Crime Scene Technician Vs. Crime Scene Investigator

Updated 30 September 2022

A crime scene technician and a crime scene investigator are key members of the forensic team who collect and analyse evidence, records information and conduct an in-depth study of the crime scenes. While these two job roles might seem familiar, they differ in many aspects. If you have an interest in working in the forensic department, learning about the differences and similarities can help you make an informed career decision. In this article, we discuss what a crime scene technician and investigator are, understand crime scene technician vs. crime scene investigator differences and explore some similarities.

Crime scene technician vs. crime scene investigator: definition

It is essential to understand the difference between a crime scene technician vs. crime scene investigator to know how these two job positions are different. These professionals differ in many ways:

What is a crime scene investigator?

A crime scene investigator (CSI) or forensic science technician works with law enforcement departments such as police and private detectives to analyse various evidence criminals leave after committing a crime. Usually, using their skills, these professionals collect samples of blood, tyre marks, footprints, fingerprints, hair or weapons and analyse them later. Some common job responsibilities of these professionals include:

  • secure the crime scene to prevent evidence tampering

  • take high-quality photographs of the crime scene

  • write detailed notes regarding the crime scene

  • label and tag forensic evidence for laboratory analysis

  • maintain the quality of evidence until the sample reaches the laboratory

  • speak to law enforcement officials and testify in the court proceedings

Their investigation can reduce future crimes and help restore justice for the victim and their family members. Their job is important because the outcome of their analysis affects the legal proceedings that follow the crime. When these professionals provide conclusive analysis, it helps the court identify the suspect and punish them based on the severity of the crime committed. Usually, when their analysis is inconclusive, they cannot identify suspects and bring justice to the family members.

Related: What Does A Police Officer Do? (And How To Become One)

What is a crime scene technician?

A crime scene technician is a forensic professional who analyses a crime scene in the laboratory to find evidence. They collaborate with the police department and detectives to understand the sequences of events at a crime scene. Some typical job responsibilities of a crime scene technician are:

  • test items for biological samples like hair, blood and saliva to determine whether the evidence contains DNA of the suspect and their victims

  • analyse videos, photographs, videos or other evidence

  • forge a model of how a crime scene looked

  • ensure the viability of evidence and follow protocols for handling, testing and storing it

  • provide testimony about what conclusions they draw from the evidence and what analyses suggest about a crime that occurred

  • collaborate with law enforcement on further investigation of the criminal case

  • utilise the scientific method and laboratory equipment when processing and analysing samples

Crime scene technician vs. crime scene investigator: key differences

Here are factors that make these two professions different from each other:

Duties

Usually, a crime scene investigator is the first law enforcement department that helps identify key pieces of information from the crime scene. These professionals survey the crime scene and search for instances that help understand what happened and how it might have happened. After identifying evidence, these professionals seal and send them to the lab for further investigation.

A crime scene technician takes the samples that an investigator collects and analyses them. Their analysis helps the police department capture the criminals and suspects. So, these two professionals have a symbolic relationship, meaning that the technician depends on the investigator. In contrast, the investigator depends upon the technician's analysis to identify and get the culprits captured.

Related: How To Become A Criminologist (Skills, Advantages And Careers)

Work environment

As criminal activities are unpredictable, a CSI works in irregular hours. Due to their job responsibilities, these professionals work with no prior notice and might work indoors and outdoors, regardless of the weather condition. They work in an environment prone to contamination or exposure to unsanitary materials. These professionals use every precaution of wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves, face masks and protective eyewear.

A crime scene technician often splits their time between offices and laboratories. They use specialised computers and equipment such as UV lights, fingerprinting equipment, microscopes and drug detection kits. They use various laboratory equipment such as portable meters, test tubes and pipettes. Both these professionals partner with specialists and law enforcement departments. They travel through different jurisdictions, cities and states, joining pieces of evidence that help during court proceedings.

Salary

The national average salary of a crime scene technician is ₹73,183 per month. Job location, employer and work experience decide their final pay. Some cities pay a higher salary than others. For instance, the average salary in Delhi is ₹75,742 per month. The national average salary of a forensic science technician is ₹8,78,202 per year. Their salary depends upon their work experience, location, certification and education.

Professionals with more experience receive a higher salary than entry-level investigators. Usually, crime scene investigators and technicians working for government organisations receive higher salaries and perks than those working with private companies. Both the professions receive relocation assistance, house rent allowances and other perks and benefits depending on their employer.

Related: A Guide To Forensic Science Careers (With Salary Information)

Training

While both crime scene technicians and investigators receive training before they join entry-level positions, the type of training differs. When becoming a CSI, you can learn from experienced professionals and accumulate formal training for investigating crimes. Consider pursuing certification or job shadowing a professional to learn more about their job role. The crime scene technician completes their training in a laboratory. They can help an experienced technician to perform their work. Through such training, these professionals learn optimal methods of completing the analysis, learn the method of using various equipment and apparatus and complete the common job duties.

Similarities between a crime investigation technician and investigator

While both these professionals are different in many aspects, they share certain similarities, such as:

Education

Typically, the educational requirement of a CSI and technician is the same. Professionals who have a bachelor's degree in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, criminal justice or criminology can pursue a master's degree in forensic science to become eligible to become a CSI and a technician. These professionals pursue a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in forensic science. They might pursue a Master of Science (MSc) in forensic science to speed up their career growth. Often, employers prefer candidates with extensive knowledge of criminal procedures and evidence, fingerprint analysis, theories of crime causation and crime scene investigation.

Interestingly, professionals who complete their doctorate degrees can pursue courses in teaching and research. Pursuing a master's course lets you study subjects like DNA analysis, drug analysis, trace evidence and criminalist. Some other exciting subjects these professional studies include toxicology and blood splatter patterns.

Related: 12 Careers After A BSc Course (With Duties And Salary)

Communication

Both these professionals require excellent communication skills to convey important information to the detective, police department and their colleagues. Candidates with excellent communication skills are better adept at gathering witness statements, discussing evidence and preparing case reports. Excellent communication skills are helpful when presenting evidence and testifying in courts during a trial. Also, these professionals require excellent written communication skills to prepare reports and documents related to the criminal case.

Related: Verbal Communication Examples In The Workplace (With Tips)

Problem-solving skills

A crime scene technician uses their problem-solving skills to conduct experiments on the evidence collected to provide proof to the law enforcement department. These skills entail analysing the crime scene to determine solutions that can help find the suspect and prevent crimes from occurring. Using this skill set, these professionals observe crime scenes and analyse the sequence of events. After collecting the evidence, a CSI evaluates the crime scene and identifies suspects as soon as possible.

Attention to details

As these professionals require cognitive abilities to complete their work, employers prefer hiring candidates with excellent attention to detail. Employing attention to detail helps these professionals complete their task with no error. This is one of the most critical skills of these forensic professionals because they present their findings in court. Missing any critical information can get an innocent person imprisoned. So, their evidence and analysis require accuracy for the jury or judge to make decisions.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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