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Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) Career Education in South Carolina

The rate of violent crime in South Carolina has surpassed that of the entire United States every year since 1975. Consisting of murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, there were 27,883 violent crimes in South Carolina in 2011, which speaks to the demand for crime scene investigators throughout the state. There are a number of government and law enforcement agencies in South Carolina that employ investigators for the proper collection and analysis of crime scene evidence. The specific criteria required to become a licensed crime scene investigator varies between jurisdictions and agencies within South Carolina, and your chances of starting and maintaining a career as a CSI professional increase exponentially when certain general recommended courses of action are followed.

One of the main things to bear in mind regarding crime scene investigations is that with the proliferation and popularity of television dramas like NCIS, Criminal Minds, and the CSI series of shows, crime scene investigation has become an extraordinarily sought after career path.  As such, the competition for jobs is fierce and it can be challenging to land your dream job regardless of your proficiency. In fact, with unemployment rate of 8.1 percent, which is higher than the national average, applicants in South Carolina, must be extremely well prepared to compete for a position.

In South Carolina CSI job positions may be found in such locales as:

  • The Florence Police Department
    • Crime Scene/Technical Services Division
  • Columbia Police Department
    • Crime Scene Investigations Unit
  • Chester Police
    • Investigations Department
  • Myrtle Beach Police
    • Crime Scene Section

Again there are no hard and fast rules or requirements for becoming a crime scene investigator in the state of South Carolina but there are highly recommended steps you should follow. They include:

  • Earning a bachelor’s Degree
  • Completing Some Level of Police Training
  • Applying for Crime Scene Investigator Positions
  • Becoming Certified
  • Continuing Your Education

Earning a Bachelor’s Degree

With the advent of many new technological advances the field of CSI has become increasingly demanding in the area of education. In fact, getting a degree in a CSI related field may be the best and quickest way to get a foot in the door. The best field of study to pursue is forensic science. It is important to have an education that is evenly balanced between the legal and the scientific elements of crime scene investigations.

Degree programs that involve classes or coursework in criminal psychology, law, ethics, and investigative research, or some combination thereof, are good ones to consider. Other potentially helpful degree programs include:

  • Criminal justice
    • Biology
    • Criminology

Completing Some Level of Police Training

Another path to becoming a CSI officer is to go the route of first becoming a police officer. This is a very practical method, as it provides a sort of “on-the-job-training.” Many police departments prefer to hire from within, meaning current officers would have preference in any CSI openings.  Also, going the route of becoming an officer first gives the added benefit of allowing the applicant to adjust to police life and culture. But qualifications to become a police officer may be strict. For example, some of the requirements to qualify for the South Carolina highway patrol the applicant must:

  • Be 21
  • Be a SC resident with a valid driver’s license
  • Have 20/20 vision, or no more than 20/100 vision corrected to 20/20
  • Have no criminal record

Applying for Crime Scene Investigator Positions

One of the best ways to go about looking for a job is to use the state human resources resource, which can be found here.  Also, call some of the major cities such as Columbia, Myrtle Beach, and Florence to inquire if they are hiring. For those who have gone to college, the career placement center may have valuable contacts which will help land a coveted CSI job. Additionally, some departments place ads on online job search engines, so they too are worth a look.

Becoming Certified

Once you have gained experience as a CSI professional in the state of South Carolina you can plan to progress and advance in your career by becoming certified in a particular area. Crime scene certification is available through the International Association for Identification South Carolina Division, which offers a program requiring at least one year of experiential work in a CSI-related field. Certification applicants must pass the IAI exam with a minimum score of 75% and once certification is granted it is valid for five years.  Also note that the IAI website lists job offerings in the CSI field as well.

Continuing Your Education

The education of a crime scene investigator is ongoing throughout his or her entire career. In order to advance in that career, continuing education should become a priority for even the most seasoned CSI veteran. A master’s degree of PH.D is an ideal way to increase your knowledge and sharpen your skills as a crime scene investigator in South Carolina.


Forensics Salary for Lab Technicians and CSIs in South Carolina

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the eighty forensic science technicians employed in South Carolina made an average annual salary of $44,570 in 2012.  Experienced professionals in the 90th percentile made $70,790 that year on average.

The BLS also provides salary information for selected cities in South Carolina, which is shown below:

South Carolina City
Average Annual Salary
Charlotte
$46700
Columbia
$39260

South Carolina Works Online Service provides this information from 2012 for two workforce regions in the state.  Forensic science technicians in these areas made the following amounts on average:

  • Midlands:  $33,461
  • Trident:  $41,693

The wages for these types of jobs have been increasing substantially in South Carolina in recent years according to an analysis of the wages of new jobs advertised online.  From June 2007 to January 2008, the advertised wages increased by 63%.

Salary information for 2013 is available for a forensic scientist position in the state.  A forensic technician II – toxicology made from $25,627 to $47,412 in Richland County.

While many forensic scientists work in the lab, others work in the field processing crime scene evidence.  Such crime scene investigator (CSI) positions can be comprised of sworn officers or civilians, depending on the department.  According to Indeed.com, the average CSI in South Carolina made $53,000 in the year leading up to October 2013.

Detailed information on hourly and annual wages by percentile for several areas in South Carolina is provided by the BLS.  This data is shown below:

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Augusta-Richmond County GA-SC
30
29110
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill NC-SC
160
46700
Columbia SC
40
39620

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