Criminal investigator

A criminal investigator


Criminal investigators examine and process the scenes of crimes and the evidence found in them. They handle and protect the evidence compliant with rules and regulations, and isolate the scene from outside influence. They photograph the scene, ensure the maintenance of the evidence, and write reports.

Criminal investigators typically do the following:

  • Process crime scenes by performing scene recognition, scene documentation and evidence collection
  • Operate within the applicable laws governing the investigations
  • Initiate preliminary survey, generate initial theories and keep the ones that are not eliminated by incoming information
  • Thoroughly document scenes and gather potential evidences (physical, specimens, documents, photographs, statements etc) to send to crime lab
  • Examine and evaluate evidence for conflicting interpretations and resolve issues
  • Draft detailed investigative reports and be prepared to present evidence to the prosecutor
  • Find that nuance or piece of information that will be the crucial break
  • Identify, apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators.

Criminal investigators may work for city or county police departments and state agencies like those in charge of criminal databases. Although they collaborate often, they are not considered police.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to criminal investigator:

forensic officer
fingerprint officer
crime scene investigator
forensic science officer
scenes of crime officer

Minimum qualifications

Applicants for a criminal investigator position must have a degree in criminal justice or police science. Additionally, they need to have taken some courses in psychology, computers, and advanced science. At a forensic crime lab, a criminal investigator candidate will need a major in biological sciences. Applicants for a federal-level job, usually have a master’s degree to improve their credentials.

A criminal investigator position calls for proven work experience. This experience may vary depending on the position offered. Experience may be varied in different investigator fields such as analyzing crime scenes or managing evidence.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Criminal investigator is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Criminal investigator career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to criminal investigator.

police inspector
police detective
immigration officer
aviation data communications manager
court clerk

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of criminal investigator. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of criminal investigator with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

intelligence officer
police commissioner
polygraph examiner
aviation surveillance and code coordination manager

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of criminal investigator.

  • Forensic intelligence: The procedures and methodology of gathering and analysing forensic intelligence and data for investigative purposes.
  • Crime scene preservation: The methods involved in the preservation of a crime scene so that the evidence and information that can be gathered from it for an investigation is uninfluenced by outside factors.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of criminal investigator.

  • Handle evidence: Handle evidence important for a case in a manner compliant with regulations, in order to not affect the state of the evidence in question and to ensure its pristine condition and usability in the case.
  • Restrict access to crime scene: Restrict public access to a crime scene by marking boundaries and ensuring officials are stationed to inform the public of access restriction and respond to potential attempts at crossing the boundaries.
  • Examine crime scenes: Examine crime scenes upon arrival to ensure they are not tampered with, and to perform the initial assessments and analyses of what may have occurred, as well as examining the nature of the evidence present.
  • Document evidence: Document all evidence found on a crime scene, during an investigation, or when presented in a hearing, in a manner compliant with regulations, to ensure that no piece of evidence is left out of the case and that records are maintained.
  • Write work-related reports: Compose work-related reports that support effective relationship management and a high standard of documentation and record keeping. Write and present results and conclusions in a clear and intelligible way so they are comprehensible to a non-expert audience.
  • Photograph crime scenes: Photograph (possible) crime scenes in a manner compliant with regulations, to ensure that all information necessary for the further investigation of the case is gathered and recorded.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of criminal investigator. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Criminology: The study of criminal behaviour, such as its causes and nature, its consequences, and control and prevention methods.
  • Criminal law: Th legal rules, constitutions and regulations applicable for the punishement of offenders.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of criminal investigator. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Perform laboratory tests: Carry out tests in a laboratory to produce reliable and precise data to support scientific research and product testing.
  • Perform forensic examinations: Perform forensic examinations on a scene or in a laboratory of gathered data, in a manner compliant with forensic procedures, and to analyse the data using forensic methods.
  • Perform risk analysis: Identify and assess factors that may jeopardise the success of a project or threaten the organisation’s functioning. Implement procedures to avoid or minimise their impact.
  • Clean crime scenes: Clean the crime scenes after they have been thoroughly investigated and all potential evidence is gathered and documented, in a manner compliant with health and safety regulations.
  • Detect finger prints: Detect the presence of finger prints on a crime scene using the appropriate materials, and recording them in order to obtain evidence for the investigation of the events which have occurred on the scene.
  • Drug investigations: Perform investigations to try and halt the distribution of drugs through illegal and criminal measures, as well as arrest the distributors of illegal drugs.
  • Present evidence: Present evidence in a criminal or civil case to others, in a convincing and appropriate manner, in order to reach the right or most beneficial solution.
  • Investigate forgery cases: Investigate the illegal altering, copying or imitation of articles or goods (for example currency, public records or works of art) used for criminal purposes.
  • Undertake inspections: Undertake safety inspections in areas of concern to identify and report potential hazards or security breaches; take measures to maximise safety standards.
  • Assess contamination: Analyse evidence of contamination. Advise on how to decontaminate.
  • Comply with legal regulations: Ensure you are properly informed of the legal regulations that govern a specific activity and adhere to its rules, policies and laws.
  • Use different communication channels: Make use of various types of communication channels such as verbal, handwritten, digital and telephonic communication with the purpose of constructing and sharing ideas or information.
  • Think analytically: Produce thoughts using logic and reasoning in order to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Promote human rights: Promote and respect human rights and diversity in light of the physical, psychological, spiritual and social needs of autonomous individuals, taking into account their opinions, beliefs and values, and the international and national codes of ethics, as well as the ethical implications of healthcare provision, ensuring their right to privacy and honouring for the confidentiality of healthcare information.
  • Evaluate forensic data: Evaluate the data gathered during the forensic investigation of a crime scene or other scene where such investigation is necessary, in order to assess its usability for the ensuing investigation.
  • Analyse blood patterns: Analyse the patterns of blood splatters and remains on a crime scene in order to document them, and formulate conclusions as to the causes and the events which have occurred on the scene.
  • Maintain operational communications: Maintain communications between different departments of an organisation, between the staff, or during specific operations or missions, to ensure that the operation or mission is successful, or that the organisation functions smoothly.

ISCO group and title

3355 – Police inspectors and detectives

  1. Criminal investigator – ESCO
  2. Criminal Investigator Job Description – Indeed
  3. Criminal Investigator job description template | Workable
  4. Featured image: By © ProjectManhattan / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 – Own work
Last updated on December 28, 2022

What do you want to do with this job?

You will be brought to the forum page

Requires a business account

Requires a business account