According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 300 forensic scientists worked in Missouri in 2012 with an average annual salary of $45,850. One specialty of this discipline is crime scene investigation. Specialized scientists known as crime scene investigators (CSIs) document crime scenes and collect evidence for further analysis.
Despite the quick turnover often portrayed in the media, analyzing a crime scene can take a substantial amount of time: up to a week. CSIs often work in difficult conditions and can be exposed to extreme weather, hazardous chemicals, decomposing bodies, and insect infestations.
Missouri Crime Scene Investigation Units
In Missouri, most of the jobs available in this profession are with law enforcement agencies. The following agencies are among those that employ CSIs in the state:
- St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Crime Laboratory
- Evidence Technician Unit
- Kansas City Police Department
- Crime Laboratory
- Investigations Bureau: Crime Scene Investigation Section
- Columbia Police Department
- Forensic Evidence Unit
- Springfield Police Department
- Investigations and Support Services Bureau
- Independence Police Department
- Criminal Investigations Unit
- St. Joseph Police Department
- Crime Scene Unit
CSI Education and Training in Missouri
Although some entry level crime scene technician positions in Missouri only require a high school diploma, competition for such positions can be fierce. Applicants can distinguish themselves by getting forensic training such as specializing in crime scene investigation as part of a criminal justice degree.
Options available in Missouri range from getting a certificate in CSI to getting a bachelor’s degree from schools located in the state. Another option is to enroll in one of the online criminal justice programs that are available.
In other cases, the CSIs in Missouri are sworn officers and have undergone academy training to obtain their positions. Becoming part of a Forensic Evidence team can require at least three years of experience as a police officer. Several law enforcement entities provide specialized training in CSI techniques to police officers and detectives. Having a criminal justice degree should also help applicants who are seeking law enforcement positions.
CSI Certification in Missouri
In some cases, individuals who have been hired as entry level CSIs are required to obtain certification from the International Association of Identification within two years. Even experienced CSIs continue their education, since technology in the field advances rapidly. Certification is available in such areas as:
- Crime scene analysis
- Fingerprint analysis
- Blood pattern analysis
- Art forensics
- Video forensics
- Photography forensics
Forensics Salary for Lab Technicians and CSIs in Missouri
Job growth in the field of forensic sciences is promising in Missouri. The state’s Department of Economic Development projects an increase of 14.89% in the availability of forensic science jobs from 2010 to 2020. Of the 188 jobs they expect to become available during this ten year period, 74% are expected to be due to the replacement of people leaving the workforce.
In 2012, there were 320 forensic science technicians employed in Missouri according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The annual median wage throughout the state was $45,270 in 2012. Those in the top 90th percentile of their wage bracket made an average of $65,970 that year.
The salaries for forensic science technicians in selected cities in Missouri are listed below:
Lab technicians in forensics frequently specialize in areas such as:
- Latent fingerprints
A criminalist specializing in toxicology earned from $48,040 to $52,176 a year in 2013 in Springfield.
Other types of jobs for forensic scientists include processing the evidence at crime scenes to preserve it for further analysis. Such crime scene investigators (CSIs) can be either police officers or detectives with training in forensics or they can be civilians who have some educational background in forensics or criminal justice.
Salaries vary for CSIs depending on their level of experience. According to Indeed.com, the average salary for a crime scene investigator in Missouri was $56,000 in the period from September 2012 to October 2013.
The BLS provides a detailed analysis of the 2012 salaries of forensic science technicians in selected cities of Missouri. A breakdown of wages by hourly and annual percentiles is shown below:
CSI and Forensic Scientist in Kansas City, Missouri
Crime scene investigators in Kansas City are often faced with gruesome situations – one recent event at a home on Norton Avenue involved a murder where evidence included a knife, baseball bat, and the remains of a victim spread over a large area. However CSI specialists with the Kansas City Police Department are thoroughly trained to treat this and other scenes as their office, going about their business of gathering evidence for analysis by forensic lab techs in the controlled environment of the Kansas City Police Regional Crime Lab.
