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How Do You Become A Police Detective

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Get A Bachelor’s Degree In Criminal Justice

What’s it really like to be a Detective?

The educational requirements for a detective vary state by state, but in most cases, some college is required. If you want to position yourself as a prime candidate for a detective position within the police force, you should start by studying criminal justice in college and learning the ins and outs of the legal system. This way, when it comes time to seek promotion you don’t need to seek additional certification or education. However, departmental certification could be a requirement later down the line.

Criminal Investigator Salary And Career Outlook

According to the BLS, detectives and criminal investigators earn a median annual wage of $83,170. However, pay rates fluctuate based on factors like experience, education, and role. The BLS reports that police and detectives at the federal level earn a median annual wage of $88,060, while state and local police and detectives earn $68,610 and $63,410, respectively. The BLS projects 37,500 new police and detective positions between 2018-2028.

What Does A Criminal Investigator Do

A criminal investigator works with other law enforcement officers to solve crimes. They must work diligently to ensure the apprehension of the correct suspects and thoroughly analyze crime scenes to gather all relative evidence and information.

A CI regularly works with police, detectives, and other criminal investigators. While a criminal investigator may succeed in finding and apprehending suspects on their own, most of these professionals work with a team.

A criminal investigators job responsibilities and wages typically grow with experience. An experienced CI with a successful track record typically works on the toughest cases.

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Making A Name For Yourself

If, after becoming a police officer, your goal is to make detective, you want to spend your time on patrol making a name for yourself. Just like any other job, your work history matters here. While on patrol, you can develop a reputation as a hard worker, an independent problem solver, and a good investigator by properly, promptly and accurately handling those cases you’ll have the ability and resources to take care of on your own.

Your work product, and specifically your report writing skills, will become very important. Investigative reports are lengthy and extensive, and writing reports is a major part of a police detective’s job. If you don’t write well, take some report writing classes or a college-level English course to hone your skills.

Use the time you spend as a patrol officer to learn the ins and outs of police work, and take the opportunity to spend time with detectives to learn more about what they do and what kind of officers they’re looking for to add to their ranks. It will help better prepare you for the next step in your career.

How Can I Become A Detective Without Being A Police Officer

Why Become a Police Officer? 5 Reasons You Can


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.

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Successfully Pass A Background Check

You can expect any law enforcement agency youre applying for to conduct a number of checks into your background, including criminal history and even credit history. While this isnt literally the first step to becoming a police officer, it is the first one youll need to consider before you get too invested in the process. If you have concerns about how your background might impact your candidacy, you may want to consult a police academy admissions representative about it.

Your credit history may be analyzed because it gives potential employers an idea of your level of responsibility and potential problems like gambling-related debts. Police departments look into applicants history of criminal activity, employment, residency and academic records as well.

Basically, the police department is going to get deep into your business, says Adam Plantinga, and 17-year veteran sergeant with the San Francisco Police Department. Dont leave anything out on your background packet. If you omit something, even inadvertently, and it comes to light, you will likely be eliminated as a candidate. Departments are looking for responsible people who play by the rules.

Things like felonies and gross misdemeanors could disqualify you from becoming a police officer, but less serious offenses could also be problematicit really depends on the department and its policies.

Qualifying To Become A Detective In Californias Major Cities

Los Angeles Police Department, Criminal Investigation Division

The Los Angeles Police Department, Criminal Investigation Division is divided into three investigative units, each of which is led by an Officer in Charge , an Assistant Officer in Charge , and a number of investigators .

Individuals who want to become detectives with the Los Angeles Police Department must first become police officers with the Department.

The first promotion available to police officers is a detective within the investigation branch.

Individuals who want to become sergeants within the Investigation Division must have at least four years of experience as a detective.

San Francisco Police Department, Investigation Division

The Investigation Division within the San Francisco Police Department consists of three units:

  • Major Crimes Unit
  • Criminal justice
  • Criminology

Detectives with the San Jose Police Department are sergeants, which requires at least three years of experience as a San Jose police officer.

Other large municipal criminal investigations teams found throughout California include:

  • Fresno Police Department, Investigations Division
  • Long Beach Police Department, Investigations Bureau
  • Oakland Police Department, Criminal Investigation Division
  • Bakersfield Police Department, Investigations Division
  • Anaheim Police Department, Investigations Division

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Becoming A Police Detective: The Selection Process

When selecting detectives from the ranks of police officers, methods vary from one police department to the other. Some departments may conduct a written exam. Some may conduct an oral one, while some may simply make their decision based on work histories. Once you become a police officer, if your goal is to eventually become a police detective, you need to learn everything there is to know about the ins and outs of your departments selection process so that you know what you need to focus on and prepare for.

