Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) Career Education in Wisconsin

The crime rate in the state of Wisconsin is less than the national average and yet there were 16,064 violent crimes reported in Wisconsin in 2012. That is a relatively high number for a state with a population of just over five million, which means that the demand for crime scene investigators throughout the state is just as high. The proper collection and analysis of crime scene evidence is a very detailed and exact scientific process, carried out by knowledgeable professionals. There are several government and law enforcement agencies within the state of Wisconsin that look to hire new CSI talent every year. The requirements for becoming a crime scene investigator differ depending on the agency but there are several steps that can and should be taken in order to give the best chance at becoming a crime scene investigator in Wisconsin.

First and foremost it is important to understand that becoming a CSI professional in Wisconsin is a demanding job that requires long hours of extremely detailed work and analysis. Despite the glamorous portrayal of crime scene investigators on popular television shows and in movies, it is a job that has very little room for mistakes and therefore requires the most experienced and well-trained individuals. As such, education is likely the most important element of the process in becoming a CSI. If the applicant is serious about establishing an influential career as a crime scene investigator in the state of Wisconsin then they should be equally serious about the education and training that they need to do so. The day-to-day duties and responsibilities of a crime scene investigator include but are not limited to:

  • Carrying out the detailed investigation of officially declared crime scenes
  • Assisting other officers as well as civilians in the various elements of a crime scene
  • Properly and efficiently collecting and analyzing evidence
  • Collaborating closely with attorneys and other court officials in the prosecution of criminals

Again, every jurisdiction can usually make their own guidelines as to the requirements to become a crime scene investigator in the state of Wisconsin. Some of the government and law enforcement agencies that hire CSIs include:

  • The Milwaukee Police Department Investigative Management Division
  • The Madison Police Department’s Department of Investigative Services
  • The Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation DCI

Interestingly the United States Bureau of Labor does not list “crime scene investigator” as an officially recognized job title. While that label is derived from Hollywood, the true title for an individual who performs the duties involved in crime scene investigations is a “forensic science technician”. There are several paths to becoming a crime scene investigator, but there are highly recommended steps should be followed. They include:

  • Earning a bachelor’s Degree
  • Completing Some Level of Police Training
  • Applying for Crime Scene Investigator Positions
  • Becoming Certified
  • Continuing Education

Earning a Bachelor’s Degree

CSI education is the most important element in the process of becoming a crime scene investigator in the state of Wisconsin. Therefore, when considering a degree program in which to enroll in the pursuit of CSI education, it is best to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in forensic science. Many forensic science degree programs offer specialization in either criminal justice or crime scene analysis.  When it comes to a field as complex and intricately involved as CSI, extensive training will be needed in order to be fully prepared to competently and autonomously investigate a real world crime scene.

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Most CSI professionals have at least a bachelor’s degree and although it is not required, it is strongly suggested. Some other degree programs relevant to crime scene investigations in Wisconsin include:

  • Forensic chemistry
  • Criminal justice
  • Forensic biology
  • Criminology

Completing Some Level of Police Training

Many CSI professionals in Wisconsin began their careers as full-time licensed police officers and worked their way up through the ranks to crime scene investigations. There are law enforcement agencies that only hire CSIs internally but just as many hire outside candidates. Either way it is tremendously beneficial to any aspiring CSI to have some level of police training.

Many crime scene investigators started their careers as full-time police officers. These individuals worked their way up through the ranks of law enforcement with the specific goal of becoming a CSI. Although plenty of CSI professionals have no formal law enforcement experience or training, the ones that do have something of an edge since they already have familiarity with law and with the criminal element.

Applying for Crime Scene Investigator Positions

Like just about every other professional field in the world, crime scene investigations in Wisconsin is a career where one must typically must crawl before they walk. That is to say, it is rare for an applicant who is new to the field, regardless of his or her training and education, to be place as a full-on independent CSI right away. Without previous CSI experience in an officially licensed capacity, they will likely be relegated to being an entry-level or assistant CSI. That is, however, also beneficial as very few applicants, regardless of how motivated and passionate they are, are not ready to perform the duties of a CSI right out of school. Real world experience is a crucial step in becoming a CSI professional in Wisconsin.

Becoming Certified

The International Association for Identification in conjunction with the Wisconsin Association for Identification offers crime scene certification to experienced CSIs. Once an applicant is certified as an official Crime Scene Technician by the WAI they can plan to progress and advance in their career. Becoming certified, however, is not just a matter of tenure. There is considerable time and effort required in order to pass the certification exam with the minimum score of 75%.

The official requirements for CSI certification in Wisconsin are as follows:

  • A minimum of one year of engagement in officially recognized crime scene or crime scene related activities.
  • A minimum of 48 hours of instruction approved by the Crime Scene Certification Board in courses related to crime scenes within the last five years.

Forensics Salary for Lab Technicians and CSIs in Wisconsin

One hundred and thirty people worked as forensic science technicians in Wisconsin in 2012 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  Salary information is also available from the BLS and is listed below:

Wisconsin City
Median Salary

There are a number of forensic labs run by the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) that provide employment for forensic scientists in the state.  The three DOJ crime labs are located in the following cities:

  • Madison
  • Milwaukee
  • Wausau

Lab technician salaries for forensic scientists at these labs in 2013 are listed below:

  • Forensic scientist:  $35,647 – $45,037
  • Forensic scientist – senior:  $46,452 – $76,647

There are a number of different grades for each position, depending on the scientist’s level of experience and educational background.

In addition to working in forensic labs, a number of forensic scientists work at crime scenes collecting and preserving evidence.  These crime scene investigator (CSI) positions can go to civilians or enlisted personnel, depending on the agency.  In Madison, forensic crime scene investigation is done by investigators of the police department.  Positions in this department start at $44,511 a year.

CSIs can make a range of salaries depending on the type of position and their level of expertise.  Some of these professionals are responsible for managing a whole crime scene, while others specialize in such things as latent print examination.

The BLS provides a detailed breakdown on the salaries of forensic science technicians in 2012 in different parts of Wisconsin.  This information is shown in the following table:

Area name
Annual mean wage
Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis WI
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington MN-WI
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