Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) Career Education in Minnesota

Crime scene investigators (CSIs) are specialized forensic technicians that document crime scenes and preserve the evidence for further analysis.  Despite the portrayal in the popular media, it can take as long as week to document a crime scene and gather all of the evidence.

Minnesota has a number of labs that provide jobs for individuals trained as CSIs, and crime labs in the state employed 100 people as forensic technicians in 2012 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  The annual mean wage in the field was $51,740.  The field of CSI is expected to grow 18.5% from 2010 to 2012 according to the BLS.

Minnesota Crime Scene Investigation Laboratories

Most CSIs are employed by some form of governmental agency such as crime labs.  Minnesota has a number of these labs, including the following:

  • Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (MN BCA) in St. Paul and Bemidji
  • Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office Crime Laboratory Unit
  • Minneapolis Police Crime Laboratory
  • Carver County Sheriff’s Office Crime Laboratory

Other law enforcement agencies in the state have their own crime scene units, generally staffed by officers that have received specialized training in the techniques of crime scene analysis.  Three of these agencies are:

  • Renville County Sheriff’s Office
  • Duluth Police Department
  • Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office

Education and Training to Become a CSI in Minnesota

The requirements to become a CSI in Minnesota differ depending on whether the job is for a civilian or sworn officer position.  Civilian CSI jobs in the state include such titles as a criminalist or forensic scientist.

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Civilian CSI jobs in Minnesota generally require a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a science field such as chemistry, biochemistry, or biology, along with experience handling or working with physical evidence.  Formal CSI education provides the training necessary for the following skills used at crime scenes:

  • Photography
  • Fingerprint analysis
  • Casting and impression techniques
  • Blood spatter analysis
  • Detecting biological fluids

Candidates also need to be able to communicate well both orally and in writing, since they will have to prepare documents about the crime scene and testify in court.

Prospective students in Minnesota can obtain associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice from schools in the state and can obtain an associate’s degree in crime scene investigation.  Another option is to obtain training from one of the online schools that offer degrees in these fields.

Once applicants have been hired as CSIs, they will need to periodically continue their education to keep abreast of the latest techniques in this field.  Frequently, CSIs take additional college courses throughout their careers.

CSI Certification in Minnesota

CSIs may want to join the Minnesota Division of the International Association for Identification, a group of forensic scientists from around the world.  This division holds an annual conference in the state to provide continuing education in crime scene investigation and the forensic sciences.  It provides certification in CSI and a number of forensic disciplines.

Forensics Salary for Lab Technicians and CSIs in Minnesota

Employment in the field of forensic sciences is growing nationally, and Minnesota is no exception.  The state’s Department of Employment and Economic Developed is projecting an 18.5% growth in forensic science jobs in the period of 2010 to 2020.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides data on the salaries and employment levels of forensic science technicians in Minnesota for 2012.  One hundred such professionals were employed in the state in 2012.  They made the following salaries:

Minnesota City
Average Annual Salary
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington

Forensic science employment in the state is concentrated in the Twin Cities area.  The salaries of these professionals can vary widely depending on their amount of experience.

Forensic Lab Technician Salaries. 2013 salaries for forensic scientists in St. Paul specializing in the examination of latent prints are show below:

  • Forensic scientist II:  $49,867 – $71,128
  • Forensic scientist III:  $59,584 – $83,716

Crime Scene Investigator Salaries. In addition to having jobs as technicians in the lab, forensic scientists can specialize in crime scene analysis.  This entails documenting crime scenes and preserving evidence for further analysis.  Some crime scene investigator positions are civilian ones, while others use the expertise of experienced sworn officers such as detectives.

