How to Become a Police Detective

Unlike police officers – who are responsible for patrolling, issuing citations, and responding to emergencies – police detectives work as investigators. Detectives are responsible for looking into crimes to determine the causes and perpetrators behind the event. They interview witnesses and suspects, gather evidence, write reports for the data they accumulate, and also arrest perpetrators. Some police detectives participate in court cases to help convict suspects. Detectives can be employed at the local, state, and federal levels, and can specialize in different aspects of crime investigation, like cybercrime or drug enforcement.

Minimum Qualifications

Police detectives should be calm, collected, and able to handle pressure and high-stress situations. They should be emotionally stable as well, because their duties will include examining violent and gruesome crime scenes. Potential police detectives should have strong writing skills and work well on teams. The best candidates for police detective positions will also be adept at conducting research and analyzing evidence to reach conclusions.

Education & Training

The exact qualifications for police detectives vary depending upon the agency they work for. At a minimum, potential police detectives must have a high school diploma or GED. Some precincts and federal positions also require a bachelor’s degree. The best degrees for police detectives include criminology, criminal justice, psychology, and human service. Classes should hone students’ leadership and problem-solving skills.

Typically, candidates for police training should be over the age of 20. They should have a clean criminal record and should be physically fit. If a candidate meets these guidelines, he or she will then participate in interviews, background checks, and drug screenings. Only after a candidate successfully passes those steps can they advance to police training. Training for police detectives typically takes place at training academies. These facilities provide programs that teach students about the law, firearms, and first aid. Usually, a police detective will graduate from the academy and start his or her career as an officer, after which he or she will be promoted to police detective. Detectives then have the option of pursuing advanced positions within law enforcement.

Career Statistics

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment of police officers and detectives will grow by 14% by 2020. They earn, on average, around $55,010 annually, the BLS reports. The top 10% earns $88,870 yearly, meanwhile the bottom 10% earns $32,440 yearly. In particular, the median annual wage for detectives is $68,820. Police detectives can expect to have benefits like health insurance, uniform reimbursement, and retirement, however, exact salary figures and benefit packages will vary depending upon experience, location, and education.

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