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What is a Forensic Investigator?

Margo Upson
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A forensic investigator works with police departments to solve crimes. Becoming one usually requires a bachelor's degree in biology, chemistry, or a related field, although having several years of education and some experience may also be enough to get a position in this field.

The first thing that a forensic investigator does at a crime scene is to create a sketch of the scene, including the victims, evidence, and anything else crucial to the set-up. This process requires an investigator to determine what the crime was, and then create a drawing of the crime scene as close to scale as possible. This drawing, in addition to the crime scene photographs, is used to help record the original state of the crime scene for investigative and court purposes.

After determining the crime and drawing a sketch, the next step is for the investigator to collect any evidence that may be a part of the crime scene. This can be a complicated process, and some crimes have evidence spread over a wide range of territory. Other crimes involve microscopic evidence, such as DNA or clothing fibers.

Once a forensic investigator collects the evidence, it is carefully bagged, sealed, and recorded. This starts the chain of custody, which is used to keep a record of where the evidence is at all times. The investigator then begins to formulate a hypothesis about how the crime took place and how the evidence points to that theory. This will help lead investigators to a suspect, or group of suspects, and will eventually solve most crimes.

People employed in this job work in a very physically, emotionally, and mentally draining field. There is a lot of heavy lifting and potential danger. They need to pay very close attention to even the smallest detail of a crime scene, and investigators use advanced technology to find and recover the tiniest pieces of evidence, including fingerprints, blood and other bodily fluids, and trace evidence. They will use trajectory analysis to determine the path of a bullet, along with where and what the bullet was shot from. Investigators will also need to make castings out of impressions, such as footprints or tire marks, left at the scene of the crime.

When a forensic investigator is not investigating crime scenes, she may be found filling out paperwork or testifying in court. Her work is often done as part of a team, especially in larger police departments. Smaller departments might share one or two investigators amongst themselves.

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Margo Upson
By Margo Upson
With a vast academic background that has ranged from psychology and culinary arts to criminal justice and education, Margo Upson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her role as a Practical Adult Insights writer. Her wide-ranging interests and skill at diving into new topics make her articles informative, engaging, and valuable to readers seeking to expand their knowledge.
Discussion Comments
By anon244184 — On Jan 31, 2012

This article gave me a lot of information for a school assignment.

By icecream17 — On Sep 08, 2010

BrickBack-I agree that is the only aspect of this field that I am not comfortable with. But for those that do this job, they are doing a great service to society by solving these crimes the way that they do.

I agree that I would rather be a computer forensic investigator and solve crimes using the computer.

I know the forensic investigator salary could be high. Some earn anywhere from $80,000 to $120,000. Forensic investigator careers are in high demand and those interested in the field should seek a forensic investigator education in college.

A degree in criminology with an internship and possible work as a police officer could give you the footing to enter this field. In addition, you can obtain a private investigator’s license especially if you are interested in conducting computer forensic investigations.

Although it is not a requirement, having additional investigative credentials can only help your career prospects.

By BrickBack — On Sep 08, 2010

Latte31-A forensic computer investigator focuses on cases of employees disclosing trade secrets, fraud, and other cases of employee abusing the internet.

The computer forensic investigator copies the hard drive and identifies all of the files and applications which include all deleted files and areas with hidden passwords.

Computer Forensics World has a forum for people interested in this exciting field. I think the area of forensics is fascinating, but for me the area of computer forensics is the most exciting because you get to solve computer crimes and you don’t necessarily come in contact with the dead body.

By latte31 — On Sep 08, 2010

A forensic science investigation involves the collection of evidence left at the crime scene. This could be hair sample, fingerprints, blood samples, articles of clothing or other artifacts that many provide DNA evidence.

DNA is critical because it often links the killer and the victim together which is often very definitive. DNA evidence is usually 99.9% accurate.

Sometimes a computer forensic investigation takes place. Usually the victim's computer is seized to determine how the victim may have known the killer and where they might be.

Also, a computer is seized from the suspect as well because it will give information as to the suspect's intentions and motives. This is especially true when the victim is recovered after being missing for a while.

Margo Upson
Margo Upson
With a vast academic background that has ranged from psychology and culinary arts to criminal justice and education,...
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