Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) Career Education in Georgia

Law enforcement agencies across Georgia depend on the evidence gathered by crime scene investigators to solve cases and bring criminals to justice. 2012 numbers show there were 420 employees working in the evidence gathering and analysis field, everywhere from local municipalities to the state Bureau of Investigation.

The following guide will take interested candidates through the process of how to become a crime scene investigator in Georgia. However, be warned that CSI jobs involve real victims of often-times brutal and violent crimes. A career in this field is not a prime time television drama that ends in one hour.

Some primary law enforcement agencies that utilize the skills of CSI agents include:

  • Clayton County CSI Unit
  • DeKalb County CSI Unit
  • Atlanta PD Criminal Investigation Division
  • Georgia Bureau of Investigations Division of Forensic Sciences

Preparing for CSI Jobs in Georgia

The typical duties of a CSI agent or officer include:

  • Fingerprint analysis and comparison
  • Death investigation
  • Bloodstain analysis
  • Footprint tracking and analysis
  • DNA collection
  • Photography and documentation of evidence
  • Testifying in court

These job specializations involve extensive CSI training in a variety of fields. Prospective candidates who have made an initial decision to pursue a crime scene investigator education can begin by taking CSI certification or introductory classes, but as they progress in their studies will need to choose a particular area of forensic specialization.

Georgia CSI Schools, Degrees, and Certifications

There are a number of educational opportunities both online and at campus locations across the Peach State. CSI certification programs will give candidates an introduction to the field and can also provide specific training opportunities in areas such as:

  • Photography
  • DNA analysis
  • Ballistics
  • Biological evidence recovery and preservation
  • Fingerprint lifting and identification
  • Cause of death determination

Candidates who are more certain of their career plans may be interested in an associate or bachelor’s degree in crime scene investigations. For example, special agents working with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations must have a bachelor’s degree.

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These certificate programs offer an in-depth study of the general field as well as a chance for a particular specialization for investigative professionals planning to eventually move up to more senior roles:

  • Criminology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Criminal Psychology
  • Forensics

Following a specific area of interest is just one of the ways of pursing an education and career in crime scene investigation. Candidates may prefer to begin by selecting a particular law enforcement agency with which they are interested in working. Being aware of an agency’s CSI certification and education requirements can be very beneficial in helping to shape a candidate’s path towards employment.

Finding Crime Scene Investigator Jobs in Georgia

CSI jobs in Georgia may be found all across the state. Last year there were 240 employees working in the CSI career field in the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta metro area with an additional 30 in the Augusta region. Employers include:

  • Clayton County CSI – Crime Scene Investigation Unit: Comprised of 15 full-time officers who are responsible for collecting, processing, and documenting crime scene evidence
  • DeKalb County Crime Scene Investigation Unit: Responsible for complex crime scene analysis. Packages and analyzes physical evidence using  advanced field technology
  • Atlanta Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division
  • Columbus Police Department’s Identification Division
  • Forensic Unit of the Bibb County Sheriff’s Department, serving the city of Macon
  • Savannah – Chatham Metropolitan Police Department’s Investigations Unit
  • The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Division of Forensic Sciences: specialists works closely with law enforcement agencies to assist in the laboratory analysis of collected evidence

Forensics Salary for Lab Technicians and CSIs in Georgia

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 420 forensic science technicians were employed in Georgia in 2012.  Over half of all of these jobs were located in the Atlanta area.  It had the eighth highest level of employment of forensic scientists of any metropolitan area in the U.S.

The field of forensic sciences is projected to grow from 2010 to 2020 in Georgia according to the state’s Department of Labor.  The number of jobs is projected to increase by nine percent in that time frame.

The BLS provides information for the 2012 forensic scientist salary levels in Georgia.  They averaged $34,140 in 2012 with those in the top tenth of their field earning $51,790 a year.

