Working as a crime scene investigator in Illinois can be simultaneously interesting, challenging, puzzling, and gruesome. Investigators carry a heavy responsibility to discover and properly collect evidence at crime scenes that can both lead detectives towards the perpetrators of violent acts and serve as strong evidence for convictions. In a recent case CSI agents were called to examine a suburban Chicago crime scene involving the mysterious shooting of two store clerks with no evidence of a forced entry or robbery. Besides working with law enforcement in the Windy City, CSI professionals are found throughout the state with agencies such as:
- Rockford Police Department
- Joliet Police Department
- Illinois State Police
- DuPage County Sheriff’s Department
Basic Requirements for a CSI Career in Illinois
When researching the process of how to become a crime scene investigator in Illinois, interested candidates will find positions in this field require some combination of CSI certification, education, training, and experience. Fortunately there are many schools located across the Land of Lincoln and online colleges which offer a relevant CSI degree or certification.
Common CSI certification programs in Illinois include:
- DNA and blood analysis
- Crime scene reconstruction
Candidates who are interested in reaching the top rungs of the CSI professional ladder should consider studying for at least a bachelor’s certificate in the natural or physical sciences fields. Students can obtain a four-year education before seeking employment or gain experience as entry-level technicians and study while they work. Relevant areas of education include:
- Natural sciences
- Forensic anthropology
- Criminal psychology
- Physical sciences
It is always recommended to check with individual law enforcement agencies for specific requirements, and CSI jobs in the following cities provide a typical example of what to expect in the profession.
Chicago Crime Scene Investigators
Because of the size of the City of Chicago, the police department’s crime scene investigators are divided into subgroups such as:
- Fingerprint technician
- Latent fingerprint examiner
- Forensic firearm examiner
Firearms examiners require additional CSI certification showing they have completed a Firearm and/or Tool Mark Examiner training program. The Chicago PD also prefers its firearms examiners to be members of a professional organization, the Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners.
Each of these positions requires either a university degree in the following science fields and/or at least one year of experience in a related field:
- Natural Sciences
DuPage County Evidence Technicians
The Forensic Investigator Unit of the DuPage County Sheriff’s Department provide their services to law enforcement agencies throughout the county, including the cities of Aurora and Naperville. Using the latest technology, evidence technicians are required to have specific CSI training and education in order to be qualified to conduct their duties which include:
- Processing physical evidence
- Forensic computer and video analysis
- Working in close collaboration with the county coroner’s officer to gather evidence for all unnatural deaths
- Fire and arson investigation
- Assistance in gathering evidence for major crimes and violent felonies
- Testifying in court
Evidence technicians are required to complete Evidence Technician and Crime Scene and Police Photography training courses prior to or within their first year of their employment. It is also recommended for applicants to have an equivalent experience and/or CSI education equal to the following two-year associate degrees:
- Criminal investigations
- Law enforcement
- Photographic technician
Forensics Salary for Lab Technicians and CSIs in Illinois
The employment situation for forensic scientists in Illinois is promising, since the state’s Department of Economic Security estimates the number of jobs available to increase by four percent a year. The state considers the job of being a forensic science technician to be a demand occupation in the Northeast region of Illinois.
Seven hundred and eighty-seven people had jobs as forensic scientists in the state, according to the state’s career profile site. Forensic scientists made $73,290 a year on average in Illinois in 2012, while experienced professionals earned $102,280 annually.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), forensic science technicians in the Chicago metropolitan area had the sixth average highest salaries of any metropolitan area in the county. Their average annual salary was $62,400 in 2012 with those in the top tenth percent of their wage group earning $105,180 a year.
Forensic scientist salaries for 2013 are available for some locations in Illinois. In Wheaton, a forensic scientist specializing in firearms examination made from $40,390 to $67,318 a year in 2013. A forensic scientist administrator at level II earned $80,352 to $119,520 a year in Springfield.
The employment of forensic science technicians is projected to grow in the following areas of Illinois by the following annual percentages:
- DuPage County: 22%
- Will County: 11%
- Lake County: 5%
- DeKalb-Aurora area: 5%
The category of forensic scientists includes both lab technicians and crimes scene investigators (CSIs) who work in the field. According to Indeed.com, the average annual salary of a crime scene investigator in Illinois in the year preceding October 2013 was $53,000.
The BLS provides a detailed breakdown of hourly and annual forensic science technicians in 2012 for several metropolitan areas of Illinois. This information is presented below:
CSI and Forensic Scientist in Aurora, Illinois
As the second largest city in Illinois, Aurora’s city limits cross four counties: Kane, Kendall, Will and DuPage. According to crime statistics published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in 2008 the total number of violent crimes in Aurora was 693, an average of 397 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Although Aurora is a relatively safe city compared to some other cities in Illinois, it still sees its share of crime. This makes the jobs of crime scene investigators and forensic scientists highly important to the welfare of the city.
