How to Become a Detective in 2021: Steps to an exciting career in Criminal Justice

Identifying the need for a detective is just one of the many components law enforcement personnel handle.

Detectives gather evidence, interview witnesses, and find information on suspects in criminal investigations. Their skills are needed to help prosecutors convict those who break the law-and they contribute significantly to maintaining public safety overall.

To become a detective, you need to put in some time as a uniformed officer on the force. This allows you to gain law enforcement experience and develop the competencies needed for detective work. It may also be beneficial to get an advanced degree in criminal justice or related discipline.

Table of Contents

What Does a Detective Do?

Becoming a detective is not an easy profession. In order to determine if this is the right career for you, you need to know what it entails and look into some of the specialties available.

Duties and Responsibilities of a Detective

A detective’s primary aim is to prevent crimes by gathering evidence. For example, a detective might gather intelligence that points to an organized crime ring or drug-trafficking infrastructure in their jurisdiction. By gaining evidence before the crime is actually committed, detectives may break up these organizations and arrest central figures while preventing future crimes from occurring.

Detectives play a crucial role in society, and it is often the work of a detective to employ informants. They gather information about possible criminal activity and spend much of their time working closely with prosecutors – all to ensure those who have committed crimes are penalized appropriately.

Some more duties of a detective include providing information to victims regarding arrests and court hearings, serving as a liaison for police with the public, and resolving issues for civilians.

strategies and Techniques Used by a Detective

  • Detectives may rely on many methods in their pursuit of evidence to build a criminal case.
  • Locating criminals and interrogating them.
  • Investigating criminal acts, including interviewing witnesses-both the victim and potential perpetrators.
  • This job requires that you watch people who are suspected of committing crimes.
  • Reviewing and analyzing evidence that can be used to identify a criminal or information about their behavior
  • Gathering evidence and inspecting a crime scene.

Detective Specialties

There are different types of detectives. They do different jobs.

Homicide detectives: Police officers, detectives, and forensic scientists are usually the first responders to a crime scene. They quickly take control of the situation before it can get any worse or contaminate more evidence in an already disturbed environment.

These law enforcement professionals investigate deaths, confirming when and if there is foul play involved and tracking down the killer in order for them to be brought justice through detention by police custody until their trial date arrives so that they may face punishment accordingly.

Cybercrime detectives: Detectives specializing in cybercrime will track down hackers and other online criminals.

Narcotics detectives: Other detectives are tasked with monitoring drug activity in order to shut down trafficking networks.

Fraud detectives: Fraud detectives typically investigate monetary matters, such as identity theft, forgery of checks, and fraudulent workers’ compensation.

Commercial crimes detectives: The detectives specialize in investigating burglaries and thefts.

Robbery detectives: Generally, robbery detectives are responsible for investigating robberies and related crimes. Cases of bank robbers or serial robberies may be overseen by a detective that is in contact with the FBI.

Gang detectives: The duties of a gang detective typically involve investigating drug crimes, firearms, robbery, and property crime.

How to Become a Detective: Step-by-Step Process

There are several steps that need to be taken before becoming a detective. Specifically, aspiring detectives must have the right set of skills with the appropriate amount of experience.

Education and Experience

Educational requirements for positions in law enforcement can vary, but typically include a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or another related field. Advanced degrees and certificates are not always necessary, but they do allow aspiring detectives to compete for the best jobs with less experience.

Many law enforcement agencies, especially local agencies, require detectives to complete training at the state police academy and spend at least 1-3 years on patrol.

This is important because they learn from other officers about how the law enforcement system works. After spending a few years as patrol officers, they can take an exam to become detectives. It is competitive but many people study for it and pass.

Important Skill Sets That a Prospective Detective Need to Have

One way detectives may hone their skills is through education and experience. A detective’s fundamental skills include but are not limited to:

Critical thinking: Detectives are trained to review and analyze rigorous evidence, to reach the best conclusion. They need to think outside the box in order to solve challenging cases

A knack for solving problems: As detectives come up against dead ends or cold trails, it’s important that they apply their creativity.

An eye for detail: One of the most important skills necessary to become a detective is attention to detail. Detectives should always take in all information, because they never know which pieces of evidence will prove to be important.

Articulating Events: Communication is essential for detectives, and it’s also one of the most difficult skills to master. Detectives need to accurately communicate with witnesses, victims and suspects along with their supervisors, coworkers and even in court. Their communication skills will be put to the test at every interview or interrogation.

Computer skills: It is essential that a detective has the ability to find and evaluate online evidence, especially in regards to cybercrime.

Superior Writing skills: Detectives need to write a number of reports, so it is important for those entering this field to have excellent writing skills.

