Want to work in L.A., be surrounded by hotties, chase nut jobs with tragic flaws, and solve every crime just before Letterman comes on? Then you may want to be an actor on a crime drama.
But…if you want to smell real corpses, work 50-70 hours a week, and can handle the idea that you won’t always catch the crook, then actual criminal investigation may be more your speed. If you can piece together hair follicles, bodily fluids, and clothing fibers, then you have the profile to successfully pursue and arrest the bad guys.
Detail-oriented do-gooders who choose a career as a crime investigator have many options. You might work for a local police department where you figure out who spray-painted a huge phallus on Town Hall, or you may find a gig tracking down elusive felons at the state level. Once you master your craft, you can earn a jacket with those three famous letters: FBI. For those of you looking for some international flare, you can spend a career taking down drug lords, human traffickers, and arms smugglers for the Department of Homeland Security.
Whatever you choose, you need to be ready to:
Observe a crime scene and figure out what happened. Pick up guns with a ballpoint pen, tiptoe over dead bodies, and inspect every millimeter surrounded by caution tape. It's like putting peanut butter on an English muffin: cover every nook and cranny.
Make nice with forensic specialists. Remember that you are dealing with socially awkward scientists, so be patient. Bring chocolate.
Interrogate and question until it hurts. Be compassionate with the loved ones of a victim, and be hard on suspects. Listen. Take good notes. Trust your instincts.
Prepare for court. Have your notes ready, know the details, and show the judge and jury that you nabbed the perp.
The best investigators never stop training. Be ready to tackle the most difficult tasks, attend boring seminars, spend time at a desk, and observe EVERYTHING. Your career rests on your ability to pick up on the slightest speck of a detail that other people might miss. Don't be alarmed if this transfers into other areas of your life. Before long you will color-code your socks, know a lying twitch when you see one, and eavesdrop better than the neighborhood gossip.