Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) Career Education in Florida

The Emmy-winning TV show, “CSI: Miami” (2002-2012) brought Florida crime scene investigators (CSIs) to the forefront. Although the 1,450 real CSIs working in Florida do not take part in high-speed chases and wild shoot-outs like they do in the TV series, these scientific investigators often provide the crucial evidence that determines a suspect’s guilt or innocence.

Crime scene investigators collect, evaluate, preserve, document and analyze evidence found at crime scenes, including latent and patent fingerprints, hair, fibers, nail clippings, human tissue, blood, fibers, glass, paint and even insects. They photograph, sketch and often reconstruct the scene. The job demands very specific knowledge and skills.

Crime Scene Investigator Schools in Florida

There is an abundance of schools in Florida, as well as numerous accredited online institutions, that offer certificate or degree programs in crime scene investigation or forensic science. The Forensic Educational Programs Accreditation Commission of the American Academy of Forensic Science sets minimum standards for accreditation.

One Florida university offers a unique certificate program in “Underwater CSI” in which students learn to apply scientific methods and techniques to the collection of evidence at underwater crime scenes. Special attention is given to safety and legal issues related to underwater environments. Enhanced dive technology and skills allow for prolonged investigation periods.

The CSI Academy of Florida is a 28,000 square foot facility in Alachua, FL that boasts 15 crime scene rooms for mock reenactments. The academy’s seven-week, 300-hour intensive program for individuals seeking a CSI career concludes with a two-day, indoor-outdoor, major crime scene final examination. The school also offers continuing education classes in such subjects as:

  • Crime Scene Photography
  • Identification of Human Remains
  • Blood Splatter Analysis
  • Casting Techniques
  • Crime Scene Ethics
  • Report Writing
  • Trace Evidence
  • Entomology
  • Alternate Light Sources

Classes consist of 30 percent lecture material and 70 percent hands-on training. Crime scene investigators can earn 40 hours credit toward CSI certification offered by the International Association for Identification (IAI). Applicants need at least one year full-time crime-scene experience and completion of 48 hours of CSI Certification Board-approved courses in the last five years.

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Requirements for Becoming a Crime Scene Investigator in Florida

The qualifications for getting a crime scene investigator job in Florida differ somewhat between employers and locations; however, knowledge of science and scientific methods is essential. Some openings only require an associate’s degree or a CSI certificate but a bachelor’s degree in forensic science, chemistry or criminal justice gives the applicant a better chance of being hired. Experience is important although extensive on-the-job training is the norm for entry-level positions. Other requirements may include:

  • Valid driver’s license
  • Background check
  • No felony convictions
  • Ability to operate video and camera equipment
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Computer proficiency
  • No history of drug/alcohol abuse
  • Non-smoker
  • Willingness to work nights, weekends and holidays
  • Physically fit
  • Mentally able to handle gruesome scenes

City Crime Scene Investigation Units in Florida

The Miami Police Department Crime Scene Investigation Unit, a section of the Criminal Investigation Division, uses civilian CSIs to support criminal investigations throughout the city of Miami. It employs 20 highly-skilled CSIs and four shift supervisors as well as both a forensic unit supervisor and a forensic unit manager who are all on call 24/7. The unit also has eight vans and a mobile crime scene lab that has exterior lighting capabilities and is fully equipped for a wide variety of crime scenes. Miami has a latent print detail and a photo lab detail equipped with the latest technological advances for both identifying latent fingerprints and developing, printing and digitizing photographs.

The Tampa Forensic Investigation Unit employs four types of technicians:

  • Crime Scene Technicians – provide mobile crime scene services at major crime scenes. They collect, process, classify and preserve all manner of evidence and are often called upon to testify in court.
  • Latent Fingerprint Technicians – Evaluate and identify late t fingerprints lifted at crime scenes.
  • Photo Lab Technicians – Download, develop, print and maintain crime-scene photographs.
  • Office Support Specialists – Quantify data and maintain records.

