Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) Career Education in Tennessee

In 2012 at least 356 people were reported to have been murdered in Tennessee. Prior to that year Tennessee had the highest rate of violent gun crimes reported in the United States. In fact, in 2008 approximately 296,143 crimes, including at least 408 murders, were reported to have been committed in Tennessee. According to the latest crime statistics, Tennessee ranked fifth in the nation in violent robberies and near the top nationally for aggravated assault.

Career Overview for Crime Scene Investigators In Tennessee

In Tennessee, crime scene investigators are trained in the collection, preservation and transport of physical evidence recovered from a crime scene. Training also includes proper documentation, as well as collaboration at crime scenes with first responders. Analysis of photographs and sketches are also covered in the training program for CSI professionals in Tennessee.

CSI professionals perform the majority of their work at actual crime scenes. Some of the responsibilities of a CSI include:

  • Securing the crime scene
  • Taking detailed measurements
  • Drawing rough sketches of the crime scene
  • Taking photographs of the crime scene before starting the search for evidence
  • Documenting any evidence that is retrieved from the crime scene
  • Packaging and labeling evidence for ease of processing and analysis in the forensic laboratory
  • Being present during autopsies for persons linked to active cases still under investigation
  • Compiling reports and testifying in court as needed
  • Overseeing the maintenance of equipment as well as the restocking of portable evidence collection kits

The government and various law enforcement agencies play a major role in CSI employment by recruiting qualified crime scene investigators who have successfully undergone the necessary training. The requirements for employment as a CSI in Tennessee differ between agencies and jurisdictions. New recruits for CSI training in Tennessee, however, are usually required to have at least a bachelor’s degree, or relevant police or law enforcement experience.

Some of the law enforcement agencies and other hiring organizations to which new crime scene investigator recruits can apply include:

  • Tennessee Bureau of Investigations
    • Investigation Division
  • Tennessee Capitol Police
    • Investigation Unit
  • Tennessee Highway Patrol
    • Special Investigations Bureau
  • Memphis Police Department
    • Investigative Services

Degree and Education Requirement for Crime Scene Investigators in Tennessee

A bachelor’s degree in forensic science, or any other discipline that is related to crime investigation, forms the basis of the educational background requirement for crime scene investigations training in Tennessee. There is a lot of emphasis on education because the field of crime scene investigations is an evolving discipline, where old-school detective work is meeting new-school technological advances.

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A thorough educational background can also include specialization in a particular area of crime scene investigations. Holders of bachelor degree in the relevant discipline find it very easy to specialize and focus on aspects of CSI investigation such as DNA profiling, evidence retrieval, and documentation methods. Entry level recruits for crime scene investigator training in Tennessee are chosen from myriad experience levels, but an applicant’s educational background in taken into particular consideration.

The degree requirements for programs relevant to crime scene investigation training can be met by taking up applied science courses or criminal justice. While there are plenty of CSI professionals who do not hold a bachelor’s degree, those who do are given somewhat preferential treatment by employers when it comes to hiring new recruits. For example, in order to be hired by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations as a CSI agent, the potential recruit must have a bachelor’s degree.

Police Experience

Another way to earn one’s way into a career in CSI in Tennessee is to become a police officer. This may be more appealing to those who would rather have the real world training of the police force, as opposed to the classroom training of a university. Becoming a police officer is also a serious decision, one which carries its own benefits and drawbacks. The benefits include being able to integrate one’s self into police culture and mentality. But, some departments still require a university degree, which makes solely becoming a police officer a less reliable route overall. This is because the majority of Tennessee agencies which hire CSI officers will require them to become full-fledged police officers, or at least qualify based on the same criteria. In the case of the Tennessee Bureau of investigation this process includes a criminal background check, a physical and psychological exam, completion of field testing, and even passing a written exam with 70 percent or more.


One of the best ways to increase chances of being granted employment in CSI is to become certified in the field. The International Association of Identification’s Tennessee Division is one of the premiere associations for CSI certification. The IAI is a national organization dedicated to spreading awareness and training for CSI professionals by offering conferences, certifications, on-line information, and more. It is highly recommended that anyone who is serious about becoming a CSI professional look seriously into getting certified in CSI by a reputable organization.

Forensics Salary for Lab Technicians and CSIs in Tennessee

According to Tennessee’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development, there were 200 forensic science technicians employed in the state in 2008.  They project that ten positions will become available a year in the period of 2008 to 2018.  They also provided the median salary of the professionals who hold these positions.

It is listed below:

  • Tennessee statewide:  $43,620
  • Chattanooga:  $29,200

This occupational category includes both forensic lab technicians, who work primarily in crime labs, and crime scene investigators (CSIs) who work in the field processing evidence from crime scenes for storage and further analysis.

Forensic Lab Technician Employment in Tennessee

There are a number of crime labs in Tennessee that hire forensic scientists as technicians.  The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Forensics Sciences Division has three crime labs throughout the state.  They are located in the following cities:

  • Knoxville
  • Memphis
  • Nashville

Employees of these labs work for the state of Tennessee.  A forensic technician for the state earned from $31,332 to $50,124 in 2013.

Some special agents of the TBI receive forensic training.  Their wages in 2013 were as follows:

  • special agent forensic scientist I:  $45,324 – $70,320
  • special agent forensic scientist II:  $49,500 – $76,788

Crime Scene Investigation Employment in Tennessee

A crime scene investigator position can employ either civilians or enlisted personnel, depending on the department.  A number of the CSIs in Tennessee are law enforcement officers.

For instance, a Tennessee state trooper received official certification as a CSI from the International Association of Identification (IAI) in 2013.  The department hopes to have more troopers obtain this certification.  The salaries for state troopers ranged from $34,032 to $50,580 a year in 2013.

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