Some Aurora area residents who wish to pursue forensic science and CSI jobs pursue training provided by the Illinois State Police to become a State Police Evidence Technician (SPET). This paid training program is available in county crime laboratories throughout Illinois. To qualify, an applicant must have completed at least two years of college coursework in law enforcement or the natural sciences (which include but are not limited to zoology, preliminary medicine, physics, medical technology, geology, entomology, chemistry, botany, biology, biochemistry, animal science, and agricultural science). The training will prepare SPETs to analyze and correlate crime scene data, construct demonstrations and exhibits for courts, testify in court, use computer hardware and software, work with all levels of law enforcement and the legal system, and communicate ideas effectively both in written and oral form. The salary for a SPET I as of January 2012 ranges from $42,696 to $56,532 annually.
The Right Forensic Science or CSI Degree
Some Aurora forensic science and CSI jobs require a two-year college degree, while others require a four-year or more degree. Examples of forensic science and CSI degree programs in the Aurora area include:
- Associate of Science in Financial Investigation
- Associate of Science in Network Security
- Associate of Science in Psychology-Criminal Justice
- Bachelor of Science in Investigation
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Security and Forensics
Job titles in forensic science and crime scene investigation in the Aurora area may include:
- Forensic technician
- Mechanical forensic specialist
- Field technician
- Police officer
- Latent print examiner
Organizations Supporting Forensic Science and CSI Jobs in Aurora
- City of Aurora Police Department – The city’s police department employs forensic technicians and forensic scientists whose jobs include analyzing all types of evidence in the department’s crime laboratory.
- Kane County Sheriff’s Office – The county sheriff’s office, located in St. Charles (10 miles from Aurora), maintains an Evidence Unit and Crime Analysts Unit. Both of these departments employ specialists trained in forensic science and crime scene investigation.
- DuPage County Forensic Science Center – Located in Wheaton, about 13 miles from Aurora, this Forensic Science Center provides crime laboratory services to all law enforcement agencies in DuPage County. It was the fourth law enforcement agency in the nation to earn ISO certification for its crime lab by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors Laboratory Accreditation Board in 2006. Laboratory assignments here include drug chemistry testing, forensic biology and DNA analysis, impression evidence, trace chemistry, and firearms/toolmarks analysis.
- Larsen Forensics, Inc. – This privately owned forensics company in Aurora provides contracted crime scene processing and interpretation for law enforcement, businesses, attorneys and other individuals in the Aurora area. Services include chemistry and DNA analyses, shooting and incident scene reconstruction, death investigation, latent print examination and bloodstain collection and examination.
CSI and Forensic Scientist in Chicago, Illinois
The city of Chicago, Illinois is comprised of 77 community areas. The Chicago Police Department maintains crime statistics for each of these communities within the city. According to its records, the community with the highest rate of violent crime is Washington Park, followed by Fuller Park, West Garfield Park, Chatham, West Englewood and East Garfield Park.
Crime scene investigators and forensic scientists most often work to gather and process evidence at violent crime scenes throughout Chicago. Violent crimes are classified as criminal sexual assault, homicide, assault, robbery or battery.
The following forensic science and CSI jobs may be found in Chicago:
- Forensic scientist trainee
- State police evidence technician
- Forensic science administrator – toxicology
- Forensic science administration- biology/DNA
Forensic Science and CSI Education in Chicago
Most forensic science and crime scene investigator jobs in Chicago require applicants to hold at least a bachelor’s degree, while others are obtainable with an associate’s degree or certificate.
Programs in the Chicago area include:
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Forensics
- Bachelor of Science in Forensic Science
- Master of Science in Forensic Science
- Master of Science in Forensic Psychology
- Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology
- Psy.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology
Organizations Supporting Forensic Science and CSI Jobs in Chicago
- McCrone Research Institute – This nonprofit organization in Chicago teaches and researches in electron and light microscopy, ultramicroanalysis and crystallography. It hosts many courses in the forensic sciences and provides research opportunities for forensic scientists.
- Northeastern Illinois Regional Crime Laboratory – This crime laboratory located in Vernon Hills, about 25 miles from the Chicago metropolitan area, provides forensic services for more than 35 law enforcement agencies. Analysis in toolmarks, firearms, toxicology, forensic biology, DNA, fingerprints and drug chemistry is performed here.
- DuPage County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Investigation Division – The Forensic Investigation Division of this county sheriff’s office is located in Wheaton, about 30 miles from Chicago. It provides evidence gathering and processing services for crime scenes throughout the county. The Forensic Investigation Unit services three task forces in DuPage County: the Fire Investigation Task Force, the Felony Investigative Assistance Team, and the DuPage County Major Crimes Task Force.