Georgia’s Department of Labor provides the average 2012 salaries for forensic science technicians in two of the metropolitan statistical areas of Georgia.  They are listed below:

  • Atlanta:  $51,917
  • Augusta:  $29,245

They also provide forensic scientist salary data for two of the state’s Workforce Investment Act regions:

  • Cobb County:  $47,195
  • Northeast Georgia:  $35,797

In addition to working as lab technicians, many forensic scientists are crime scene investigators (CSIs).  They specialize in documenting crime scenes and collecting evidence for further analysis.

Some CSIs are police officers.  For instance, crime scene specialists of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are all sworn officers.  There is at least one full-time CSI in each of the organization’s fifteen regional offices.

In other cases, the CSI positions are filled by civilians.  The 2013 salary for one civilian CSI position in Atlanta in 2013 ranged from $46,310 to $57,888 a year.

The BLS provides a detailed breakdown of employment and wages for parts of Georgia.  This data is shown in the table below:

Area name
Annual mean wage
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta GA
Augusta-Richmond County GA-SC

CSI and Forensic Scientist in Atlanta, Georgia

With more than six million people, Metro Atlanta has historically had one of the nation’s highest crime rates, however, it has dropped more than 40 percent since 2001, more than two times as fast as public safety improvement in the rest of the country. Crime scene investigators and forensic scientists have contributed significantly to that accomplishment.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forensic technicians in Atlanta earn a mean annual wage of $40,300.

Clayton County Police Department annual salaries range from $35,543 (high school diploma), $36,893 (associate’s degree) or $38,294 (bachelor’s degree) for recruits to $39,543, $40,893 or $42,294 respectively after three years of service.

Requirements for Becoming a CSI or Forensic Lab Scientist in Atlanta

Atlanta has an extremely large number of public and private colleges/universities. There are more than eight community colleges offering associate’s degrees in criminal justice, forensic science and related fields. The city also has approximately a dozen accredited four-year colleges/universities with bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in chemistry, forensic science and other natural sciences.

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Candidates for employment with the Atlanta Police Department must meet the following requirements:

  • Over the age of 20
  • U.S. citizen
  • Valid driver’s license
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Good moral character/no felony convictions
  • Pass cognitive skills, vision and medical exams

Candidates for jobs in the crime lab must have at least an associate’s degree in chemistry, forensic science or a related field. Bachelor degree holders are preferred. Applications are accepted online.

Requirements for employment with the Clayton County Crime Scene Investigation Unit are basically the same although the age requirement is 18 or older. Job openings and applications are available through the Clayton County Human Resources Department.

The APD crime lab has an internship program for college students.

Atlanta Police Department Crime Scene Investigation and Forensic Science

Officers of the Atlanta Police Department (APD) Identification Unit take crime scene photographs and process, code and match crime scene fingerprints. The APD also has a crime lab staffed by Director Don Mikko and seven forensic technicians that provides crime scene support 24/7 and specializes in such forensic services as:

  • Firearms/Toolmark Identification
  • Marijuana Drug Testing
  • Ballistics Identification

Clayton County Crime Scene Investigation Unit

Located in Jonesboro, a suburban town in Metro Atlanta, the Clayton County Crime Scene Unit is staffed by 15 full-time sworn-officer crime scene investigators (CSIs) who are responsible for detecting, collecting, processing and preserving evidence from major crime scenes. The CSIs also testify as expert witnesses in courts of law. Each CSI has been trained in multiple forensic disciplines, including:

  • Fingerprint comparison
  • Blood stain analysis
  • DNA collection
  • Death investigation
  • Footwear comparison

Clayton County PD is one of several law enforcement agencies in Metro Atlanta that possesses an Automated Fingerprint Identification System terminal capable of comparing a suspect’s or unidentified dead person’s prints with those of over 3,000,000 criminal offenders.