Unlike Miami and Tampa, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit employs only sworn officers who have served at least three years on patrol before applying for the unit. Those accepted attend an intensive field training program in crime scene investigation techniques. The unit utilizes the most advanced equipment, including trajectory lasers, alternate light sources, electrostatic dust print lift kits and forensic laser mapping systems.

Job Outlook and Salaries for CSIs in Florida

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for CSIs is good, with an expected 20 percent growth in jobs by 2018. CSI Employment opportunities are reportedly better in Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach than in Miami and Fort Lauderdale. The annual mean salary for CSI in Florida is $46,850. Salaries for specific cities are:

  • Miami/Fort Lauderdale:  $58,970
  • Orlando:  $44,550
  • West Palm Beach:  $51,700
  • Tallahassee:  $37,170
  • Pensacola:  $40,370

Forensics Salary for Lab Technicians and CSIs in Florida

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides information that shows that Florida is one of the best states in the country to look for forensic science jobs:

  • It has the second highest level of employment of any state in the country.
  • Based on the number of forensic science positions per employee, it has the fourth highest concentration of jobs in the country.

In particular, two cities in Florida have the highest concentration of forensic scientist jobs of any metropolitan area in the country.  Tallahassee has a sizable number of forensic scientists employed there.  It had twice as many jobs per 1000 employees as the city with the second greatest concentration of jobs.  Pensacola had the fifth greatest concentration of jobs.

According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the number of these jobs is increasing each year with 1.84% annual growth projected in the period from 2012 to 2020.  They project that 86 jobs a year will be created in Florida during this time frame.

The annual mean salary of forensic science technicians in Florida was $46,850 a year in 2012 according to the BLS.  Experienced scientists in the top tenth percent of the wage bracket averaged $69,800 a year.

Annual salary data for forensic science technicians in selected cities in Florida is listed below.

Florida City
Average Annual Salary
Fort Lauderdale
West Palm Beach

In addition to forensic scientists who work as lab technicians, a number of these professionals work in the field analyzing and collecting evidence from crime scenes.  These crime scene investigators (CSIs) can be either sworn officers or civilians.

Civilian crime scene investigator salaries for 2013 are shown below for selected cities:

  • Crime scene analyst I
    • Pensacola:  $27,040
  • Crime scene technician
    • Ocala:  $23,724 – $36,772
    • Punta Gorda:  $27,872 – $34,840
    • Sanford:  $26,395 – $40,893

The BLS provides a detailed breakdown for forensic science technician salaries in a number of cities in Florida during 2012.  It is shown in the following table:

Area name
Annual mean wage
Cape Coral-Fort Myers FL
Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach FL Metropolitan Division
Lakeland-Winter Haven FL
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach FL
Estimate not released
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford FL
Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent FL
Tallahassee FL
West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Boynton Beach FL Metropolitan Division

CSI and Forensic Scientist in Jacksonville, Florida

The Florida Division of the International Association for Identification is the largest state division of this international organization of crime scene investigators and forensic scientists.  The state division represents those holding forensic science and CSI jobs across Florida, including in its largest city, Jacksonville, located in Duval County.

Titles of Jacksonville CSI and forensic science jobs include:

  • DNA analyst
  • Crime scene investigator
  • Crime laboratory analyst
  • Chemist
  • Latent print analyst
  • Firearms analyst
  • Forensic anthropology instructor

Many training opportunities are available for forensic science and CSI students in the Jacksonville area, to prepare them for CSI and forensic science jobs at crime laboratories, within police agencies and in college and university settings.

