Scene of crime officers (SOCOs – also known as crime scene investigators or CSIs) work alongside police officers to help solve crimes. They're experts trained to take photographs of evidence and identify traces left at crime scenes. They attend a wide range of scenes including vehicle crimes, burglaries, murders and unexplained deaths. They may also attend post mortems.
Other typical responsibilities include:
- responding to and prioritising calls from police officers
- taking charge of crime scenes to avoid contamination
- establishing what evidence is required from incident scenes and how best to obtain it
- writing reports
- dusting for fingerprints and searching for footprints
- using scientific techniques to gather forensic evidence such as blood, hairs, fibres, paint, glass and other traces left at crime scenes
- taking fingerprints
- attending court and giving evidence.
Most employees in this area of work are employed by individual police forces from across the UK. Opportunities are advertised on police forces' websites. You may also find vacancies on the Police.uk website.
While graduate entrants are becoming increasingly common in this area of work, it is possible to become a scene of crime investigator as a school leaver. Individual police forces have different requirements. You will most definitely need at least five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including maths, English and at least one science subject. Some employers may expect A levels or equivalent, also including a science.
You may be expected to have a degree. Whether or not that’s the case, you might decide that a degree in a subject such as forensic science, criminology, psychology, biology or chemistry might provide you with some useful knowledge. Photography is also often regarded as a relevant subject. Take a look at vacancies for roles with your local police force – or for those you’d be interested in joining – to get a better idea of the specific qualifications you’ll need.
Recruiters look for people who can cope well under pressure and handle sensitive situations. Other essential qualities and skills include:
- a logical and enquiring mind
- meticulous attention to detail
- an understanding of the legal system
- understanding of certain scientific methods
- a certain level of photography ability
- excellent written and oral communication skills
- good teamworking and problem-solving abilities
- strong people skills.