The salaries for some civilian crime scene investigator positions for 2013 in Minnesota are shown below:

CSI Position
Minnesota City/County
Hennepin County
Forensic scientist
Sheriff’s crime lab technician
Hennepin County
Sheriff’s criminalist
Hennepin County

Overall Forensic Science Technician Salaries

The BLS provides a detailed breakdown of forensic science technician salaries by hourly and annual percentiles for these professionals in the Twin Cities area.  It is shown in the following table:

Area name
Annual mean wage
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI

CSI and Forensic Scientist in Rochester, Minnesota

Rochester law enforcement officials have a close relationship with forensic scientists from the State Public Safety Department’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). The Rochester Police Department’s 130 sworn officers frequently use the crime scene processing services provided by BCA forensic scientists and special agents, who assist the police in gathering evidence at the scenes of crimes that will later be analyzed in a controlled laboratory environment. The Rochester-based Investigations Division of the Olmstead County Sheriff’s Office also employs seven detectives who will also occasionally call upon the services of BCA forensic scientists.

When their assistance is needed, BCA forensic scientists will form a Crime Scene Team to proceed to a requested location. This team consists of themselves and special agents from the BCA who will assist the forensic scientists in gathering evidence under their close supervision.

Evidence obtained by the BCA in cooperation with the Rochester Police Department and the Olmstead County Sheriff’s Office is processed by forensic scientists in the state’s crime lab in Saint Paul, and if additional expertise is required it will be sent to the BCA’s other crime lab in Bemidji.

Qualifying for CSI Forensic Science Jobs in Rochester

Candidates who are interested in pursuing forensic science CSI jobs with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) need to demonstrate they have the right education to be competent professionals in their field.

This means having considerable knowledge of the following:

  • Practices and principles of mechanics, analytical chemistry, and physics
  • Federal, state, and local criminal laws and regulations
  • Process of examination, interpretation, and analysis of results

Having knowledge in these fields translates to either significant experience as a law enforcement officer or forensic scientist, and/or an associate or bachelor degree in any of the following:

  • Forensic Science
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Genetics
  • Criminal Justice
  • Law Enforcement

There are a number of educational facilities such as colleges and online schools which offer degrees in these fields throughout Minnesota, including in the Rochester area. Prospective students can conduct additional research to determine entry requirements at the various schools and colleges across the state.

What to Expect in a Rochester CSI Forensic Science Career

BCA forensic scientists based out of Rochester have helped to solve thousands of cases with the Rochester Police Department and Olmstead County Sheriff’s Office. Using the latest technology available, crime scene evidence is analyzed with a variety of laboratory procedures. The procedure for analysis depends on the type of evidence, such as:

  • Firearm and Toolmark Evidence:
    • Trace metal detection
    • Lab test for lead
    • Casting materials comprised of silicone
    • Gunshot residue analysis
  • Trace Evidence:
    • Glass
    • Paint
    • Hairs
    • Fibers
  • Biological Evidence:
    • Semen
    • Blood
  • Documents:
    • Handwriting
    • Authenticity

Some of the analysis and evaluation methods in a BCA forensic scientist’s toolbox include:

  • Electrostatic dust print lifter
  • Cyanoacrylate fuming
  • Leucocrystal Violet
  • Sulfur Casting
  • Electronic Distance Measuring (EDM) Device and Date Recorder
  • Metal Detector

CSI and Forensic Scientist in Saint Paul, Minnesota

The Saint Paul Police Department solves crimes with one of the best forensic science and CSI teams in the state. Forensic scientists survey crime scenes and collect evidence for later analysis, fulfilling the role traditionally known as CSI agent. Evidence is then brought to the police department’s crime lab where it is thoroughly examined, tested, and evaluated by criminalists in a controlled laboratory environment with particular specializations.

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Recently in August of 2013 the police department held an open house to show off its improved crime lab. $1 million-worth of the latest and best technology was installed to significantly improve the lab’s capabilities, especially in the area of fingerprint matching and comparison. 18 months later the police department also hopes to gain national accreditation for their revamped crime lab.

The new lab will improve the amount of cases the department solves, such as recently when 30 years after a Saint Paul murder, the Police Department’s Cold Case Unit was able to identify a suspect and finally make an arrest, thanks to new technology and DNA analysis. Forensic scientists were able to match DNA from the three-decade old crime scene that had since been in storage to a man who had previously been convicted in a separate case.