Forensic Science and CSI Degree Programs in Jacksonville

The Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC) of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences accredits CSI and forensic science educational programs at training schools, colleges and universities in the Jacksonville area. The following related degrees and certificates are available:

  • Certificate in Forensics, Computer and Network Technician
  • Associate of Science in Criminology and Forensic Technology
  • Associate of Science in Private Investigation Services
  • Associate of Science in Information Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Forensic Investigation
  • Bachelor of Science in Cyber Forensics/Information Security
  • Master of Science in Computer Forensics Management

Forensic Science and CSI Departments in Jacksonville

  • Florida Department of Law Enforcement Crime Laboratory – The FDLE Crime Lab in Jacksonville is part of a statewide network of crime labs that work with the Florida State Police and local police agencies as needed. The Jacksonville Crime Lab performs services including DNA and biological analysis, chemistry, crime scene investigation on-scene and evidence analysis in the laboratory, firearms analysis, impression evidence, and latent fingerprint analysis.
  • Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Unit – The CSI Unit of the city’s Sheriff’s Office employs sworn police officer investigators who are specially trained to investigate crime scenes throughout the city of Jacksonville. Investigators also work in processing evidence collected at the scene, including DNA, digital evidence, fingerprints and impressions.
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation – Jacksonville Division – The Jacksonville Division of the FBI employs an Evidence Response Team, consisting of specially trained agents who collect evidence at federal crime scenes in the Jacksonville area. It also employs computer forensics specialists, who are digital forensic examiners that process digital evidence from crime scenes.
  • Institution of Police Technology and Management, University of North Florida – This college CSI and forensic science division in Jacksonville employs specialists who instruct CSI and forensic science students in a variety of relevant topics, including advanced techniques for death investigators, hostage and crisis negotiation, homicide investigations and deviant sexual behavior and related criminal activity. Classes are held in-person and online.

Jacksonville CSI and Forensic Science Jobs In the News

Recently, the Jacksonville Division of the FBI participated in a criminal investigation that led to the indictment of a Jacksonville man for the attempted murder of a United States District Judge. This multi-jurisdictional investigation involved a variety of law enforcement professionals besides the FBI, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Another recent criminal case in Jacksonville involved the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, whose Crime Scene Unit investigated the possible abduction of a woman by a man in a vehicle outside of the Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute in September 2013. The CSI Unit reviewed digital video footage of the incident and determined it to be a possible abduction, but no missing persons were reported in the Jacksonville area around that time. The individuals in the footage were later identified and it was determined that the incident was not an abduction but rather an argument between two people familiar with each other.

CSI and Forensic Scientist in Miami, Florida

A crime scene in Miami recently made national news headlines when relatives of a person who was fatally shot broke through crime scene tape and tried to access the body. A fight broke out between relatives on the scene and police officers that were trying to secure the scene for crime investigators, as evidence was compromised and the crime scene was contaminated. Those who rushed the crime scene faced criminal charges in this April 2013 event.

As October 2013 was designated National Information Security Awareness Month, the city of Miami planned some community events and public presentations to highlight computer security. These were presented by an FBI Forensics Examiner of the Miami Valley Regional Computer Forensics Lab, as well as by the Chair in Law at the University Of Dayton School Of Law. The events are intended to focus the community’s awareness on keeping digital information safeguarded.

Forensic Science and CSI Education in Miami

There are many accredited, world-renowned forensic science and crime scene investigation educational programs in the Miami area. Degrees available in this area include:

  • Certificate in Forensic Science
  • Associate of Science in Criminology and Forensic Technology
  • Associate of Science in Crime Scene Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Chemistry
  • Bachelor of Science in Forensic Investigation
  • Master of Science in Forensic Science
  • PhD. In Chemistry with a track in Forensic Science

Some of the jobs in the forensic science and crime scene investigation arena in Miami and the surrounding areas include:

  • Biometrics Technician
  • Forensic Services Advisor
  • Forensic Engineer
  • Police Officer
  • Latent Print Examiner
  • Crime Scene Investigator (CSI)

Organizations Supporting Forensic Science and CSI Jobs in Miami

  • Miami-Dade Police Department Forensic Services Bureau – The Forensic Services Bureau of this county police department employs specialists in the following sections:
    • Property and Evidence Section
    • Digital Forensics Section
    • Fingerprint Identification Section
    • Forensic Imaging Section
    • Crime Scene Investigations Section
    • Forensic Biology Section
    • Analytical Section
    • Crime Laboratory Section
  • Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Laboratory – The Medical Examiner’s Office for the county is located in the city of Miami. It employs specialists in the following areas:
    • Toxicology
    • Records/Transcription
    • Pathology
    • Odontology
    • Morgue Bureau
    • Investigations Bureau
    • Forensic Imaging
    • Anthropology
  • Miami Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation – The Miami FBI Office includes the following crime scene investigation and forensic science sections and capabilities:
    • Evidence Response Team
    • Underwater Search and Evidence Response Team
    • Computer Analysis and Response Team
    • Miami Specialized Weapons and Tactics Team
    • HAZMAT Teams
    • Bomb Recovery and Analysis Teams