Salary Expectations For Criminal Investigators

How do you become a police detective?

Criminal investigators and detectives earn a median annual salary of $83,170, and the top 10% of earners make $109,620 annually. Industry and job level heavily influence salaries. The federal government typically pays the highest rates, requiring the highest levels of experience and education. Where a criminal investigator works also affects potential salaries. Those working in rural counties typically do not earn as much as those in busy metropolitan areas.


Education is another factor that affects potential salaries. Criminal investigators that earn a bachelors or masters degree typically find it easier to quickly move into higher-paying positions at the state or federal level.

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Challenges Of Being A Police Detective

Of course, the work of a police detective is not without challenges. Police officers report some of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. But the challenges of a detective career dont end there.

Unpleasant Job Situations

Officers regularly work at crime and accident scenes and frequently encounter suffering and violence. Detectives and investigators never know what they will confront on any given day, which leads to stress.

Personal Safety

Robberies can turn violent, and standard arrests can escalate quickly without warning. Public safety must be the detectives number one priority. Its dangerous work, and detectives must remain alert and poised to react during their entire shift.

Taking the Job Home

For detectives and investigators, their job often becomes part of their identity. Marital and family life can suffer from a detectives inability to stop thinking about an active investigation. In addition, law enforcement work is usually shift work, which makes maintaining a successful marriage and family life difficult.

Mundane, Boring Tasks

Stressful Environment

New Challenges

Get Accepted & Paying Your Way

Admission requirements can vary widely depending on the type of program and institution offering it. Another consideration is how to pay for this education and training. During your application process, keep the following pointers in the back of your mind to help you get into the best program to meet your needs and goals as a future police officer.

Entrance requirements

Entry into various degree programs in law enforcement will all require some general points, such as completing an application, paying an application fee and presenting proof of high school graduation.

The associate degree program might require:

  • A personal statement
  • Transcripts from any other college courses taken

The bachelors degree might require additional information:

  • An essay

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How To Become A Police Officer In Ontario

The police officer occupation is one of the few jobs where education is not a barrier to earning potential. According to the Ontario government, the average annual police officer salary in Ontario with a high school diploma , earned $106,788 in 2016 compared to police officers with a bachelors degree who earned $106,543. Interestingly enough, degree holders earned $245/year less.

This is great news for those who only have a high school diploma but are looking for a fulfilling career with high-earning potential.

While education barriers are relatively low, becoming a police officer in Ontario is not a job that just any high school graduate can land.

In this article, we outline key information to help you land your dream job including:

Ready To Start Working Your Way To A Police Detective Badge


Your dream police detective career wont happen overnight, but you likely didnt expect it to. Detectives do some seriously crucial work in society. They need to be well trained and good at solving crimes. Now that you know how to become a police detective, youre a little closer to cracking some of those cases yourself!

You know whatll be expected of you, you understand youll need extra training and youre ready to wait until a department needs your skills as a detective. If youre ready to tackle the first step toward becoming a police detectiveeducation, then learn more about Rasmussen Colleges Criminal Justice degree programs and how they can help make you a more well-rounded candidate for law enforcement positions.

*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, . EDITORS NOTE: This article was originally published in 2015. It has since been updated. Insights from Carlin remain from the original article.

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Whats Covered In Academy Training

Local agencies, such as the Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training, dictate the level of training required to become a police officer in their region. Academy training includes a blend of classroom and practical training. Youll take classes in firearms, first aid, criminal law, emergency vehicle operations, defensive tactics, and investigations. At the same time, youll learn about department processes for procedures like arrests and reports.

Most programs will include specialized training, based on the location. For example, departments in large metro areas may train on counterterrorism, riot control, and bomb squad. In addition, other programs may focus on community policing, problem-solving, and patrolling.

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How To Become A Private Detective

Private detectives are usually employed by private investigation agencies or private clients. They dig up information regarding the financial, legal and personal matters of people. Seeing private detectives in movies is always fascinating and makes one wonder how to be a detective. And what do you need to become a detective? Knowing and respecting the laws are the basic tenets of becoming a private detective.