Getting Credentialed for CSI and Forensic Science Jobs in Saint Paul

Whether candidates are interested in forensic scientist or CSI jobs, they must first have the right education credentials in the form of at least a four-degree in certain specific science fields. The entry-level criminalist position requires a bachelor degree in any of the following subjects:

  • Criminalistics
  • Forensic Science
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Any related Physical Science

To join the ranks of Saint Paul’s finest as a forensic scientist, candidates will need to complete the Saint Paul Forensic Laboratory Training Program within nine months of hire, in addition to having a bachelor degree in any of the following:

  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • A related field with at least 30 semester credits of science courses

Candidates based in the Saint Paul area are fortunate to have several online schools and colleges in the vicinity which offer four-year degree programs in these subjects. Once they are qualified, candidates may begin applying with the City of Saint Paul’s Human Resources Department.

What to Expect on the Job in Saint Paul

CSI forensic scientists and those working in the lab as criminalists will have plenty of opportunities to get to know each other, as work in both fields involves a significant amount of overlap. The police department’s crime lab specializes in the following methods of analysis:

  • DNA and trace evidence
  • Presumptive and species-specific blood testing
  • Latent print and fingerprints

CSI forensic scientists working in the field are often involved with:

  • Crime scene reconstruction
  • Photography, measurement and documentation
  • Evidence collection
  • Field print processing

CSI and Forensic Scientist in Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Minneapolis Police Department has been steadily pushing down the total number of crimes committed over the past three decades, going from 37,319 total offenses in 1982 down to 23,345 in 2012. One of the primary resources used to solve these crimes and secure convictions against their perpetrators was the police department’s crime lab.

Forensic science specialists work in the lab’s controlled environment to analyze crime scene evidence and make reports on their findings. The job of gathering the evidence at the crime scene falls to the department’s forensic scientist field operations unit, members of which are commonly called CSI agents. Oftentimes job duties between these two occupations are shared.

Preparing for CSI and Forensic Science Jobs in Minneapolis

Both the crime scene investigators and forensic science professionals working with the Minneapolis PD are required to have a bachelor’s degree in a specific field of science. Researching how to become a crime scene investigator will reveal the following requirements:

  • Bachelor degree in any of the following subjects:
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Biochemistry

Candidates researching how to become a forensic scientist with the Minneapolis PD will also encounter the degree requirement:

  • Bachelor degree in criminal justice
  • Bachelor degree in the physical sciences including:
    • Biology
    • Criminalistics
    • Forensic Science
    • Chemistry
    • Any other related physical science field

In the Minneapolis area there are a variety of both online colleges and schools with campus locations across the local community where interested students can discover these degree programs. It is recommended to check with each institution about entry qualifications as these can vary.

Local Working Environment in the Minneapolis Police Department

Crime scene investigator jobs in Minneapolis can involve several departments. In addition to the primary CSI Field Operations Section, the police department also uses CSI experts in its:

  • Arson Squad
  • Bomb Unit
  • Homicide Unit
  • Sex Crimes Unit

Forensic science jobs with the department’s Crime Lab involve working with state-of-the-art technology in activities including:

  • Firearms and toolmarks
    • Function testing
    • Serial number restoration
    • Bullet and casing examination
    • IBIS (integrated ballistic identification system)
  • Computer forensics
    • Desktop and laptop computers
    • Cellular phones
    • Digital media devices
    • Child pornography and internet solicitation cases
  • Video and audio forensics
    • Archival enhancement
    • Analysis, comparison, and evaluation of audio and video
  • Photo lab
    • Digital photograph processing
    • Film photograph processing
    • ID and administrative photos
  • Forensic garage, processes vehicles that are stolen or otherwise involved in crimes for DNA, fingerprints, and other physical evidence

The Minneapolis Police Department is proud of the fact that its Crime Lab is accredited by the American Society of Crime Lab Directors/Lab Accreditation Board (ASCLD-LAB).

Often times CSI and forensic scientist jobs appear to be the same because there is a lot of overlap in the police department. However training subjects for the two positions do vary, and team members in both fields each have their own unique specializations.

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