How To Become A Detective?

How To Become A Detective?

How To Become A Detective: detective, sometimes referred to as an investigator, normally works with a law enforcement agency. Called in for specific situations, a detective collects evidence and analyzes the facts in a criminal case. Duties of a detective generally include interviewing witnesses and suspects, examining records involved with a case, observing potential suspects, and taking part in arrests.

Detectives and investigators work on a full-time basis with the likelihood of paid overtime. Shifts during the weekends and the night are common for those without seniority on a police force. There can be great personal reward in serving the public’s needs for protection and justice. The career carries a higher-than-average risk of confrontation with criminals, personal injury, and even death.

How To Become A Detective

How To Become A Police Detective

If you want to be a detective because you love following the exciting developments in Law and Order, you probably need a reality check before you move forward. Being a detective can be exciting, but it also requires hard work, perseverance, and long hours spent following leads and waiting for developments. There are two main types of detectives: police detectives and private detectives. If you want to know if you have what it takes to become a detective, follow these steps.

Meet the educational requirements. If you want to be a detective, having a high school diploma or a GED is the bare minimum requirement for both types. But if you pursue a higher education and graduate with an associates or even a bachelor’s degree in something relevant to police work, such as criminal justice, criminal law, criminology, human relations, judicial function, forensic science, political science, and criminal procedure, then you will make yourself an even more desirable candidate. Many agencies require college coursework or a college degree.

  • You can even find a degree program that includes an internship component, which will give you more real-life experience.
  • While you’re educating yourself, see if you can find a useful foreign language for your community, such as Spanish. Knowing a foreign language is a major asset for many urban departments and federal agencies, and this will help make you a desirable candidate, especially if you live in an area where a second language is commonly spoken.
  • Getting a college or bachelor’s degree will also make it likely for you to have a higher starting salary.

How To Become A Homicide Detective

How To Become A Homicide Detective
Degree Level High school diploma (required); bachelor’s degree (may be required)
Degree Field Criminal justice or law enforcement
Experience Several years (varies by employer)
Key Skills Keen perception, leadership skills, communication, multitasking, physical stamina, basic computer skill and experience with software for crime scene management, crime information databases and computer-aided composite drawing; comfortable with handcuffs, polygraphs and fingerprinting and surveillance equipment.
Median Salary (2018) $81,920 (for detectives and criminal investigators, 2018)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net OnLine

A high school diploma is required to work as a detective. In some cases, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or law enforcement may be needed. Experience in law enforcement is usually required, but the amount varies by employer. The key skills needed by a detective include:

  • Keen perception
  • Leadership skills
  • Communication
  • Multitasking
  • Physical stamina
  • Basic computer skills
  • Experience with software for crime scene management, crime information databases, and computer-aided composite drawing
  • Comfortable using handcuffs, polygraphs, and fingerprinting and surveillance equipment

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for detectives and criminal investigators in 2018 was $81,920.

There are four steps you can take to become a detective.

Step 1: Earn a College Degree

Detectives usually begin their careers as police officers. Although a GED or high school diploma may be all that’s required for some police officer positions, many agencies require a college degree in criminal justice, law enforcement, or a related field. Both associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs are available for aspiring detectives. Students may take courses in criminal law, criminology, human relations, judicial function, forensic science, and criminal procedure.

It is also a good idea to take foreign language courses. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that proficiency in a foreign language can be beneficial for aspiring detectives, especially in urban surroundings. Some programs also include an internship experience during which a student can get real-world insight into the field.

Step 2: Complete a Police Training Academy

In order to be eligible to be trained as a police officer, an individual must be at least 21 years old and a U.S. citizen. He or she may also have to pass drug and polygraph tests. Police recruits must complete training academy programs and often pass written and physical tests before beginning to serve as officers. Individual police departments, and state and federal agencies offer these programs. They include a mixture of physical training and classroom study in areas such as firearm training, self-defense, traffic control, and first aid. Police academy graduates should have a clear understanding of state and local law.

Step 3: Develop Skills and Fitness

Detectives should maintain excellent physical and mental health. They can do this by engaging in regular exercise and fitness training, which better equips them for handling danger and stress. Detectives can keep a sharp mind by brushing up on new techniques and technology. For example, studying computer forensics can be extremely useful because of the increase in cybercrime.

Detectives must be very perceptive and observant to do their jobs. The ability to pay keen attention to detail is a very important quality for a detective. Individuals should cultivate these skills while on the job, paying close attention to crime scenes and accidents and learning how to capture details in reports.

Step 4: Build Work Experience

Detectives typically are chosen from existing police officers; thus, aspiring detectives should express their interest to superior officers to be kept in mind for promotion. Many agencies require police officers to serve at least three years before becoming eligible for detective positions. Promotion within agencies is generally based on an individual’s position on a promotion list, scores on agency exams, and an evaluation of his or her performance as a police officer. According to the BLS, growth in this field is expected to stay about the same in the coming years, but those with more experience and military training will likely have better professional prospects.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Detective

The only way to become a police detective is to work as a police officer, pass a test, and earn promotion to detective through the department. If you want to pursue a career as a detective without going through the police academy and working as an officer first, you can become a private investigator or PI. While you may not work to solve major crimes as a PI, you do have the opportunity to use investigative skills to help private clients.

