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Investigator

You have an eye for detail, and you don’t miss a single thing. Not only that, but also, you’re able to make sense of what is there before you. Your communication and questioning skills are top notch. Plus, people actually open up to talk to you. You know what? You should be an investigator. Which type you choose is completely up to you. There are a variety of investigator careers you can explore. Below are a few.

Accident Investigator

An accident investigator has an eye for detail, which is put to use collecting and examining evidence from various traffic accidents. Collision investigators are responsible for responding to traffic accidents, administering first aid, and making calls for additional assistance, including emergency medical services. You must verify driver licenses and vehicle registrations by radio, conduct interviews with all those involved, and complete written reports along with the correct forms.

What kind of education do I need to be an accident investigator?

The first step to becoming an accident investigator is to have graduated high school or have a GED. Then you are ready to begin your training, whether online or at a brick and mortar school of your choice.

Most insurance companies that hire accident investigators prefer their employees to have a background as law enforcement officers, private investigators, claims adjusters, or examiners. Many in these fields come with excellent interviewing and interrogation skills.

Licensing for accident investigators vary by state, so it’s best to contact your school of interest to find out your state’s exact requirements. There are continuing education courses you would be expected to fulfill as well, which also vary state by state.

How much does an accident investigator make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the annual median salary range for an accident investigator is $64,690. Entry-level salaries run in the $39K range while more experienced and sought after accident investigators can make more than $97K annually.

The job outlook for accident investigators between now and 2026 is projected to decline 1 percent, as more tasks become automated and technology improves the speed at which you complete your job. But don’t despair, there are still many jobs for accident investigators available.

Private Investigator

Depending on the case, private investigators work in a wide variety of environments. Whether you are behind a desk or in the field, a private investigator is finding and gathering important information in hopes of solving a particular crime. Private investigators are imperative to many investigations.

How do I become a private investigator?

Once you graduate high school or obtain your GED, you have a couple different options when it comes to becoming a private investigator.

There is the on-the-job training scenario that lasts several years. However, most private investigators are expected to have either an associate or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or police science. Plus, most employers require training from a certified criminal justice school where you can earn your private investigator license. Many PIs also have previous work experience in law enforcement prior to changing careers.

Licensing and certifications vary by state, and you should definitely speak with your potential school’s representative to find out what your state expectations are. Interested in a CJ career? Try our practice tests.

What private investigators do

Private investigators are equipped to identify facts and analyze information that they gather, often regarding legal, financial and personal matters. Sometimes private investigators work separately from the police department, and other times you'll work in conjunction with law enforcement to solve open or cold cases.

Private investigators are often tasked with searching for a lost or missing relative, participate in gathering evidence to present at custody battles, or investigate possible incidents of insurance fraud, computer crimes, and/or instances of stalking or harassment.

Common traits of a successful private investigator are being detail oriented, persistent, honest, cooperative, and dependable. If you possess these characteristics going into the job, then your path will be an easier one.

How much do private investigators make?

The median annual salary range for a private investigator is close to $51K, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' website. Some private investigators will make significantly less, while others will make close to $87,000 per year.

Because of advances in technology, cyber crimes are on the rise. This means corporations are needing private investigator services more frequently. Job growth is expected to be 11 percent through 2026, signifying that there is a strong need for private investigator services.

Crime Scene Investigators

Crime scene investigators are also referred to as forensic science technicians. You will collect and analyze evidence from the scene of a crime. Crime scene investigators also write reports of their findings based on all the evidence.

A day in the life of a CSI

Scene of the crime: When crime scene investigators are brought to the scene of the crime, they spend time investigating the area to determine what should be used as evidence. You’ll usually take pictures of the pertinent spaces before they are touched by anyone else. Before they collect any evidence, forensic science technicians will record what the surroundings look like by noting the location of any fingerprints, weapons, and body matter. Then they will transfer the evidence into bags to be transported to the lab for further inspection.

In the lab: The lab is where heavy work is done. The CSI will perform various tests using chemical and biological analysis. Through this evidence, you are able to figure out the relation between the suspect and the victim. Usually the crime scene investigator will meet with other specialists in the field such as toxicology if poisons were traced, and odontology, which is a branch of medicine that is specific to teeth.

Some forensic science technicians, aka crime scene investigators, will specialize in a particular branch of crime scene investigations. Forensic pathologists work strictly within the lab, and forensic computer examiners specialize in computer crimes.

Education for crime scene investigators

To begin your career as a crime scene investigator, typically you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in a field such as chemistry, biology, or forensic science. If you choose natural sciences as your undergraduate degree, then know many who take that same route usually go on to receive a master’s degree in forensic science. CSIs are also sworn in as police officers, so expect to head to the police academy as well.

There will be on-the-job training for eligible crime scene investigator applicants. This is necessary before you are able to work alone. New hires are partnered with seasoned professionals to learn real-life tricks of the trade. Interested? Try our criminal justice practice tests.

How much do crime scene investigators make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that as of May 2017, the annual median salary for CSIs is $57,850. Entry-level technicians and the bottom 10 percent earn less than $34,000. Those who have been in the field for a long time and are at the top of their game will make $96K per year.

Between now and 2026, the job outlook for crime scene investigators is predicted to grow about 17 percent (2,600 new positions opening), which is well above the average job growth outlook for all occupations. The interest in the CSI career has grown in popularity due to all the television shows depicting life as a CSI agent. But there will be plenty of jobs for those who are eligible; find a school now.

Computer Forensic Investigation

Today’s internet landscape is riddled with digital footprints. Some footprints are harmless. Others destroy the area the moment they touch it. A computer forensics investigator uses a variety of techniques to figure out who is hacking into a system and what damage was done.

Being a computer forensics investigator

Computer forensic investigation is a demanding yet rewarding career. Investigators must uncover who is responsible for attacking a system and what damage was done. In doing so, federal and state reporting requirements must remain in effect to ensure that confidential information isn’t exposed during a security breach.

As a computer forensic investigator you will recover data from hard drives, even after they have been erased. You will be analyzing data for clues or evidence that may help in an investigation. From using imaging software and copy data to taking custody of equipment used in crimes, a computer forensic investigator is paramount in today’s world of internet crimes.

On top of completing the tasks required to trace a hacker, investigators must maintain the chain of custody for evidence, write out reports, document the procedures taken during an investigation, and attend trial. In most cases, a computer forensic investigator must testify in court and present his or her findings to the jury, which will either make or break the case.

Becoming a computer forensics investigator

To become a computer forensics investigator, you must have a high school diploma or GED. Then, you should consider getting a degree in computer science or accounting plus head into law enforcement for some experience there. Many colleges offer certificate programs, as well. Expect 15-21 credit hours of coursework specific to computer forensics. Universities offer both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer forensics and computer security, both being great paths to take if you’re interested in a career as a computer forensics investigator.

Expected coursework for computer forensic investigators include network administration, computer security, web development, and information systems management.

Because computer technology is constantly evolving, a computer forensics investigator's education is constant. You must always be aware of new fraud techniques and detection, and all the new software being created to combat the constant internet crimes.

There is not a specific license required of a computer forensic investigator however some states do expect them to be licensed as a private investigator. So, it’s important to find out what your state requirements are. Sounds interesting? Find a school offering computer forensics training.

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