Detective careers and Investigator careers are in high demand and will continue to be for years to come. There is a big variety of investigator jobs in the law enforcement career field, thus creating an increased need for qualified detectives.
Detectives, also known as investigators, are plainclothes law enforcement officers who gather facts and collect evidence for criminal cases. For the most part, detectives are looking to solve specific types of crime, like: robberies, car thefts, fraud and homicides. However, some detectives are assigned to inter-agency task forces to combat crime. They conduct interviews, examine records, observe the activities of suspects, and participate in raids or arrests.
Detectives are assigned cases on a rotating basis and work on them until an arrest and conviction is made or until the case is dropped. Investigators in State and Federal levels usually specialize in investigating one type of violation, such as homicide or fraud.
Most common reference to a detective is one on a local level and is associated with a sworn-in police officer who passed the detective exam, thus receiving a promotion. Detectives, or investigators, on a state and federal level are usually known as agents or special agents.
Most detectives and investigators must be U.S. citizens (born or naturalized). They usually start as police officers and wait until they are eligible to take the detective exam. After successful completion they may receive the promotion. Police officers usually become eligible for promotion after a probationary period ranging from 6 months to 3 years. However, certain departments, and most state / federal agencies, do require additional “fire power” – see Education and Training below for more info.
Education and Training
Nearly all detectives must successfully complete the educational and training requirements of a police officer first. Some police departments, and nearly all State and Federal investigation agencies, require significant academic and on-the-job experience. If one doesn’t have on-the-job experience on a State or Federal level an education equivalent is accepted – usually a minimum of a Bachelor degree.
Certain police departments may grant one a promotion based on one’s performance on the job. This is usually prevalent in smaller departments, but recently even the smallest law enforcement agencies started to add an educational requirement – some college credits, Associates degree, or a Bachelor degree – which must be completed at the time of promotion or within a predefined time frame (ex. 4 years from time of promotion). Take advantage of the fact that many agencies pay all or part of the tuition for officers to work toward degrees in criminal justice, police science, administration of justice, public administration, criminology, and others.
Depending on where one works, additional training may be required with the position of Detective or Criminal Investigator. Majority of new investigators gain the most training through performing the actual work and by collaborating with seasoned detectives.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual earnings of detectives and criminal investigators were $58,260. The middle 50 percent earned between $43,920 and $76,350. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,480, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $92,590. Median annual earnings were $69,510 in Federal Government, $49,370 in State government, and $52,520 in local government.
The salary information will be updated here with a new release of salary statistics by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so don’t worry about years of difference – it’s just a formality. Salaries for the current year are not that far off, but for the most accurate information call or visit the agency in question. Many police departments and county / state / federal agencies offer salary, benefit, and hiring info right on their website.
Detectives and Investigators have many career opportunities that can be obtained through tenure, training, and education. Investigation of murder, fraud, robberies, car-thefts, terrorism threats, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and other types of crime is contingent on which level you work at (local, State, or Federal), and which task force you’re assigned to.
Some detectives choose to become Private Detectives, or Private Investigators (PIs), after they finish working for their respective agencies. PIs are usually contracted to solve personal matters, including: unsolved murder or missing person cases, infidelity, insurance fraud, and more. Private investigation is different in scope from typical detective work, and therefore, shouldn’t be assumed to mean the same thing.
Take a look at other great Criminal Justice Careers.