How to Become a Crime Scene Investigator Forensic Scientist in Nashville, Tennessee

Although the numbers of burglaries and motor vehicle thefts in Nashville decreased over 20% from 2011 to 2012, the number of murders and non-negligent homicides increased over 20% during this time frame.  The use of forensic techniques is frequently pivotal in solving such crimes, and there are two crime labs located in Nashville that employ forensic scientists and crime scene investigators (CSIs).

Degrees in CSI can be obtained as part of forensic science or criminal justice programs.  Prospective students in Nashville can obtain local degrees ranging from an associate’s to a master’s degree in criminal justice.  Another option is an associate of applied science degree in police science—crime scene investigation.  Students who prefer the flexibility of online study can also obtain degrees in criminal justice from colleges that offer this option.

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Those seeking a bachelor’s in forensic science can choose from several state schools.

Forensic Scientist and CSI Career Opportunities in Nashville

MNPD – In addition to having its investigators trained in the techniques of crime scene analysis, this department also hires civilians CSIs.  There are two levels of crime scene technicians.  Each requires either an associate’s degree in CSI or a related field or a high school degree with two to four years of CSI experience.

Forensic scientists for the MNPD crime lab are required to have five years of forensic lab experience and a bachelor’s degree in one of the following or a related area:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Forensic science

Particular types of coursework are required depending on the scientist’s specialty.  For instance, applicants to work in drug identification are required to have had at least 24 hours of chemistry.  Applicants for the DNA/Serology unit are required to have coursework in areas such as biochemistry or molecular biology among others.

TBI –  This agency hires both forensic technicians and forensic scientists.  Applicants to become a forensic technician must have two years of experience.  College credit can substitute for up to two years of the experience requirement.

Becoming a forensic scientist for the TBI requires a bachelor’s degree.  It must be in one of the following areas:

  • Forensic science
  • Chemistry
  • Medical technology
  • Mathematics
  • Natural or physical science

Forensic scientists are also special agents and must be prepared to carry and use weapons.

Nashville’s Major CSI and Forensic Science Employers

Jobs as forensic scientists can involve both lab work examining forensic evidence and crime scene analysis that preserves physical evidence for analysis.  Agencies in Nashville employ both types of forensic scientists.

MNPD – The Investigative Services Bureau of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (MNPD) has a Technical Investigations Section (TIS) that is staffed round the clock.  All of the investigators are trained to document, collect, and preserve the physical evidence found at crime scenes. A complete mobile lab is available to respond to crime scenes.

The TIS has an Identification Section that is staffed by civilians with expertise in analyzing ten print and latent prints.  The department has an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) located in the ID section.

The MNPD is opening up its own crime lab in 2013 to analyze DNA and other types of evidence.  While DNA technology has made headlines for helping to solve violent crimes, property crimes frequently involve DNA evidence.  The department is hoping to use its own DNA analysis to solve property crimes such as burglaries.  The lab is projected to be able to run 900 tests a year.

TBI – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) has its primary laboratory located in Nashville that serves all of the counties in the state.  It can perform a wide range of analyses of has the following units:

  • Toxicology
  • Microanalysis
  • Serology/DNA
  • Latent print
  • Drug chemistry
  • Firearms identification

In addition to providing lab expertise, the Nashville TBI lab also has a team that specializes in providing crime scene analysis for violent crimes.  This unit has a crime scene vehicle that is used to help process the scenes of homicides.

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