Detectives, also called criminal investigators, investigate and solve crimes for government agencies. Specific duties vary according to the detective’s department, which could be homicide, anti-terrorism, narcotics, robbery, juvenile crimes or fraud. To become a detective, in most cases, one must work up the ranks starting from police patrol officer.

Many employers, including some local governments, require at least an associate degree, while state and federal governments require four-year degrees. Detectives must pass physical, medical, written and psychological tests. Acceptance into a police department is followed by training at an academy from 12 weeks to one year.

Degrees for Detectives

As more employers start requiring four-year degrees or the equivalent of work experience, earning a college degree is becoming more important. Moving up in the ranks with real-world experience takes time, but earning a college degree online while working full-time can also advance career promotion possibilities.

Detective Job Description

Detectives are officers in plain clothes who investigate and solve crimes in the following ways:

  • Gather facts
  • Collect evidence
  • Conduct interviews
  • Examine data and information
  • Observe suspects and other persons of interest
  • Participate in arrests and raids
  • Testify in court against those charged with crimes

Detectives can be promoted in the same way as police officers, including to the ranks of sergeant, lieutenant, captain, deputy chief and chief. In 2006, about 106,000 people were employed as detectives and criminal investigators.

Detective Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the middle 50 percent of detectives and criminal investigators earned between $43,920 and $76,350 in 2006, with a median salary of $58,260. Federal government employees earned the highest median income at $69,510, local government employees earned $52,520 and state government employees earned $49,370. Police and detective supervisors, meanwhile, earned a median income of $69,310.

The U.S. Department of Labor predicts “about as fast as the average” growth in the employment of detectives in both the public and private security sectors, particularly because of the increased concern with public and private safety.

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