Crime scene investigators serve a wide variety of roles. They may gather evidence at crime scenes, test evidence at a lab, develop criminal profiles and offer testimony in court. Your major and the courses you take depend upon the role you want to serve. Lab analysts, for example, typically major in natural sciences, while interviewers and profilers often major in a social science or criminal justice.
Your college major will determine a significant portion of your classes, so you'll need to consider what kind of crime scene investigator you want to be. Criminal justice and policing majors can be ideal for people who want to join law enforcement, while a degree in psychology or sociology can help you become a profiler or interviewer. If you're interested in gathering evidence or working in a lab, a degree in forensic investigations, biology, biochemistry, chemistry or even genetics could be ideal. After you've selected your major, it's a good idea to take a few electives related to other topics in crime scene investigations so that you'll have a broad knowledge base.
Classes in natural sciences such as biology and chemistry can help you understand the basics of scientific investigations while teaching you laboratory skills. Physics can also be helpful because it will teach you which gunshot angles are possible, how a car crash might have affected a victim and where a perpetrator might have been standing when he attacked another person.
Social science courses can help you understand the individual motivations and social circumstances that can lead to crime. Try taking introductory-level psychology classes, as well as courses in abnormal and criminal psychology. Sociology classes in criminal justice, criminal behavior and the sociology of deviance can help you gain a better understanding of the ways in which social contexts influence criminal behavior.
Criminal and Legal Studies
You'll be more likely to excel in your career if you have a strong understanding of how the criminal justice system works. Courses in criminal justice, the legal system and policing can help you understand what is and isn't possible within the criminal justice system. You may also want to take courses in state and local government, history of the law, theories of punishment and philosophy of law.
- Crime Scene Investigator Network: Becoming a Crime Scene Investigator
- Saint Mary of-the-Woods College: History / Political Science / Pre-Law at the Woods
- International Association for Identification: Requirements for IAI Crime Scene Certification
- University of Wisconsin -- Platteville: Forensic Investigation Major Courses
- The College Board: Major -- Forensic Science
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.