The KCPD’s Crime Lab welcomes evidence from law enforcement agencies throughout the Kansas City region, including:
- Independence Police Department, who also operate their own crime lab
- Lee’s Summit Police Department
- Clay County Sheriff’s Office
- Blue Springs Police Department
- Cass County Sheriff’s Office
- Liberty Police Department
- Jackson County Sheriff’s Office
- Platte County Sheriff’s Office
Becoming a CSI Agent and Forensic Scientist in Kansas City
Candidates learning about how to become a crime scene investigator or forensic scientist in Kansas City can begin by researching the education requirements for their desired position. The Kansas City Police Department employs crime scene technicians – known popularly as CSI agents – and forensic scientists or criminalists as part of its police force, although these professionals are not commissioned officers.
There is a lot of overlap in the general duties and education between CSI agents and forensic scientists in the KCPD, although the CSI agents tend to work more in the field at crime scenes while forensic scientists tend to do more work in the lab. All of the department’s forensic investigators have certain specializations, and candidates who are interested in applying for forensic science and CSI jobs need to meet related degree requirements:
- Bachelor of Science for positions involving:
- Crime Scene Investigation
- Latent Fingerprints
- Questioned documents
- Bachelor degree in chemistry for positions involving chemistry, such as:
- Substance analysis
- Trace evidence analysis
- Questioned documents
- Bodily fluid analysis
- BS in Biology for:
- Trace analysis of biological materials
- Serology and DNA
- A BS in Genetics or Molecular Biology is preferred for Serology and DNA analysis positions
CSI agents receive additional training in the collection, preservation, and identification of crime scene evidence. As these are the minimum requirements and CSI or forensic scientist jobs in Kansas City are in high demand, it is recommended that candidates also possess additional education and experience.
In the Kansas City area and across the state prospective students will find a variety of colleges and online schools that offer relevant forensic science degrees. There are additional forensic science schools and colleges just across the border in Kansas.
96% Cold Case Conviction Rate with KCPD
Working in cooperation with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office, the KCPD’s Crime Lab has had a 96 percent success rate since 2000 in securing new DNA evidence convictions in cases that were previously unsolved- one of the highest rates in the country. And there are still 2,545 old cases in the police department’s evidence inventory yet to be processed that contain potentially recoverable DNA. Using the latest technological advances, forensic scientists are able to bring closure to the victims and their families for cases ranging from homicides and sex crimes to assaults.
CSI and Forensic Scientist in Saint Louis, Missouri
The Saint Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) uses a team of highly-trained crime scene forensic experts to investigate and gather evidence in cases involving everything from unsolved crimes, homicides and fatality accidents to sex crimes, burglaries, and cold cases. With a specially equipped Crime Laboratory, the department employs forensic scientists who work in the lab’s controlled environment to meticulously examine and analyze evidence gathered by the department’s Evidence Technician Unit, also known as CSI agents. Working closely not only with the police department, the SLMPD’s Crime Lab also conducts evidence analysis for materials submitted by fellow law enforcement agencies, including:
- O’Fallon Police Department
- Saint Charles County Sheriff’s Department
- Saint Charles Police Department
- Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office
- Florissant Police Department
- Franklin County Sheriff’s Office
- Saint Peter’s Police Department
Obtaining an Education for CSI and Forensic Science Jobs in Saint Louis
Although there is a working environment distinction between CSI agents employed in the field to gather evidence and forensic scientists working in the Crime Lab, the roles played in these positions often overlap. It therefore follows that the education and experience required for both positions is generally similar among categories of expertise.
Although officially the only written requirement to become a CSI agent or forensic scientist with the Saint Louis Metro Police Department (SLMPD) is a high school diploma, the high demand for these jobs and the required level of skill in effect mandates that candidates for forensic science and CSI jobs have at least a relevant certification or bachelor degree in their field of expertise. Experience is also a definite plus. Certification programs include:
- Certified Criminal Investigator
- Certified Forensic Physician
- Certified Forensic Photographer
- Certified Medical Investigator
- Certified Forensic Instructor
Associate and bachelor degrees in the following areas can also be considered, depending on an applicant’s area of expertise:
- Forensic Anthropology
- Forensic Science
As the largest combined statistical area in the state, there are a number of colleges and online schools in the Saint Louis Metro region and across Missouri where students can find the education programs that are right for them. Just on the other side of the border in Kentucky students can also find colleges and schools where they can obtain a forensic science degree.