Additionally, you have to apply for a license to operate legally as a private investigator. You have to demonstrate that you are worthy of being licensed. Experience is given preference over the level of education in this field. However, you may be allowed to forego the experience if you have been in the military, law enforcement agency or a private detective training.

Private investigators might be allowed to carry a weapon for self-defence. Hence, you need to undergo firearms training. Additionally, self-defence training may also be a requirement. Besides the experience and education requirement, there should not be any criminal conviction record of you. You have to submit your fingerprints for a federal criminal database check.

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What Happens After Youre Sworn

A career in policing begins with training at Ontario Police College in Alymer, Ontario. OPP recruits receive additional training through the Provincial Police Academy, located at OPP General Headquarters in Orillia.

Experts in areas such as crisis intervention and de-escalation will teach you how to uphold the law and preserve public safety, while treating each and every member of the public with respect, compassion and fairness.

Pay Attention To Established Detectives

Police Jobs : How to Become a Cop

As a police officer, youll often work closely with police detectives, and if you want to be one of them, its wise to pay attention to what they do, Carlin says. Often, experience teaches detectives how to tactfully deliver bad news, communicate with firmness and sensitivity in tragic-but-timely investigations and read body language to successfully interrogate suspects.

Police officers are trained to perform all of the above skills, but police detectives have the benefit of years of experience to master them. Pay close attention to the way they operate when the opportunity presents itself.

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How Long Does It Take To Become A Detective

The term detective may summon images of the fast-moving, smartly dressed characters of James Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Rico Thomas from Miami Vice or the supernaturally adept Jessica Jones from the eponymous TV show. The truth is that real detective work is far removed from the glamorous media portrayals, requiring incredible patience, investigative rigor, and ironclad ethics.

In addition to being exposed to potentially dangerous individuals and situations, the process of solving cases can take months or even years, much of it spent poring over documents, photographs, and files. Despite the challenges, however, becoming a detective can be a rewarding profession, providing the deep personal satisfaction that comes from solving crimes and bringing resolution to victims.

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First, theres a difference between police detectives and private investigators , although the two fields have overlapping competencies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics , police detectives typically garner investigative experience through their work in law enforcement and have become detectives as a promotion through the agency. On the job, they may conduct interviews with witnesses or suspects examine records collect and carefully document evidence prepare reports observe the activity of subjects secure scenes of crimes get arrest warrants participate in the apprehension of criminals, and serve as expert witnesses in court.

How To Become A Police Detective: Your 6

By Brianna Flavin on 08/16/2018

Police detectives might make their job look easy, but theres more to it than the dusting for prints and intense interrogations of suspects found in crime dramas. Working in law enforcement can mean long hours and unsafe working conditions, but it also means helping people in need and bringing criminals to justice.

If detective work is what youre drawn to, youre likely wondering what exactly what you need to do to make your dream a reality. The first thing to know is that becoming a police detective starts with becoming a police officer. But if you want to take that next step in your careeror youre just curious about becoming a detectiveheres where to begin.

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Experience Needed To Become A Detective

Ultimately, a college degree can only get you so far in your quest to become a detective. Your experience as a police officer and the impression you make upon your superior officers through your work is what will land you a promotion to police detective. You should expect to spend at least a couple of years in generalist positions like patrol officer before you are considered qualified for advancement to a specialist position like investigator.

Aspiring detectives get started in law enforcement in the same way as other police officers. Once they meet eligibility requirements such as age, citizenship status and a clean criminal record, applicants can apply for available law enforcement positions. Once hired, they become cadets at a police academy. Academy complete training can last for up to several months and cover areas such as emergency response, patrol, traffic control, first aid and firearm and self-defense techniques, the BLS reported.

Although theres no substitute for years of hard work as a patrol officer, building relationships with and learning new skills from the police detectives you work with can help you prepare for advancement to a police detective role faster.

Work Environment About This Section

How Do You Become A Police Detective

Police and detectives held about 795,000 jobs in 2020. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up police and detectives was distributed as follows:

Police and sheriffs patrol officers 671,200
Federal government 8

Police and detective work can be physically demanding, stressful, and dangerous. Officers must be alert and ready to react throughout their entire shift. Officers regularly work at crime and accident scenes and encounter suffering and the results of violence. Although a career in law enforcement may be stressful, many officers find it rewarding to help members of their communities.

Some federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Secret Service, require extensive travel, often on short notice. These agents may relocate a number of times over the course of their careers. Other agencies, such as U.S. Border Patrol, may require work outdoors in rugged terrain and in all kinds of weather.

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