Crime Scene

CSI Careers: How Real is TV?

Television crime shows like CSI: Las Vegas (Crime Scene Investigation or Investigators) and its spinoffs CSI: Miami and CSI: New York may portray some true-life crime scene analysis, but according to most police detectives, forensic scientists, and other law enforcement officials, these shows are more fiction than fact. While the fiction part makes for great television, here is some information about crime scene work that will give you a more accurate picture of what these positions entail should you be interested in pursuing this line of work.
Any career in criminal justice will be exciting, challenging, and world-changing (because you are helping put the bad guys away), but shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, tend to glamorize the often tedious work of crime scene analysis. The true fictitious scenes are the ones in which CSI has contact with witnesses and suspects; that simply does not happen in the real world of crime scene analysis.
The Police department interviews witnesses and suspects while collecting evidence. While crime scene analysts try to reconstruct the how it was done aspect of the crime by piecing together the often-minute details of a crime scene. Colorado Christian University offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, an Associate's in Criminal Justice, and a Criminal Justice Certificate. To learn more about CJ jobs, please read these criminal justice blogs about these exciting degree programs and the jobs for which you'll be prepared.

Fact vs. Fiction: CSI Careers

Let's take a look at some of the biggest differences between CSI TV and actual crime scene analysis:

  1. CSI on TV stands for Crime Scene Investigations; in the real world, the position is known as a CSA--crime scene analyst
  2. CSI on TV appears to be in charge of the investigation; in the real world, detectives are in charge
  3. CSI on TV conduct interviews; in the real world of crime investigation, CS analysts do not have the right to conduct interviews or have suspect contact except to take photographs, which is done under the supervision of a police detective to ensure proper police procedure is followed.
  4. CSI on TV is a promotion from Homicide; in the real world, CSI is civilian, and Homicide is commissioned, two completely different classifications.
  5. Crime scene analysts, especially in smaller towns, do not have access to the amazing high-tech equipment always available on television shows.

The Reality of CSI Careers

On the CSI TV shows, the CSI technician has a role that includes figuring out the crime and arresting the criminal. The technician in the show might sometimes interrogate the suspects, become involved in chases or become almost as involved in the case as the police officer. None of this happens in real life, but it sure does make for exciting television!
In the "real world" of criminal justice, the crime scene technician’s job is not as glamorous as the shows suggest. The position of the CSI technician is not as dangerous as the job of a police officer. In reality, the technician will gather the physical evidence left on the crime scene, test it, analyze the tests and then provide the results and conclusions to the law enforcement working the case.
In real life, crime scene investigators often have different roles and areas of expertise. In general, two types of analysis are available for investigators to consider: crime scene field analysis and crime lab analysis. These two areas of crime scene study, work together to figure out how the crime was committed. Through DNA testing and other evidence that was left at the scene of crime scene investigators can determine a suspect through DNA evidence alone.

The Crime Scene Analyst's Job 

This involves examining the scene of the crime, taking pictures before moving any pieces of evidence, and then collecting the evidence for further evaluation in a lab. Analysts must have keen observation skills and a knack for attention to detail. They must carefully document everything they find and keep all evidence free of contamination. Some analysts may specialize in blood spatter, fingerprinting, hair and fabric fibers, and crime scene reconstruction. Firearms specialists, known as ballistic specialists, analyze bullets, casings, trajectories, and gunshot wounds. 
They work in labs and actually fire guns to analyze how a homicide may have occurred, at what angle the gun was shot, and even can pinpoint the height of a shooter.
Unlike TV crime dramas, no crime is solved in an hour. Some take weeks, months, years, or even decades. But even though the real CSI careers may not be as glamorous as portrayed on TV, they certainly are exciting and imperative to crime solving.
Colorado Christian University's Criminal Justice degree programs prepare students for numerous jobs associated with law enforcement, and this is a rapidly growing field. Many criminal justice positions have a great deal of room for career advancement and offer many intrinsic rewards such as knowing each day you go to work, you are helping to make society a safer, better place for the "good guys." While CSI shows on TV may look glamorous, it's very hard work and requires a great deal of training. 


Colorado Christian University does not guarantee any job placement as a result of earning this or any other degrees offered by the university.

Learn more by speaking to an enrollment counselor or visiting our admissions page. You can also contact CCU at any time and one of our staff members will be happy to answer your questions.

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