Crime Scene Investigator Salary: What You'll Earn

A Career as a Crime Scene Investigator in the Criminal Justice System Can Offer You Lucrative Earning Opportunities

Due to prime-time television shows that feature law enforcement officers and crime scene investigators, many people consider entering the crime scene investigation field. These careers require specialized training, and much of the work differs from what popular media portrays.

However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that forensic science technicians positions will grow by 17% between 2016 and 2026. The crime scene investigation field's growth, along with a median salary approaching $50,000, should lead you to consider this exciting and fulfilling career.

Continue reading to learn more about how much crime scene investigators earn and how crime scene investigator salaries compare to those of other criminal justice careers.

How Much Do Crime Scene Investigators Earn?

Although crime scene investigation represents a unique career opportunity, the factors that determine crime scene investigators' salaries resemble those of nearly all other careers. First, experience level plays a significant role in salary determination. In public agencies, employees typically follow a salary schedule that provides a raise every year. Public agencies often use these schedules for all law enforcement careers.

Experience level plays a significant role in salary determination

Second, your education level influences what salary you can expect to earn. In addition to considering what degree you possess, employers also look at what professional certifications you hold or training courses you have completed.

The final factor depends on where you decide to live and work. Companies, agencies, and governments in large metropolitan areas typically offer the highest crime scene investigator salaries. However, as the cost of living in these areas exceeds that of rural areas, you should not automatically disregard job openings in less populated regions simply because they offer lower starting salaries.

What's My Earning Potential as a Crime Scene Investigator?

The following table illustrates how much crime scene investigators make at different career stages. These figures reflect national averages, meaning that you may find lower or higher salaries depending on where you work. Typical mid-career professionals possess 10 years of experience, and experienced professionals possess 20 or more years of experience.

Average Pay by Experience Level for Crime Scene Investigators
Entry Level $41,500
Midcareer $51,500
Experienced $52,000

Source: PayScale

How Do Crime Scene Investigator Careers Compare to Other Criminal Justice Careers?

Crime scene investigators work for and with other law enforcement and criminal justice professionals. As each career varies, so does the median annual salary and projected growth rate. Although crime scene investigators earn lower median annual salaries than related positions, you may find much higher salaries in larger metropolitan areas or if you gain employment with a federal agency.

Finally, don't forget that experience, degrees, and certifications all contribute to how much crime scene investigators make. Your future employer may also take into account your prior professional experience — even non-law enforcement experience — when making a salary offer.

Although this table does not include the projected growth rate for crime scene investigator careers, impressive projected growth rates in related career fields imply that the crime scene investigator field should also benefit from similar growth.

Position Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate
Crime Scene Investigators $45,068 N/A
Forensic Science Technicians $58,230 17%
Police and Detectives $63,380 7%
Private Detectives and Investigators $50,090 11%
Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers $28,530 6%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale

Take the Next Step Today

Now that you know more about crime scene investigator salaries, you can further your research by exploring law enforcement degrees and the necessary steps to becoming a crime scene investigator. The two links below boast valuable resources to help you launch your education and career.