Do I Need a Degree In Criminal Justice to Become a Detective?

DetectiveDetective work in today’s criminal justice industry is a highly competitive proposition, and often one that leaves prospective applicants wondering whether it would be a good idea to get a degree in criminal justice to become a detective. Though very few states require a four-year college education to get started in the field of detective work, the truth is that this field is relatively small and the people most likely to be hired are those that can prove they have either the right experience or extensive education to get the job done well and to do it efficiently.

Certification is the Base Level Requirement for Detective Work

Most states across the country require their applicants to have a high school diploma and at least one professional certification in either criminal justice or detective work. A forensic certification gives hiring managers a reason to believe that a new hire has at least a basic understanding not only of what they’ll be doing professionally, but also of the ethical requirements of the job and the legal concerns that often face many detectives as they attempt to get a difficult job done on a daily basis.

Certifications in this area are widely available at most local community colleges and vocational training centers, though some universities have begun offering such certifications as well. The catch, however, is that many certification programs at universities are post-baccalaureate in nature and can only be completed after earning a Bachelor’s degree.

For Better Job Prospects, Earn a Degree in Criminal Justice

Though the minimal requirement in most states is either a professional certification in criminal justice or a partial college education, the truth is that competition for detective jobs is stiff virtually everywhere. Most people who hope to get hired must therefore go above and beyond the state-required minimum and pursue at least a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Some colleges and universities might even offer a concentration in forensics or detective work, which would give job candidates an even greater edge over the competition.

For those who are seeking maximum competitiveness and a good chance at ongoing advancement after being hired, a Master’s degree is often the best bet. Forensics or criminal justice programs at the graduate level give students the skills they need to more efficiently get the job done no matter where they’re hired. This added level of educational attainment can often serve as the deciding factor when a police department or other agency is narrowing down a wide field of candidates to only those with the most impressive qualifications and long-term promise.

Related Resource: Become a Forensic Psychologist

Experience Counts During the Hiring Process

Finally, be sure not to discount the importance of professional internships and industry experience. In the absence of either a Bachelor’s or Master’s in Criminal Justice degree, many applicants might find that prior work in the justice industry or detective positions can help their application through each round of interviews. Internships and professional experience both help students engage in networking as well, which can be essential in a field this competitive.

Detective work is exciting and engaging for those who love a good investigation, but it’s a competitive field to break into, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The best bet for today’s applicants is to go beyond state-mandated minimum educational requirements and pursue a degree in criminal justice to become a detective.