Information on How to Become a Detective

Sherlock Holmes, Law & Order, Dexter - some of our favorite shows - do a great job at showcasing how exhilirating it would be to become a detective. As glorious as it may be, life as a detective does require great sacrifice, including long work hours, high levels of stress, potential dangers, etc. But if you have a passion for law enforcement, solving puzzles, and adapting to the latest technology, becoming a police detective may be the right career path for you.

The purpose of police detectives is to investigate serious crimes and help the police force build a solid case against criminals, including figuring out all perpetrators involved while bringing them to justice. They may also assist police officers and district attorneys in gathering and presenting evidence in court. Detectives are also known to spend much of their time surveilling individuals, searching for missing persons, performing background checks, and even going undercover to extract criminal-related information. If any of these job descriptions sound appealing as a potential career, here are some helpful tips to help get things rolling:

Police Detective Requirements:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Attain a strong educational background in fields related to criminal justice
  • Have a clean criminal record
  • Meet the physical requirements of law enforcement officers
  • Become a police officer
  • Gain investigative experience as a police officer
  • Apply and pass the detective test offered by your police department
  • Possess qualities (listed below) that can help you become an effective detective:
    • Excellent communication skills
    • Detail-oriented and have a sharp memory
    • Effective problem-solving skills
    • Be able to multi-task and prioritize responsibilities
    • Strong writing and typing skills
    • Tech-savvy. Able to use the latest technology to help solve crimes
    • Perceptiveness so you know which leads to pursue
    • Dedication. Be able to sacrifice and do what is necessary to solve cases

Police Detective Job Description:

  • Follow up on crime leads
  • Collect and analyze forensic data
  • Use evidence to piece together and re-enact crime scenes
  • Take fingerprints and run them through the national crime database
  • Process crime scenes
  • Keep detailed records of crime scenes, suspects, and evidence
  • Obtain & execute search warrants
  • Perform surveillance on suspects, victims, and witnesses
  • Interview victims, suspects, and witnesses in order to solve crimes
  • Present evidence in court, as well as testify to juries
  • Attend autopsies to build a stronger case

Private Detective Salary Information:

The salary range for a police detective can vary significantly based upon a number of different factors, including location, years of experience, area of expertise, and so forth. The national average salary for a police detective is approximately $65,000 per year and can range anywhere from $40,000 - $125,000 per year with the proper experience, training, and track record, as well as your primary location (bigger cities tend to pay more).

The different types of police detectives:

  • Homicide Detectives - Conduct investigations on violent crimes where someone has been killed, typically as a result of foul play. If after several months (or years) the crime cannot be solved, it gets handed over the the cold case files.
  • Narcotics Detectives - Specialize in crimes related to the illegal sale and purchase of controlled substances (narcotics). They may also try to infiltrate drug rings in attempt to bring down high level drug dealers.
  • Cyber Crime Detectives - Investigate serious crimes committed over the internet, including but not limited to scams, identity theft, child predators, itellectual property infringement, & illegal downloads.
  • Missing Persons Detective - Collaborate and conduct special investigations to help locate missing persons, often times related to child abductions and/or sex trafficking.
  • Cold Case Detectives - Attempt to solve specific crimes that have gone unsolved for at least a year. These types of crime are usually related to homicides and missing persons.

Continue Learning: Find out how to become a private investigator.