Scenes of crime officer

crime scene examiner crime scene investigator CSI SOCO

Career outlook for

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary

Currently employed in Scotland

Jobs forecast

This information is supplied by LMI For All, where data is currently available for Scotland.

What's it like?

You would find, collect and record evidence from crime scenes in order to help solve crimes. This would involve working with police officers during the investigation. You may work directly for a police force or with a security services company that works with the police.

It would be your job to recover evidence from all types of crime, ranging from minor crimes to murder and rape. If you were an assistant SOCO or volume crime scene investigator (VCSI), you would deal with more common crimes such as vehicle theft.

You would:

  • Protect the crime scene so that evidence can be recovered without being lost or damaged
  • Find out what evidence is needed and decide the best way to collect it
  • Record the scene using photography and video
  • Search for footprints and for marks left by tools or weapons
  • Record fingerprint evidence
  • Collect evidence such as fibres, blood, hair, paint or glass using various techniques
  • Put samples into protective packaging and send them for analysis
  • Keep records, produce statements and update systems with details of evidence
  • Give evidence in court and attend post-mortems

You’d need to be able to stay calm in unpleasant and distressing situations, and to keep confidential information private.

You would also need to be willing to work flexibly.

Working conditions

Hours

SOCOs provide services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which means you would usually work shifts and be part of an on-call rota.

Environment

The job can be physically demanding and involve working at heights, in confined spaces, and being outdoors in all weather conditions. Some of your work will be unpleasant or distressing. You would spend most of your time out on investigations, but would write up reports, process recovered evidence and prepare statements at a police station.

Travel

You would travel to visit each crime scene.

UK employment status

Full-time

Part-time

Self employed

Here are some of the skills that people in this job would be most likely to have:

  • Working as part of a team
  • Accuracy
  • Using computers
  • Being physically fit
  • Finding solutions to problems
  • Being logical
  • Coping with pressure
  • Researching and investigating
  • Planning and organising
  • Paying attention to detail

Build your skills

Your skills can help you choose the career that’s right for you. You can build your skills through work, study or activities you do in your spare time.

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you’ll need.

Qualifications

Entry to this role is very competitive and requirements vary, check the vacancies on the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) website.

Depending on the role, you will usually require: 

  • a degree (SCQF level 9/10) in a science-related subject such as biomedical or forensic science
  • or a Higher National Certificate (SCQF Level 7) or Higher National Diploma (SCQF level 8) in photographic studies

Due to the level of competition for jobs some people have a Master's (SCQF level 11). 

To enter a Higher National Certificate (SCQF level 7) or Higher National Diploma (SCQF level 8) course requires National 4/5 qualifications and one to two Highers.

To enter a degree (SCQF level 9/10) requires a minimum of three Highers at BBB; some courses will require qualifications are achieved in one sitting.

Useful subjects

Most science/forensic courses will require maths and science subjects, in particular biology, human biology and chemistry, and value English and social studies such as psychology.

Photography courses will usually value English, Art & Design and require a portfolio.

You will also need

You usually require previous experience in police work or related fields.

You are likely to need a driving licence.

You will need colour-normal vision.

Police services will carry out checks into your background and employment history. This might also include checking on your close family members. A criminal record may not always prevent you from being employed in the police service but you must declare any convictions.

Helpful to have

A qualification in photography or video could be helpful although not essential.

Qualifications and experience that show your understanding of security and police services, your ability to deal with the public and to working in sensitive situations would be useful.

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