Fire is one of nature’s most destructive forces, so it isn’t surprising that some individuals harness it for criminal purposes. Arson is a major problem. It not only causes severe property damage, but also loss of life. Furthermore, the danger isn’t necessarily limited to the arsonist’s target; fire, as we all know, can spread rather quickly.
Because of this, it is important that arsonists are caught before they do any more damage. Arson Investigators are highly-trained individuals whose specific purpose is to examine the remains of a fire for evidence of arson. By examining the scene, an Arson Investigator can determine when and how the fire started, if the fire was accidental and if the crime of arson has been committed.
Arson Investigators are careful to study the crime scene for the fire’s path, tracing it to its point of origin. Once they find where the fire was started, they can then conduct physical and chemical analysis to determine the cause. Any evidence they find that supports the case for arson can be used in court.
A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, fire science, forensic science, or engineering will best prepare you for a career as an Arson Investigator. A background in chemistry may be helpful as well. Many government employers provide on-the-job training.
Certification from reputable associations, like the National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI), will help advance your career in arson investigation. Consider joining professional organizations, such as the National Association of Fire Investigators, and applying for the training courses they offer.
The salary range for an arson investigator is $30,000 to $75,000, depending on experience. Investigators working in the private sector can earn at the high-end of this range.
While the demand for an Arson Investigator may not be high, it is enough to support a reasonable expectation of job security and a comfortable living. As an alternative you may consider working as a private investigator, which is a field in higher demand that also requires investigation skills.
About the author: Emily Nelson earned an M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before beginning her career as a science writer.