How to Become an Arson Investigator
An arson investigator determines the cause of a fire by examining the scene of the blaze, interviewing witnesses, and communicating with fire fighters. If you have an good eye for detail and an interest in law enforcement then you might like to become an arson investigator.
An arson investigator's role is to find the source of a fire in the case of suspicious circumstances. Fire fighters will alert law enforcement when they suspect arson, or notice a fire not behaving in the way it should. An arson investigator will also be responsible for collecting evidence to use in any legal proceeding which may result. They may also be called upon to testify in court as a witness.
Education Requirements to Become an Arson Investigator
The best entrance to a career as an arson investigator is a four year bachelor degree. Your major should be in law enforcement, subjects in engineering could be complementary. A degree in chemistry or biology may see you able to become employed in this field.
While you're studying you might like to volunteer for your local fire station, as this will start to broaden your knowledge of fires.
National certification is offered by the National Association of Fire Investigators, or
NAFI. To become certified you must meet the education qualifications and take an exam. Certified investigators must also take part in continuing professional development to keep their certification current.
Arson Investigator Job Description
When you become an arson investigator, you open the door to many excellent job opportunities. Most arson investigators work for law enforcement agencies at both the state and national level. When a fire seems suspicious, or someone is hurt or killed, the arson investigation squad will be called to the scene.
An arson investigator will begin by surveying the site and collecting any evidence that shows arson took place, as well as anything that gives clues as to the identity of the arsonist. This evidence may later be used in court.
After analyzing the scene, the will go on to speak with the fire fighters that attended the blaze. They will also interview any witnesses. Just like a regular crime scene investigator, they may send samples off for further testing, and spend some time analyzing what they find. Usually an arson investigator will work closely with other law enforcement professionals.
Working as an arson investigator, you may be called on to work odd hours or over weekends. Often you would be on call, and required to go to work when a fire occurs. Arson investigators may also be employed by insurance agencies to investigate fires to property or vehicles that may appear suspicious.
Here are some of the tasks of an arson investigator:
- Investigate the scene of a suspicious fire
- Take samples of evidence
- Determine if a fire was arson
- Communicate with law enforcement officials
- Writing reports on findings
- Testifying in court as a witness
Arson Investigator Salary and Career Path
Many who work as arson investigators actually begin their career in other areas of law enforcement. It's likely that when you start working you'll need to spend 1-2 years working as a police officer before you are promoted to the arson squad as an investigator. You might also start your career working as an assistant to other arson investigators. If you were to work for an insurance agency or fire department, you might start working as an arson investigator right away. With time, you might move on to more challenging roles within law enforcement.
Job prospects for an arson investigator are good. Being that this job is part of law enforcement, employment is also secure. There are good opportunities for arson investigators across the country.
The average salary for an arson investigator is around $77,000 a year according to SimplyHired.com. Those just beginning in law enforcement would earn less, while those with greater responsibilities could have the potential to earn more.
Here are some similar career paths you might consider:
- Crime Scene investigator
- Fire Inspector
- Forensic Scientist
- Police Officer
- Insurance Claim Adjuster
If you're interest in law enforcement, and are intrigued by fires and crime then you might like to become an arson investigator. It's a good way to embark on a career that is challenging and fast-paced, and also offers good prospects and salary as well.
*Salary Information provided by the Bureau Of Labor Statistics