crime scene
san jose state
school students
scott evans
April 16, 2014

A CSI Classroom


Shelby: Television can make the job of solving crimes look almost glamorous. But what is it like to investigate a crime scene in real life? Scott Evans takes us to a classroom where students are getting hands-on experience.

CSI TV show: What do you think, Dave? Blunt force trauma to the back of the skull.

Scott: For fourteen seasons, the CSI shows have delivered body bags full of drama and glamor, solving crimes and catching bad guys in 43-minute episodes. Which brings us to this jam-packed forensics class at San Jose State in California. Today, they are collecting fiber evidence using tape. But here is the kicker: it is designed to be so boring, so anti-Hollywood, that it weeds out all the wannabes. But for the students who grew up watching CSI, they love it…every grueling minute of it.

Student: This is awesome! It is cool!

Scott: Forensics is the use of science or scientific methods to solve crimes. The field has several career paths to choose from. Some that can take you right to the scene of a crime or others where you basically live in a lab. Now, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, you can make about $32,000 a year in an entry-level position.

After more than 300 episodes, the so-called ‘CSI effect’ in the courtroom is well known, where real-life jurors, who have sky-high expectations of crime fighting, face a far less glamorous reality. But take a look at the CSI effect on enrollment at San Jose forensics. It shot up tenfold over just four years. Dr. Steven Lee tries to give freshmen a reality check.

Dr. Steven Lee: I tend to ask the students what they know about their interest. And if it’s generally just a TV show, I ask them to think about first taking some courses, perhaps even sort of shadowing somebody and understanding what the job is about before they make that decision.

Scott: San Jose graduates about 50 a year, but throw them in with all the other graduates across the country, and you have got a brutal job market. Santa Clara County Crime Lab Director lan Fitch said if he ever does have an entry-level position, there would be hundreds of applicants.

Ian Fitch: I think it’s a shame that people are coming out of these colleges with these forensic qualifications when they may stand no chance of getting into the profession.

Scott: But get this: students here know it. They just don’t care.

Jesse Ramirez: Just do what you love and try to figure things out later, more than anything.

Mirela Tabakovic: This is what I want to do.

Scott: Scott Evans, Channel One News.

Shelby: There are now at least 90 forensic science programs at universities across the United States. So, are you interested in a career in this competitive field? Well, head to for a crash course in forensic science.


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