A career in law enforcement as a detective or criminal investigator can be very rewarding. If you have great critical thinking skills, can solve complex problems, understand the importance of active listening, don’t mind speaking with strangers, have a strong ethical core and understand social perceptiveness, this may be the right career choice for you.
The education required to begin your career as a detective or criminal investigator varies by location. Every department sets its own entry-level standards, but at a minimum, a high school diploma or equivalent is required. However, to qualify for the job requirements as a detective or criminal investigator, most departments require an associate or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field.
In addition to the education requirements, many states or departments require prerequisites from their detectives. First, you must be at least 21 years of age to be eligible for employment. Knowledge of a foreign language is also an asset in many federal agencies and geographical regions. If you are not bilingual, you may want to consider using My Career Advancement Account Scholarship benefits or another funding source available through the Financial Assistance Resources for Education and Career Development page on MySECO to enroll in foreign language courses at your local community college or another education institution.
The job responsibilities of a detective and criminal investigator are mostly consistent, regardless of your location. A few of the major responsibilities include the following:
- Investigating crimes
- Collecting and securing evidence from crime scenes
- Conducting interviews with suspects and witnesses
- Observing the activities of suspects
- Obtaining warrants and arresting suspects
- Writing detailed reports and filling out forms
- Preparing cases and testifying in court
The work environment of a detective and criminal investigator can be physically demanding, stressful and dangerous. Junior detectives frequently are required to work weekends, holidays and nights. MySECO has an entire section titled Managing Challenges that will give you The Basics of Managing Stress, Time Management Tips and a toolkit to Bring Your Life into Balance.
Joining a professional organization and networking with your peers is an important part of becoming a detective or criminal investigator. Read The Value of Professional Associations for more information on how becoming a member can help enhance your career.
As a member of the military community, you may find a career as a detective or criminal investigator a good fit. Through your service member, you may be familiar with many of the concepts and practices of the law enforcement community, and a career as a detective or criminal investigator may come naturally. However, depending on your location, it may be difficult to find employment as a detective or criminal investigator. Important and unique skills you learn in this occupation may translate well into other jobs of potential interest to you. Some additional jobs you may want to explore include the following:
- Correctional officer
- Emergency medical technician or paramedic
- Private detective and investigator
- Probation officer
- Correctional treatment specialist
- Security guard
- Gaming surveillance officer
When you are ready to start your job search, visit the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Job Search to search for positions with organizations committed to hiring military spouses. A recent search using the keywords ‘detective’ and ‘investigator’ returned results for positions with the following companies:
To explore additional information related to starting your career as a detective or criminal investigator, check out the Research Occupations tool on MySECO. Enter the keywords 'Detectives and Criminal Investigators' to learn more about the occupational overview. If you need additional information on meeting the education requirements for your occupation, visit the College Scorecard tool in the College Exploration section of the Education, Training and Licensing lifecycle stage of MySECO. You can also speak with a career coach at 800-342-9647 or use the Live Chat feature on MySECO to discuss any questions or concerns you may have.