How To Become a Detective

If you are naturally curious, solve problems resourcefully and have an interest in human behavior, you might be wondering how to become a detective. Some detectives, also called criminal investigators, work as part of a police force. Other detectives are private detectives, or private investigators, who work for private citizens or companies. Both types of detectives investigate individuals and events, but they do so with different purposes.

Police detectives investigate crimes and accidents in which a law has been, or appears to have been, violated. They gather evidence, interact with and watch suspects and witnesses and are permitted to make arrests. Often, police detectives are assigned to a particular type of crime, such as homicide. Private detectives may work on legal inquiries, or they may handle cases related to personal or financial concerns. They work for the clients who hired them to perform background checks, conduct surveillance and uncover information in records. Private detectives must follow the law throughout the course of their investigations.

Police force detectives typically begin their careers as officers, and must earn promotion to the rank of detective. While the educational requirements to become a police officer vary from agency to agency, many aspiring police officers choose to prepare for their career by earning a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement or criminal justice. Upon finding a job in law enforcement, candidates must train at a police academy, where they will learn to defend themselves, use a firearm and respond to emergency situations as well as learning how to enforce laws.

A college degree may also be an asset for aspiring private detectives. These candidates often earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in political science or criminal justice in preparation for their careers. Some entry-level positions exist for private detectives, but many candidates gain work experience in finance, accounting or the insurance industry or as paralegals in a law firm. Military and law enforcement experience can also provide an excellent background. Additionally, private investigators often learn on-the-job from working alongside more experienced detectives. Private detectives may need to obtain a license, depending on the state in which they intend to work.

Detectives and criminal investigators in the police force earn $68,820 per year, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Private detectives earn a median salary of $42,870 per year, the BLS reported. While they typically earn less per year than their law enforcement counterparts, private detectives enjoy other benefits, like an above-average job outlook. The BLS anticipates job opportunities for private detectives to increase by 21 percent between 2010 and 2020, as compared to only 14 percent job growth expected across all occupations. They may also be self-employed and run their own investigation agencies, which allows them to set their own work schedule and wages. If you are a skilled problem-solver, are not afraid of confrontation and have an inquisitive nature, knowing how to become a detective could be your first step toward an exciting new career.

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