Private investigators are detectives who work for their own clients, rather than law enforcement agencies. Private detective work doesn’t usually involve solving major crimes such as homicide, as that is the responsibility of law enforcement. Private investigators can help find missing people, gather evidence of spousal infidelity in divorce cases and expose insurance fraud. They may interview witnesses to a crime to gather information for the prosecution or the defense in a case. Other investigators provide bodyguard services and perform background checks.

Most states require all private detectives to have a license, and some require additional licensing for private investigators who wish to carry a firearm or provide bodyguard services. The requirements for a PI license are different in every state. The state of New York, for example, requires private detectives to be at least 25 years old, pass a test, pay the licensing fees, and have three years or more of work experience.

Although you can become a private investigator without first working as a police officer, many PIs are former police officers — and some states give preference to police officers in their rules for licensure. For instance, New York state will grant a PI license to a police officer with 20 or more years of experience, even if the applicant has no investigatory experience. All other applicants must have at least three years of experience as an investigator before applying for a license. You can obtain this experience by working for a licensed investigator.

If you’re interested in becoming a licensed detective, most states require you to work for one first. Private investigators sometimes hire assistants to perform some of their duties and learn the business in the process. Most private-detective agencies will teach you how to do the work themselves, but it may still be an advantage to have a college degree with some coursework in criminology, law or police science. Other types of investigative work, such as insurance fraud investigation, may also count as relevant work experience when applying for a PI license, depending on the laws in your state.

How To Become A Private Detective

A homicide detective’s job is to investigate deaths suspected to have been caused by criminal activities, as well as deaths with an unknown cause, in order to rule out criminal activity. Homicide detectives are sworn law enforcement officers. Homicide detectives, who are generally promoted from their initial position as a police officer or another position in law enforcement, often work for local, state, or federal law enforcement agencies.

Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

Responsibilities of a homicide detective include gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, conducting background checks on victims and possible suspects, identifying the responsible party (or parties), preparing cases for court, and assisting in the successful prosecution of offenders. Working conditions vary greatly depending on the nature of the current investigation. A homicide detective must be prepared to work under any conditions.

Homicide detectives are employed by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. Depending on the size and geographic location of the agency, the detective’s jurisdiction may cover the entire agency’s jurisdiction or a sector of the area under that agency’s scope. The nature of the work can be very dangerous and stressful, so the detective must be mentally and physically prepared for the tasks performed.

Steps for Becoming a Homicide Detective

The minimum requirements to become a homicide detective are a high school diploma (or a bachelor’s degree for federal jobs) and experience as a sworn law enforcement officer. More and more agencies are requiring prospective homicide detectives to have at least a two-year degree in criminal justice, forensic science, or a related field, plus prior experience as a sworn law enforcement officer. To become a homicide detective, you can expect a process similar to the one described below.

  1. Acquire the necessary education and/or gain experience in a related field.*
  2. Apply for a homicide detective job opening.
  3. Be interviewed.
  4. Undergo a background investigation and be fingerprinted.
  5. Get hired as a homicide detective.
  6. Receive training on the job once hired.

*Some homicide detective jobs require only a high school diploma, along with applicable experience in the field. Check the job listing for more details.

Please note that a degree cannot guarantee employment or career advancement. Additional academy training or education may be required for law enforcement jobs.

While police officer training varies depending on the locality of the police department, aspiring homicide detectives should be prepared to attend the police academy and to gain experience as a police officer, a crime scene investigator, or a sheriff’s deputy first. Detectives are generally promoted by police officers.

Other Helpful Skills and Experience

Homicide investigators should possess strong communication skills, the ability to remain objective, and the patience and empathy necessary to work through the often long and emotional process of a homicide investigation. Family and friends of the homicide victim, the general public, and the media often expect an immediate resolution, which may not be realistic, so the ability to set expectations (and reset them when necessary) is important. Military experience can also be an advantage.

Possible Job Titles for This Career

  • Criminal Investigator
  • Homicide Detective
  • Police Detective

Homicide Detective Salary and Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that detectives and criminal investigators earn an average annual wage of $85,020. However, average annual salary can vary widely based on location; detectives and criminal investigators in Washington DC, for example, earn an annual average salary of $122,520.1 The projected job growth for police and detectives is 7% through 2026, based on the anticipated addition of 53,400 new positions.

Related Careers

If you are interested in a career as a homicide detective, you may wish to research other law enforcement careers:

  • Conservation Officer
  • Criminal Investigator
  • FBI Agent
  • Fire Investigator
  • First-Line Supervisor of Correctional Officers
  • Fish and Game Warden
  • Narcotics Officer
  • Police Officer
  • United States Park Police
  • US Marshal
  • Victims Advocate
  • Crime Scene Investigator