With the rise of popular crime dramas that emphasize the significance of crime scene investigation, it’s no wonder that students over the past two decades have shown a stronger interest than ever in the field of forensic science. If you love the mystery of deducing which suspect is the killer on these shows, you may be considering a career as a forensic science technician, also called a crime scene investigator (CSI). However, if you tend to feel squeamish at the sight of blood – a not unusual phenomenon that, according to Psychology Today, is likely triggered by primitive reflexes that are beyond your control – you may fear that you wouldn’t make a very good CSI. Before you give up on your dream or make a big mistake choosing the wrong career path, take some time to assess just how squeamish you really are and consider CSI career options that involve minimal contact with bloody crime scenes.
Evaluating Your Level of Squeamishness
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The answer to whether you can still pursue a career as a CSI depends on just how squeamish you are. If you find that the mere thought of blood makes you feel ill and you can’t stomach the idea of a real-life crime scene, then CSI may not be the right fit for you. Don’t get discouraged, though. You’re in good company. Squeamishness is so common that around 15 percent of the population faints at the sight of blood.
On the other hand, if you’re only moderately squeamish, then there may still be some forensic science and crime scene investigation roles open to you. This might be the case if, for example, you can look at the photos of a crime scene but don’t want to spend your days analyzing blood splatters.
For the squeamish aspiring CSI, specialization is one way to focus your career on the aspects of crime scene investigation that interest you without an emphasis on the ones that make you feel uncomfortable. Blood is, unfortunately, a common part of crime scenes, but it’s far from the only type of evidence investigators find there. Forensic specialists may become experts in topics like firearms ballistics, latent fingerprint analysis, DNA analysis, hair and fiber analysis and toxicology. None of these specialties involve extensive exposure to gory crime scenes, but they all allow CSIs to make a big impact in the investigation of serious crimes.
The drawback of specializing in one area of forensic science is fewer job opportunities. Becoming an expert in one of these specializations may require you to tailor your education with a minor or concentration and find internships, apprenticeships and work opportunities with established experts.
Laboratory Work Vs. Field Work
Perhaps the biggest distinction that will help you become a CSI in spite of your squeamishness is that between laboratory work and field work. As a CSI in the field, you will be responsible for visiting crime scenes and collecting and preserving evidence, including the blood that makes you feel squeamish. Seeing and working with blood is basically inevitable for a CSI working in the field.
Many forensic science technicians, however, work in the forensics lab rather than on the crime scene. Sometimes going by names like forensic chemist or forensic biologist, these forensic science technicians do the behind-the-scenes work of analyzing evidence. Even if that evidence includes blood, you may find that looking at blood samples under a microscope doesn’t induce the same feelings of nausea or discomfort that a grisly crime scene would.
CSIs working in laboratory settings use a variety of tools and equipment common in other areas of science, including microscopes. CSIs working in the laboratory are also more likely to specialize in an area of forensic expertise, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Digital Forensics in Crime Scene Investigation
In modern crime scene investigation, technology plays a key role. Investigating a suspect’s, or even a victim’s, digital presence is common – and not only in instances of cybercrime. Even in criminal matters that don’t revolve around computers, an individual’s digital activities can tell a lot about motive, opportunity and the events leading up to or following a crime to help investigators piece together what happened.
Skilled forensic technicians are needed in the field of digital forensics – and the best part is that these tech-focused roles are usually far removed from the blood of a crime scene. In a role like digital forensics analyst or forensic computer examiner, you will use your extensive computer technology skills to identify possible evidence of many types of crimes on personal computers, smartphones and mobile devices, business computer networks and cloud-based data storage systems.
Ultimately, other qualifications – like an eye for detail and strong skills in science, mathematics, critical thinking and problem solving – are of more importance to success in a forensic science career than having a strong stomach, according to the BLS.