CSI and Forensic Scientist in Orlando, Florida

According to the 2012 Uniform Crime Report (UCR), that year the Orlando Police Department recorded a 4.7 percent decrease in the total amount of crimes in its jurisdiction between 2011 and 2012. Similarly, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office recorded a 1.7 percent decrease in crime between 2011 and 2012.

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Organizations that employ crime scene investigators and forensic science professionals in Orlando may look to fill jobs with the following titles:

  • Forensic technician
  • Medicolegal investigator
  • Crime laboratory analyst
  • Forensic technologist
  • Latent print examiner
  • Police officer

It is the duty of these professionals to investigate a crime scene, collect crucial evidence, and analyze that evidence in a crime laboratory. Only properly trained professionals are hired to fill these important roles in law enforcement.

Forensic Science and CSI Education in Orlando

Certificates and degrees in crime scene investigation, forensic science and other related areas are vital to obtaining CSI and forensic science jobs in Orlando. Programs offered in the Orlando vicinity include:

  • Associate of Science in Crime Scene Technology
  • Associate of Science in Fire Science
  • Bachelor of Science in Forensic Investigation
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Forensics Management
  • Master of Science in Computer Forensics Management
  • Master of Science in Forensic Sciences

Playing CSI for a Day in Orlando

The CBS Television Network, home of the original television crime dramas “CSI” and “CSI Miami,” launched a real-life experience for visitors in Orlando in 2012. The interactive attraction is titled “CSI: The Exhibit,” and features characters from the CSI programs to guide visitors through crime scene investigations. It shows visitors how to analyze blood spatter, fingerprint and DNA evidence. Although “CSI-The Exhibit” was in Orlando in 2012, it is intended to be a roaming exhibit that will travel from city to city to capitalize on Americans’ fascination with crime scene investigation and forensic television programs.

Organizations Supporting Forensic Science and CSI Jobs in Orlando

  • Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office –The home of the famous medical examiner Dr. G (Dr. Jan Garavaglia, Chief Medical Examiner), the Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office handles all death investigations and examinations throughout Orange County, Florida.
  • Orange County Sheriff’s Office – The county sheriff’s office employs crime scene investigators, technicians and others to help gather and process evidence from crime scenes occurring throughout Orange County, Florida.
  • Keiser University, Orlando Campus – The Orlando Campus of this career school has a crime scene/forensic investigations department that is often hiring instructors. To qualify, applicants must have a PhD and two year of experience in the field.
  • FireEye Lab – The national high technology company’s laboratory in Orlando often hires forensic consultants to work in information technology, cyber attacks and computer forensics.

CSI and Forensic Scientist in St. Petersburg, Florida

The St. Petersburg Police Department handled 17,000 calls for forensic services in 2005 alone. Although forensic science and crime scene investigation workers collect evidence from crime scenes and analyze that evidence in a laboratory specially equipped to handle such evidence. Despite the fact that forensic scientists and CSI professionals may not feel the rewards of finding a missing child like a police officer can, they may be rewarded when the evidence they have collected and analyzes helps to catch a criminal.

In 2006, a forensic technician from the St. Petersburg Police Department allowed a journalist from the Tampa Bay Times to ride along for a day. The journalist reported on the activities he performed that day, including getting fingerprints off a crack pipe, dusting a burgled house for fingerprints, photographing crime scenes and doing paperwork. The forensic technician noted that the duties of his job were not as glamorous as those of the crime scene investigators shown on television.

