How to Become a Crime Analyst
Every day more and more crimes are committed, and solving crimes is often very difficult. Were it not for the hard work of professionals, many crimes would go unsolved. One professional who plays an important role in crime solving is a crime analyst. Imagine how rewarding it would be to work as a crime analyst and be able to work at crime scenes or in labs and contribute to the crime-solving process. If this sounds like a career you would like to be part of, continue reading and learn how to become a crime analyst and what this criminal justice career entails in terms of wages, career outlook, and daily routine.
What is a Crime Analyst?
Crime analysts are professionals who help solve crimes by collecting and researching evidence. Although they work with law enforcement personnel, they are not actually law enforcement officers. Their work revolves a lot around research. When a crime is committed, crime analysts are often called to the crime scene to look for and gather evidence. The evidence they gather might include blood, fingerprints, DNA, and similar evidence.
Crime analysts are often referred to as forensic science technicians or crime scene analysts. The title they have is typically based on the type of work they perform. For instance, a crime analyst who focuses primarily on computer-based crimes may be called a digital forensic analyst or a forensic computer examiner. A crime scene investigator will do crime analysis at the crime scene and will research and analyze his or her findings in a laboratory.
If you’ve ever watched a few episodes of CSI or similar shows, you’re probably aware of the important role crime analysts play in helping law enforcement solve and prevent crimes. Still interested in how to become a crime analyst? Read on!
Although the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not offer information specifically for crime analysts, they do put crime analysts in the forensic science technicians group. The BLS indicates that crime analysts or forensic science technicians should experience positive job growth now and in the next few years.
During the period from 2021-2031, crime analysts are expected to see job growth of about 11 percent. As technology continues to be advanced and used by law enforcement, crime analysts will continue to be utilized. The BLS predicts that about 2,500 job positions will open for these professionals. The open positions typically are the result of crime analysts moving to other positions or retiring.
They also expect about 2,000 new forensic science technician jobs to be created by 2031, which means these professionals will continue to be in demand for a few years to come. Individuals who are trained to work as crime analysts may also have careers as:
- Intelligence Analyst
- Criminal Intelligence Analyst
- Crime Scene Investigator
- Forensic Science Technician
- Intelligence Officer
- Criminal Research Specialist
- Criminal Intelligence Analyst Supervisor
- Criminal Intelligence Specialist
Working as a crime analyst is said to be challenging but also very rewarding. It is often the work of the crime analyst who plays the most important role in solving a crime. Fingerprints and DNA are considered the most important evidence in a criminal case, and it’s a crime analyst that collects and analyzes this evidence. One can only imagine the excitement and sense of accomplishment of helping to solve a crime.
The wages a crime analyst or forensic science technician earn vary by several factors. These include:
- The education the individual possesses
- The work experiences the individual has
- The different certifications the crime analyst has earned
- The geographical location
- The employer
Crime analyst wages ranged from $37,670 to $103,430 as of May 2021. The average annual wages were about $61,930. According to salary.com, crime analysts earned an average wage of $54,712 as of December 2022, with wages ranging from $28,610 to $65,557. The five states where the highest wages were earned by crime analysts include Illinois, California, Massachusetts, New York, and Oregon.
How to Become a Crime Analyst
The requirements to become a crime analyst can vary by employer, but most agencies require at least a bachelor’s degree with a major in law enforcement, criminal justice, data analytics, computer science, or sociology. One example of a degree might be a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in crime scene investigation.
Bachelor’s degree programs generally take about four years to complete and include general education courses, crime scene courses, core courses, and a required internship working for a law enforcement agency. Some colleges offer these programs online. Students can complete many of the courses online but must complete the fieldwork or internship at an actual location. Once the individual has completed the bachelor’s degree program, he or she can try to earn some certifications.
Aspiring crime scene analysts must also pass a background check. Although most crime scene analysts have bachelor’s degrees, some agencies will provide on-the-job training to those with only a high school diploma.
What Their Day Consists Of
The one thing that can be said about crime analysts is that they do not always work 9 to 5. Although it would be nice if crimes were only committed during the day, that’s seldom the case. Crime scene analysts may be required to work all hours of the day. Those who spend most of their days in the lab may work mostly during the day, but that’s not the case with crime analysts working at the crime scenes.
Depending on the agency in which they work, they may be required to be on call when they’re away from the lab. Crime scene analysts working on the scene may be called in to work during the day, night, or even on weekends.
Life in the day of a crime analyst may offer the same thing every day or entirely different things. They may work for other agencies or various levels of law enforcement. The specific area they work in will generally determine what they do each day.
Crime analysts generally perform the following duties.
- Make sketches and take photos of the evidence and crime scenes. They use these things to get a better idea of what’s relevant evidence regarding determining the crime and who may have committed the crime.
- They record their findings and share them with law enforcement agencies. They may also be required to testify in court.
- They collect evidence, such as fingerprints, weapons, bodily fluids, and other DNA, and perform microscopic, biological, and chemical analyses on the crime scene evidence.
- After safely categorizing the evidence, they enter it into the system and then transfer it to crime labs for safekeeping.
- They often consult with not just law enforcement personnel but also other professionals in the areas of odontology and toxicology, to name just a few.
They also study trends and observe patterns in criminal behavior. Their work can often help prevent crimes in the future as well as help them develop programs focused on crime prevention. Some crime scene analysts also write scholarly works describing their findings to assist other law enforcement agencies not only in the U.S. but globally as well.
Licensure, Certifications, and Continuing Education
There are no licensure or certification requirements for crime analysts in any of the states, but there are several reasons why a crime analyst might choose to obtain certifications. First, certifications can really enhance a resume. They can also be impressive to a potential employer. Last, but not least, certifications can help individuals provide the individual with more information on this career.
There are a few different agencies that offer certifications for crime analysts. The Certified Law Enforcement Analyst (CLEA) and the Law Enforcement Analyst Foundational (LEAF) are offered by the International Association of Crime Analysts (IACA). To obtain certification, the crime analyst must pass the appropriate certification exam. However, the individual must meet certain requirements to be eligible to take the exam.
In the case of the CLEA certification, the individual must have at least three years of experience working as a crime analyst for a law enforcement agency or a related field. The individual must also have earned at least 100 points from both education and work experience. The applicant must also be a current member of the IACA.
Another agency that offers certification is the International Association for Identification (IAI). This agency offers these certifications for crime analysts.
- Certified Crime Scene Analyst
- Certified Crime Scene Reconstructionist
- Certified Crime Scene Investigator
- Certified Senior Crime Scene Analysts
Certifications are only valid for a specific amount of time. The IAI certifications, for example, are valid for five years. For any of the certifications to be maintained, the crime analyst must meet certain recertification requirements. Prior to the renewal date, the individual must meet the IAI requirements for each certification. Failure to meet the IAI recertification requirements will result in the individual having to take the certification again.
Another agency offering certification to a crime analyst is the International Crime Scene Investigators Association (ICSIA). They offer a Crime Scene Investigator certification for candidates who have completed at least 50 hours of crime scene coursework and two years of work experience in this area.
Getting started as a crime analyst means beginning your education. Inquire with a few schools to learn about their programs and what is the best fit.