U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Lab

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Lab (USACIL) in Metro Atlanta’s Gillem Enclave (formerly Fort Gillem), is the only Department of Defense full-service forensic laboratory in the world. The USACIL provides forensic services to investigative agencies within the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. Accredited since 1985, it is at the forefront of battlefield forensics. The lab supplies worldwide forensic support, trains special agents from all branches of the U.S. military  and conducts forensic examinations in such areas as:

  • Forensic documents
  • Trace evidence
  • Serology/DNA
  • Latent prints
  • Digital evidence
  • Firearms/Toolmarks
  • Drug chemistry

USACIL forensic scientists testify as experts in federal, military and state courts.

CSI and Forensic Scientist in Augusta, Georgia

Augusta is the second largest city in Georgia and the primary city of the Augusta-Richmond County Metropolitan Statistical Area. Crime scene investigator and forensic scientist jobs in Augusta are primarily found with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office or the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The crime scene unit, part of the investigations division, employs three sheriff deputies who all began their careers on road patrol and then moved to investigations and later to homicide before becoming crime scene investigators (CSIs). They maintain that working on homicide investigations taught them the critical importance of preserving and documenting evidence. Crime scene unit members not only photograph, collect and document evidence but they also handle the forensic analyses.

In October 2012 the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office moved to a new building which includes a much larger crime lab with such state-of-the-arts equipment as:

  • Large blood-drying locker
  • Chemical fuming hood for processing powders
  • Cyanoacrylate chamber for enhancing fingerprints
  • Down-flow work station
  • Updated automated fingerprint system that includes palm prints and access to the federal database

The three CSIs all have cold cases on their desks and new technologies have shed fresh light on old evidence that has allowed many cold cases to be finally solved.

Requirements for Getting a Job as a CSI or Forensic Laboratory Scientist
in Augusta

Requirements for becoming a forensic scientist with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations Division of Forensic Services are as follows:

  • Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry OR bachelor’s degree in forensic science with at least 40 semester (60 quarter) credit hours in chemistry
  • Good academic record
  • No felony convictions or pattern of misdemeanors
  • No poor credit history
  • No illegal drug use or possession of marijuana within last three years
  • Pass a polygraph exam
  • Experience working in a forensic science laboratory

The crime lab has an internship program for persons over the age of 18 who are currently enrolled in an accredited four-year college with a good academic record.

A list of current job opportunities and online applications are available from the Georgia Bureau of Investigations personnel department.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Division of Forensic Sciences

The GBI is an independent, statewide agency established in 1952 that offers assistance to Georgia law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. Augusta is home to one of seven GBI forensic sciences crime laboratories that work with government and private entities to meet the needs of Georgia’s criminal justice community by supplying the highest quality forensic services. The Augusta crime lab, which serves 13 counties, provides the following forensic services:

  • Chemistry – Analyzes evidence for presence of controlled substances, assists police in the seizure of clandestine drug labs and provides expert testimony in courts of law.
  • Firearms/Toolmarks – Analyzes and compares firearms, bullets and spent cartridges; examines impressions to identify the tools which made them.
  • Forensic Biology (DNA) – Performs serological analyzes of blood, saliva, semen and other bodily fluids to develop DNA profiles and run comparisons to link them to a specific person.
  • Latent Prints – Uses techniques involving powders, chemicals and alternate light sources to analyze impressions produced by the ridged skin on fingers, palms or foot soles; compares with known prints in hopes of finding a match.
  • Questioned Documents – Examines documents for evidence of forgery or manipulations.
  • Toxicology – Determines whether drugs, poisons or alcohol played a role in the crime.
  • Trace Evidence – Analyzes physical evidence like glass, paint, plastics, fiber, hair, gunshot residue and other material fragments.

Forensic Scientist Salaries in Augusta Georgia

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains that there are currently 30 forensic technicians employed in Augusta/Richmond County with an annual mean salary of $29,110. However, the Economic Research Institutes lists the average annual salary for forensic scientists as $59,301.

The annual salary for crime lab scientists with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations ranges from $35,000 to $59,000 depending on education and experience.

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