Studying investigations and forensics can help you seek a number of law enforcement positions. Scientists working in the field typically take fingerprints, blood and other types of samples and run tests to determine who committed a crime. While studying criminal justice in college gives you a good foundation and an understanding of crime scene investigation, you typically need an advanced degree in forensic science or a similar field before working in law enforcement.
Types of Forensic Investigations
According to the National Institute of Justice, three are three major types of forensic investigation: crime scene examination, fire and arson investigation and cold case investigation. Television shows like “Law & Order” and “C.S.I.” popularized crime scene examination, which involves experts going into the field, taking samples and examining the scene. Fire and arson investigators focus solely on cases involving fires, and cold case investigators study unsolved cases. They examine new evidence and search for evidence that can determine who committed a previously unsolved case.
Bachelor in Criminal Justice
As a criminal justice student, you’ll spend some of your time studying investigations and forensics, but your courses primarily focus on giving you a basic understanding of the law. You take classes on legal issues, the psychology behind why people commit crimes and what jobs are available in the field. With a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, you can seek employment as a probation officer, corrections officer, game warden, private investigator or another related field. While some Bachelor degree holders work as crime scene investigators and forensics, you usually need to work your way through the ranks and have a strong undergraduate background in science and technology.
The highest paying jobs within the investigations and forensics field are only open to those with an advanced degree. Some cities won’t accept resumes for investigator positions unless the individual has either a Master degree or a PhD. These programs teach you both practical skills and research skills. You often complete an intensive thesis or final project and spend much of your time learning about and using the technologies that field investigators use on a daily basis. A criminal justice undergraduate degree will help you better understand those technologies.
Should You Enter the Police Academy?
Did you know that many cities now require that their crime scene investigators also be police officers? Some cities have a waiting list for those interested in investigation jobs, and those cities keep a list of graduates from the local academy and hire from that list. Completing the police academy lets you work as a police officer until you find an investigation job. You’ll learn how to investigate scenes, arrest potential criminals and how to properly shoot and handle a firearm. Depending on where you live or where you want to work, it’s often helpful to attend the police academy.
Forensic science is one of the hottest job fields. As an undergraduate, studying criminal justice gives you a strong foundation that will assist you in graduate school, but not all cities will hire you as an investigator with just an undergraduate degree. Attending the police academy or attending graduate school will increase your chances of landing a job in investigations and forensics.