Working in Forensics with the SLMPD’s Crime Lab
The Crime Lab’s special CSI Evidence Technician Unit is on-call 24 hours a day, ready to respond at a moment’s notice anywhere they are needed. This team specializes in:
- Lifting latent fingerprints
- Collecting DNA evidence
- Taking photographs
- Preserving and collecting physical evidence
Forensic scientists have a variety of specializations and are differentiated by their previous education and training. Some of the Crime Lab’s sections include:
- Biology and DNA
- Drug and Chemical Analysis
- Print Identification
- Graphic Arts
- Quality Assurance
Learning about the process of how to become a crime scene investigator or forensic scientist is the first step towards a career in these fields that can be both challenging and rewarding.
CSI and Forensic Scientist in Springfield, Missouri
Through close collaboration and teamwork, law enforcement agencies in the Springfield Metro area ensure justice is served through careful crime scene investigations and forensic examinations. Specially trained members of local police departments and sheriff’s offices are assigned the duty of conducting investigations into some of Springfield’s most chilling crimes. When on the scene, they collect evidence to be analyzed by specialists working in the controlled environment of the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Crime Laboratory Division.
These forensic scientists work hand in hand with 114 counties and over 300 municipalities to provide the most accurate and thorough analysis possible, and in the Springfield Metro area this includes:
- Springfield Police Department
- Greene County Sheriff’s Office
- Nixa Police Department
- Christian County Sheriff’s Department
- Ozark Police Department
- Republic Police Department
Becoming a CSI Specialist and Forensic Laboratory Scientist in Springfield
Learning about how to become a crime scene investigator and forensic laboratory scientist is a hot topic for research, made popular by television programs. However the road to CSI and forensic science jobs in Springfield takes years and a significant commitment to education. Around the Springfield area and across Missouri there are several choices for colleges and online schools offering an education geared at individuals who are interested in pursuing successful CSI and forensic lab careers.
CSI Agents – City and county law enforcement agencies in the Springfield Metro area are responsible for hiring and training their designated CSI officers, and each has their own standards for doing so. Usually these specialists begin as deputies or officer recruits, and over the course of several years work their way through the ranks to become a CSI detective.
Those interested in pursuing CSI jobs in Springfield and career advancement should consider studying for an associate or bachelor degree in any of the following:
- Criminal Justice
- Forensic Science
- Law Enforcement
Forensic Lab Technicians – The Highway Patrol’s Crime Laboratory in Springfield has a strict set of hiring criteria for its forensic scientists. This corresponds with the various service specializations the lab offers and includes:
- Forensic Lab Technician for Latent Prints: High school diploma or GED plus two years of comparable experience
- Forensic Lab Technician for CODIS (Combined DNA Index System): High school diploma or GED plus 60 college credit hours or comparable experience
- DNA Analyst: Bachelor Degree in any of the following plus 20 semester hours in biology:
- Natural Sciences
- Forensic Science
- Criminalist in Firearms and Toolmark Analysis: Bachelor Degree in any natural science or closely related field that includes study of advanced mathematics and laboratory chemistry
Springfield CSI and Forensic Science Team Helps Solve Cold Case
What began as a traffic stop for drunk driving eventually led prosecutors to charge a man with murder in connection to a 24-year-old Springfield cold case. Thanks to the meticulous work of CSI officers who collected evidence from the murder scene over two decades ago, the killing of a young woman finally has a resolution. When the drunk driving suspect provided his DNA for testing to police, they were able to find a match to DNA that was found on the murdered victim’s body that had been entered into the national CODIS database, enough evidence to make an arrest.