How To Start A Career As A Detective

A detective, who is sometimes referred to as an investigator, usually works with a law enforcement agency. A detective is called in for specific situations, collects evidence in a criminal case, and analyzes the facts. In general, a detective’s duties include interviewing witnesses and suspects, reviewing case records, observing potential suspects, and participating in arrests.

Prosecutors and detectives are employed full-time, with the possibility to earn overtime. Weekend and night shifts are common on a police force for those without seniority. Private detectives tend to enjoy a lot of professional discretion, which is precisely what attracts a lot of investigators to the job. Such professionals often choose the number of customers they represent and the types of cases they consider while they work.


Nevertheless, private investigators must comply with all training and licensing regulations governing their practice before they reach this degree of flexibility. These standards are state-specific so that not all individuals need to have the same credentials, degrees, and licenses. To learn more about what you need to do to become a detective, continue reading below.

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Education And Training

Most detectives begin their professional lives as police officers. While a GED or high school diploma may be all it takes for some police officer jobs, other departments require a college degree in law enforcement, criminal justice, or a comparable discipline. For aspiring detectives, both associate and bachelor degree programs are available. Students can take classes in criminal law, criminology, human relationships, legal, forensic science, and criminal proceedings.

Taking foreign language lessons is also a good idea. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests that foreign language skills can help potential detectives, especially in urban environments. Many programs also include an internship experience where a student can gain insight into the profession in a real-world setting.


A person must be at least 21 years of age and a U.S. citizen to be eligible to be certified as a police officer. He or she may also need to pass drug tests and polygraphs. Police recruits are required to complete advanced training programs and often undergo written and physical assessments before serving as officers. Individual police departments provide these programs, as well as state and federal agencies.

These programs include a combination of physical training and classroom learning in areas such as instruction in firearms, self-defense, traffic control, and first aid. Graduates from the Police Academy should have a clear understanding of state and local law.

Work Experience

Detectives are typically selected from existing police officers. Aspiring investigators should, therefore, express their interest in the promotion to their superior officers. Before becoming eligible for detective jobs, many departments require police officers to work for at least three years.


In general, promotion within departments is based on the location of an employee on a promotion list, grades on department tests, and an evaluation of his or her success as a police officer. Growth in this region is expected to remain about the same in the coming years, according to the BLS. Still, those with more experience and military training are likely to have better career prospects.

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Average Salary

An investigator is responsible for gathering evidence and gathering facts about possible crimes. A detective’s responsibilities will depend on the type and scale of the agency for which they are employed.

There are 109,960 registered detectives and criminal investigators working in the United States with an average salary of $79,030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).


If this is a field that interests you, make sure you use the information in this article to get you started on the right track! For more jobs relating to law and criminal justice, click here.

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