Employment Opportunities in Crime Scene
Congratulations on your interest in the field of forensics as a possible career choice.
Before continuing though...Reality check! This is not Hollywood, and actual crimes tend not to be solved in the standard hour of television including commercials. Words, photographs, and video presentations cannot describe what "man does to his fellow man", let alone what a mother and/or a father will do to their own infant offspring. Hollywood special effects often look extremely cool and realistic on the screen but are only sterile sensory representations. The actual sight and especially the smell of a human body in the stages of putrefaction cannot be accurately portrayed, it has to be experienced. Continual concentrated exposure to the unimaginable worst that humans do to each other often results in high levels of chronic stress. Exposure to pathogens from various sources at a crime scene can subject the Crime Scene Investigator to possible illness if not properly protected. Washing of hands, and keeping small cuts covered practically becomes an obsession. Processing scenes in crawl spaces under homes, attics in extreme temperature, floors covered inches deep in excrement and other multi-varied physical environments is necessary. Outdoor scenes in harsh weather conditions must be overcome to accomplish successful processing of the crime scene. Oh, and hopefully the sight of blood does not make you squeamish, and who does not love insects, all kinds of insects.
If that last paragraph appeared a little over the top, it is not, especially for large city environments. If these few actual examples of the "not so glamorous" Hollywood aspects of this profession have not discouraged you then Crime Scene Investigation may be for you. "How do I get into Crime Scene work? This is easily the number one question asked. There is no easy answer. Generally you will find the only thing consistent about Crime Scene units is the lack of consistency between them. It is highly recommended that if you are serious about obtaining employment as a Crime Scene Investigator contact each agency you are interested in and make inquiry as to their specific hiring requirements. Failure to do so may have you wasting a lot of your time.
Questions to consider asking...
1) Are your employees Sworn and/or Non-Sworn? Most agencies which use sworn personnel will require you to attend a Police Academy and become a Police Officer first. Through whatever combination of experience and progression of rank, you may then interview and transfer into their respective Crime Scene Unit. The experience obtained working the street is invaluable and envied by many. Can you make that kind of commitment?
2) What are your education requirements? Obviously for sworn personnel this is laid out in the requirements to become a Police Officer. For non-sworn, my most recent inquiries have shown that preference is generally given to those persons who have college hours or a degree in the field of Life / Physical Sciences. How many credit hours, years of study, or the specific type of degree will vary by agency.
3) Do you require work experience? A common and sometimes vicious cycle can begin with this particular question. Most agencies appear to require practical experience, but, then you ask yourself; How do I get experience after attending or graduating from school if work experience is required to be hired? Unfortunetly there is no easy answer. Sometimes the agency you are interested in working for can provide possible alternatives. Remember that volunteering, or interning, if allowed with an agency while still attending school could possibly be a good start. Most importantly inquire as to whether the agency offers other similar, possibly less rigid starting type positions which can then be applied toward or to meet the higher desired positions experience requirement. Having one's "foot in the door" may prove beneficial when later applying for the upgraded position.
The Dallas Police Department Crime Scene Response Section currently has both sworn and non-sworn personnel. Sworn personnel or Detectives handle all aspects of crime scene processing but concentrate on major "Persons" type crimes. Non-sworn personnel or Technicians are primarily utilized for "Property" type crime scenes. However, the sworn positions within the Section are currently being civilianized by attrition to non-sworn Analyst “H” civil service positions or Crime Scene Analysts.
Both of these non-sworn positions have different hiring requirements and pay scales. Job position openings when available are posted on the City of Dallas website at www.dallascityhall.com under "Employment". The new non-sworn Crime Scene Analyst positions are also posted on www.theiai.org and www.tdiai.org when there are available openings.
I hope this general information has been informative and answers some of the more commonly asked questions.