degree in criminal justice.  The department actively seeks college students to apply as police officers.  In 2011, it recruited at thirteen institutions of higher learning to attract highly qualified applicants.

It takes approximately five to eight months from the time of submitting an application to become a police officer on the force.  Part of the reason for this is the rigorous training provided.  This police department has a high-tech training facility that includes force simulator systems and supplies training to over fifty outside agencies a year.  To become a detective requires an additional period of time.

Forensic Science and CSI Colleges and Degree Granting Schools in Grand Forks

Students who seek forensic training can obtain a forensic science degree from a university in Grand Forks.  Those seeking bachelors or graduate degrees in criminal justice degree can also obtain them in Grand Forks.  This program offers courses in forensic science and the analysis of forensic evidence to prepare its graduates for CSI work.  In addition, a number of online colleges offer criminal justice degrees that range from associate’s to graduate degrees.

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