Crime scene investigators in St. Petersburg also made headlines in 2008 when two city residents discovered a lung in a canal in the city. Upon calling the St. Petersburg Police Department, crime scene analysts were dispatched to the scene along with the Medical Examiner. When analysis of the lung was complete, it was determined that the organ came from an animal, not a human being. A few days later, the chief CSI investigator notified the city residents who had discovered the lung to let them know it was not human.

Getting the Right Forensic Science and CSI Education in St. Petersburg

Students in St. Petersburg and the surrounding area who wish to study college-level programs in crime scene investigation and forensic science will find the following degree programs available:

  • Associate of Science in Crime Scene Technology
  • Certificate in Crime Scene Technology
  • Associate of Science in Forensic Technology and Criminology
  • Bachelor of Science in Chemistry – Forensic Science
  • Master of Science in Chemistry  – Forensic Science

Companies in the St. Petersburg area that employ CSI and forensic science professionals fill jobs such as:

  • Field technician
  • Police officer
  • Fingerprint specialist
  • Forensic investigator
  • Identity intelligence case manager
  • DNA analyst
  • Forensic chemist

Organizations Supporting Forensic Science and CSI Jobs in St. Petersburg

  • Pinellas County Forensic Science Center – This center, located in nearby Largo, combines the District Six Medical Examiner’s Office, which serves Pasco and Pinellas Counties, with the Pinellas County Forensic Lab. Laboratory techniques performed here include DNA analysis, toxicology analysis, controlled substance analysis, and fire debris analysis.
  • St. Petersburg Forensics – This privately owned company provides digital forensic services to the general public. Services performed include audio, video, mobile and computer forensics, as well as e-discovery services.

CSI and Forensic Scientist in Tampa, Florida

The Tampa area is home to the National Institute for Forensic Science, a research center at the University of Central Florida in nearby Largo. The Institute’s purposes include furthering research in forensic science for the criminal justice community, particularly in the areas of forensic document examination, statistical studies, physical evidence, digital evidence and biological evidence.

Some of its most recent discoveries include the creation of a Burning Item Database as well as a Smokeless Powders Database. The Institute can be a great resource for continuing education for professionals that hold crime scene investigation and forensic science jobs in Tampa. Careers within forensic science and CSI in Tampa may be available in law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels, as well as within other corporations and government agencies.

Forensic Science and CSI Education in Tampa

Tampa is home to some o the top forensic science and crime scene investigation programs in the country. Degrees and certificates available in Tampa include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science
  • Associate of Science in Criminology and Forensic Technology
  • Associate of Science in Information Systems Management: Network Security
  • Bachelor of Science in Forensic Investigation
  • Bachelor of Science in Cyber Forensics
  • Graduate Certificate in Computer Forensics

Examples of CSI and forensic science jobs in the Tampa area include:

  • Fingerprint analyst
  • Crime scene technician
  • Photo lab technician
  • Crime laboratory analyst
  • Latent print examiner supervisor
  • Forensic toxicologist

Organizations Supporting Forensic Science and CSI Jobs in Tampa

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation – Tampa Division – The Tampa Division of the FBI encompasses the main office in Tampa and satellite offices in Sarasota, Pinellas, Orlando, Naples, Lakeland, Fort Myers, and Brevard. Agents of the Tampa Division of the FBI perform CSI and laboratory services in all kinds of investigations, including those to prevent terrorism in the United States and cyber crime investigations.
  • High Tech Crime Institute Group – This laboratory focusing on computer and digital forensics and crimes contracts to do work for federal, state and local law enforcement as well as other government agencies. Although the group does business all over the world, its headquarters is located in Largo, near Tampa.

Tampa CSI and Forensic Science Professional Training

For those who already hold jobs in the crime scene investigation and forensic science areas in Tampa, professional training and continuing education opportunities are available on an ongoing basis. These opportunities can help one advance in a CSI or forensic science career in Tampa. Courses are taught at the National Center for Forensic Science at the University of Central Florida in nearby Largo. They are available online or in an in-person format, and include:

  • Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Analysis
  • Comprehensive Fire Debris Analysis
  • High Explosives
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