Level Headed: It is important for detectives to be emotionally stable, as they will often face unpleasant and sometimes disturbing circumstances at crime scenes.

Detective Salary and Job Outlook

The median annual salary for detectives and criminal investigators in the U.S as of May 2019 was $83k+ according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salary ranges for detectives depend on a variety of factors, including education level and work experience.

  • Experience: The more years someone spends on the force, the higher their salary will be.
  • Level of Education: An advanced criminal justice degree or certificate can result in higher pay.
  • Location: The amount of compensation offered will vary depending on the law enforcement agency, city or community, as well as factors like crime rates and population.

The BLS predicts that detective jobs will grow by an average of 5% each year. This is slightly faster than the average for all other professions.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What do I have to do to become a detective?

You must successfully complete all the coursework at the police academy, spend time on patrol as a uniform police officer, and then apply to become a detective after 2+ years on the road.

What is it like being a detective?

Detectives spend much of their time reviewing different sources of evidence. They interview witnesses, victims and suspects and testify in court cases. It’s also important for them to maintain their relationships with other police officers.

What is the work–life balance like as a detective?

Most detectives will work 40 hours per week, which may include some overtime. They often have on-call responsibilities as well. Some days are more interesting than others, but the job is generally very consistent.

What are the qualities of a good detective?

Detective work requires critical thinking skills and solid analytical abilities. You’ll also need to be able to communicate well and be detail oriented. Your ability to remain calm under pressure will prove extremely helpful when working cases that become difficult or stressful.

How long does it take to become a detective?

After you’ve completed your education, you can expect to spend about 2+ years working as a police officer. You will then need to pass an exam in order to qualify for training that will help you become a certified detective. On average, detectives undergo 4-8 weeks of training at a college or police academy.

How much money does a detective make?

The median annual salary for detectives and criminal investigators in the U.S as of May 2019 was $83k+ according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics . Salary ranges for detectives depend on a variety of factors, including education level and work experience.

What degree do I need to become a detective?

You don’t have to go to college, nor get any sort of degree. Many people successfully become detectives without going to college or getting degrees. However you do need to be smart and observant, and the better your education is, the better off you’ll be in the future. Many detectives have a degree in police science, criminal justice, anthropology or another related field.

Whether you decide to go to college or not, it’s still recommended that you get some sort of education because with the right amount of work and motivation you can make yourself into an excellent detective with just a high school diploma.

What is the average salary of a detective?

On average, detectives make $83k+ annually.

How long does it take to become a detective?

Becoming a police officer takes at least two years of training, most cops work in their respective departments for at least two- five years before becoming a detective.

What are some of the key skills necessary to be a good detective?

The most important skill needed is intelligence and passion. You will need to be able to think on your feet, analyze evidence quickly, and observe all the details in cases as well as suspects. You will need to be able to communicate well with people and have the ability to remain calm when tensions arise.

How many hours a week do detectives work?

Detectives usually work 40 hour weeks with some overtime as needed, but their specific job duties may vary depending on how busy they are or what type of division they’re in.

What degree do I need to become a detective?

A common misconception among people wanting to be detectives is that you have to have majored in criminal justice. While it is possible, as with any career, to pursue a degree in criminal justice and eventually become a detective, many law enforcement agencies do not require it.

Should I major in criminal justice or forensics?

Although it is possible to major in criminal justice or forensics, many agencies do not require their officers to have a degree.

Do you have to be a cop to become a detective?

Yes, you need to have at least 2 years of experience as a police officer before becoming an investigator.

What is the difference between criminal investigation and detective work?

A criminal investigator is a professional who investigates crimes after they have occurred. They are also detectives, but not all detectives are investigators. It’s the CSI department that usually investigates crimes, not the detectives.

What degree do I need to be a detective?

The path to becoming a police detective is different for everyone, but typically includes at least 2 years as an officer and then some sort of college education in criminal justice is accepted, but not required.

What qualities are necessary to be a good detective?

Good attention to detail and acute observation skills are vital for being a great detective. A true detective should always keep themselves

What is the best way to enter the field of criminal justice as a beginning detective?

You can start as a police cadet and gain experience or you can go to a college that has an undergraduate program for criminal justice and spend at least 2 years on patrol.

What are the average salaries of detectives?

On average, detectives make $83k+ annually. Salaries vary greatly but the largest part of the variation is due to education and experience in the field

Can you be a detective without being a cop?

No. You will need to have at least 2+ years of experience as a police officer, and then you’ll need to go through training.

How hard is it to become a detective?

It’s not hard if you follow the proper steps. It will take at least two years of being a cop, and then there are tests you’ll need to pass in order to become a detective.

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Minimum Qualifications

 Here are some of the basic requirements to become a detective. Note some agencies may have different requirements

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