- Chicago Regional Forensics Computer Laboratory – This laboratory’s services are available to law enforcement agencies in 19 counties throughout Illinois. Specialists are trained in digital forensics techniques including pre-seizure consultation, on-site seizure and collection, duplication and storage of computer related evidence, examination of digitally stored media, and courtroom testimony.
- Illinois State Police Forensic Science Center at Chicago – The state police crime laboratory in Chicago was established in July 1996. It provides crime scene services, DNA testing, evidence packaging and evidence analysis services.
Illinois State Police Forensic Scientist Training
The Illinois State Police provides a unique training opportunity for students who wish to become forensic scientists in Chicago. Qualified applicants who have a bachelor degree in forensic science or a natural science are trained in one of the following forensic scientist specialties, each of which has its own program duration (noted below):
- Trace evidence- lasts 23 months
- Forensic toxicology- lasts 18 months
- Questioned documents- lasts three years
- Microscopy- lasts 18 months
- Firearms and toolmarks- lasts two years
- Latent prints- lasts two years
- Drug chemistry- lasts one year
- Forensic biology and DNA- lasts 18 months
During this training, forensic scientist trainees are paid and will work in an assigned area under the jurisdiction of the Illinois State Police. All applicants must pass a state-administered examination before being invited to train. Usually only those who receive an A on the exam are invited to the trainee program. As of 2012, the monthly salary of a forensic scientist trainee ranges from $48,036 to $64,560.
CSI and Forensic Scientist in Rockford, Illinois
The Police Department of Rockford, Illinois now releases updated, weekly crime statistics detailing all types of crimes that occurred in Illinois’ third-largest city during that week. The latest weekly report showed a decrease in violent crimes of 12 percent from the same week a year ago. Year to date, the Rockford Police Department crime reports show a one percent total decrease in the amount of violent crimes from 2012 to 2013, as well as a six percent decrease in the amount of property crimes during the same time period. Despite these crime decreases, there is still a need for trained professionals to work as crime scene investigators, or CSIs, and forensic scientists in the Rockford area.
Forensic Science and CSI Education in Rockford
Rockford area degrees in the forensic science/crime scene investigation arena are necessary in order to obtain quality jobs. Programs in Rockford and the vicinity include:
- Associate Degree in Financial Investigation
- Bachelor Degree in Investigation
- Associate Degree in Psychology-Criminal Justice
- Bachelor Degree in Criminal Justice
- Associate Degree in Network Security
Rockford area CSI and forensic science jobs may hold names such as:
- Adjunct faculty, computer forensics
- Forensic scientist
- State police evidence technician
- Document examiner
- Latent fingerprint specialist
Organizations Supporting Forensic Science and CSI Jobs in Rockford
- Illinois State Police Forensic Science Lab- Rockford – The Illinois State Police’s crime laboratory in Rockford analyzes crime scene evidence gathered by the State Police. All types of forensic analysis are performed here, including DNA, fingerprint, trace evidence, and toxicology.
- Drake Group International – This privately owned forensic science laboratory in Rockford specializes in examining and comparing documents. Its forensic document examination services, offered in Illinois and Wisconsin, include expert witness testimony, handwriting analysis, document analysis, paper analysis, ink analysis, ink aging, erasures and obliterations/alterations.
- City of Rockford Police Department – Identification Unit – The Identification Unit of this city police department processes and documents physical evidence from crime scenes throughout the city. This includes, but is not limited to, fingerprints, trace evidence, and DNA.
Continuing Education for Rockford Forensic Scientist and CSI Jobs
The Chicago Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory, about 80 miles from Rockford, provides training opportunities for professionals who already work in forensic science. Most of the courses offered here concern computer and/or digital evidence, as technology is becoming a large part of the forensic science arena. Courses available at the Chicago RCFL include:
- Image scan training – this course trains professionals in the FBI’s Computer Analysis Response Team-developed Image Scan system. It helps to find hidden contraband images on a computer.
- Digital evidence processing – this course trains professionals in the collection and preservation of digital evidence and how to use the evidence in a criminal case. Advanced tools and techniques are demonstrated and taught.
- Forensic toolkit internet forensics – this course teaches students to conduct an internet application investigation, using tools such as Password Recovery Toolkit and the Registry Viewer. Applications that students are taught to investigate and “break into” include popular instant messaging programs, .DAT files and history and temporary files.
- Forensic toolkit applied decryption – this course teaches students to use Password Recovery Toolkit and Distributed Network Attack to recover passwords from a variety of standard systems and applications.