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Average Salary of a Crime Scene Investigator

Sure, the market is saturated, the interest inflated, the competition fierce, and the job descriptions a tad overrated, but everyone wants to know what it's like to work (and get paid) as a crime scene investigator. Although "crime scene investigator" is not an official occupational definition, its popularity warrants its usage here. Below are some figures of average salaries for crime scene investigators, including a detailed list of specialized occupations within the field of crime scene investigation.

Salary of a Crime Scene Investigator

Often, salaries for crime scene investigators are too specific to be recognized by national statistical agencies, but many categories can subsume some suboccupations under main ones with a reasonable degree of accuracy. According to the US Department of Labor Statistics, "Detectives and Criminal Investigators" make a mean annual salary of $58,750, a median hourly salary of $26.82, and a mean hourly salary of $28.24. For a more detailed outlook on this occupation, visit the BLS's occupational profile.

Real-Life Cases

A five-year, real-life crime scene investigator, for the Massachusetts State Police Crime Scene Services, as interviewed by Marketplace Money in 2005, says he is earning just over $52,000. When he first started 5 years ago, he was only making $30,000 (2 July 2005 Marketplace Money). The Pima County Sheriff's Department, according to the Arizona Daily Star, pays its forensic technicians a starting salary of roughly $530 per week (30 September 2002).

While it's not all glamourous action, it may be at least constant action. According to 51 year-old John Kelly, who was interviewed by the Oregonian in 2004, said that he had to "interview the victims, go out to my car, change hats and come back in to take photos and fingerprints -- do the crime scene," as a daily routine in the life of a criminalist with the Gresham Police Department.

Sample Job Description

The The Liverpool Daily Post posted this ad as part of their Job of the Week appointments in 2004:

"Chemical treatment officer, fingerprint department

Based in laboratories in St Asaph, the post holder will have to examine, develop and record finger and palm impressions retrieved from crime scenes by carrying out scientific treatments and operating specialist equipment.

Applicants will have to be educated to NVQ level three or equivalent qualification in chemistry or other relevant laboratory-based subjects and/or a minimum of three years" experience working in a chemical laboratory environment.

Salary is between £15, 731 and £17, 444."

The Westwego Police Department pays some of its newer crime scene investigators only $32,000 per year, and part of that goes towards equipment expenses.

And what does it to pay Emmy-award-winning actor Gary Senise to play fictional CSI expert? According to estimates by the BPI Entertainment News Wire, approximately $120,000 to $150,000 an episode (BPI Entertainment News Wire, 18 March 2004).

Requirements to Become a Crime Scene Investigator

How does one go about becoming a crime scene investigator? Like most competitive careers, hard work, selfless determination, a driving passion and an unswerving sense of self-confidence don't hurt, but since the nature of CSI work comes highly specialized, CSI investigating requires an education, as well.

Organizations offering certification in crime scene investigation:

For more employment resources, visit:

For a list of private companies that offer forensic testing services (i.e. DNA testing, toxicology reports, fire residue analysis, computer recovery, latent print examination, etc.) to law enforcement agencies, see the table on the Biometric Technology article.

To see average salaries for more general occupational categories in the criminal justice field, including jobs such as legal professional, police officer, and correctional staff, see our Criminal Justice Salaries page. Or, to search salaries for specific occupational categories (NAICS) in specific counties across the United States, see the Average Salaries by Occupation Calculator
Assistant Chief Toxicologist: Salary: $100,356 per year.
Biomedical Engineer    
Biometrics Trainer: Salary: $100,000 / year
Chief Medical Examiner Salary: $145,000 - $232,000.
Controlled Substances Fellow: Salary:  
Crime Lab Analyst I Salary: Salary: $16.75 - $21.44 Per Hour (see posting here)
Crime Scene Analyst: Salary: $31.87 – $36.49/hour
Crime Scene Technician Salary: $20.40 - 22.00/hr
Criminalistics Supervisor Salary: $5,000 - $7,000 per month (full range) with benefits (see posting here)
Crime Lab and Evidence Room Manager:    
Crime Lab Director Salary: $58,000 - $76,000
Deputy Medical Examiner: Salary: $50,000 - $200,000 /year
Directory of Forensic Science Training: Salary: $45,000 - $77,000.
DNA Analyst:    
DNA Technical Leader: Salary: $62,000 - $75,000
Evidence Custodian Salary: $86,400 to $144,000
Evidence Technician Salary: $29,000.
Field Identification Specialist: Salary: $21.60 up to $26.03
Firearms Examiner: Salary: $2,000 - $5,000/month
Fingerprint Technician: Salary: $30,000 to $46,000/year
Firearms and Tool Mark Examiner: Salary: Level II $47,000; Level III $52,000 - $85,000
Forensic Autopsy Assistant Salary: $24.04 -- $29.08 per hour
Forensic Autopsy Supervisor: Salary: $17.00 - $21.00/hourly
Forensic Autopsy Technician Salary: $4,000 - $5,000/month
Forensic Biologist: Salary: $46,000 - $64,000
Forensic Chemist:    
Fire and Explosion Consultant    
Firearms Examiner: Salary: $60,000— $83,000
Forensic Mechanical Engineer    
Forensic Evidence Technician: Salary: $4,000 - $5,000 per month
Forensic Geotechnical Engineer: Salary:  
Forensic Lab Manager: Salary: $63,000 - $77,000.
Forensic Mechanical Engineer    
Forensic Pathologist/Associate Medical Examiner Salary: $120,000 - $163,000
Forensic Photographer    
Forensic Print Analyst: Salary: $45,000 - $67,000
Forensic Regional Manager:    
Forensic Scientist: Salary: From $35,000 to $52,000 (see posting here)
Forensic Scientist - Chemistry: Salary: US $58,000 - US $73,000
Forensic Scientist — DNA    
Forensic Services Manager/Police: Salary: $49,000 - $59,000
Forensic Structural Engineer: Salary:  
Forensic Technologist - Trace Evidence: Salary: $746.00 - $1,022.00/week
Instrumentation/Calibration Technician:    
Lab Supervisor - Forensic Testing: Salary: $70,000 - $80,000
Latent Print Examiner Salary: $108,000 to $158,000
Latent Print Technician Salary: $33,000 - $50,000 per year (see posting here)
Latent Print/Tire & Shoe Impression Examiner    
Law Enforcement Training Officer: Salary: $22.00/hr. - $30.00/hr.
Museum Specialist:    
Serologist Salary: $37,000.
Supervisory DNA Anlayst:    
Toxicologist: Salary: $6,000 per month.
Trace Analyst Salary: $2,000 - $3,000 month
Vehicle Constructionist Reconstructionist    


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