How Do You Become a Detective?

If you want to become a detective, then it’s critical to build your qualifications, create a foundation of experience and seek promotions. Despite being one of the most portrayed law enforcement positions in Hollywood, the office of criminal investigator requires years of dedication, education, training and experience. The most traditional path to becoming a detective involves extensive police officer training, but private investigator detectives are civilians with experience in private detective work.

Build Your Qualifications

Whether you begin your career as a police officer or private citizen, the first step is building on your qualifications. States have different requirements for their police forces, but common qualification requirements involve a certain level of schooling. Some only require a high school diploma, but others require college coursework or degrees. Police departments prefer applicants have a degree related to criminal justice or law enforcement. Such degrees include criminology, psychology, sociology, forensic psychology, criminal justice and forensic science. Private investigators usually begin their career in positions related to surveillance, background investigators, tracking missing individuals, interviewing or similar jobs. Entry-level positions in these fields have various requirements, but holding a degree in criminal justice is a common prerequisite.

Create a Foundation of Experience

Once you’ve completed an adequate level of education, your next step is to create a foundation of experience in detective work. Future private investigators should seek out employment that will help them learn, develop and hone their detective skills. Becoming a background investigator is a common pathway many private investigators take. You can also gain valuable experience as a police officer. The hiring process typically involves exams, physical tests, psychological evaluations and background checks. It usually takes months to go through this process. The training phase, in the form of a police academy, takes at least six months to complete. It is considered one of the most prestigious police force positions to become a detective from within your own unit.

Seek Promotions

Building your qualifications and creating a foundation of experience are the keys to landing your detective promotion or PI license. Once you have built on these key areas, you only need to find an open position to apply for. Private investigators are citizens, so they need proper state licensure to operate under the title of PI. To apply, an individual must to undergo a background check and have proof of experience and an education. Applicants are then given a two-hour test on various laws, terminology, regulations and other procedures. If you are successful, then your state will grant you a PI license and you can begin working on gaining clients. Private detectives often partner with attorney’s offices. Police departments looking to promote officers to detectives require several years of patrol experience. Additionally, many police departments require further schooling, training or certification.

Related Resource: What is Information Assurance?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a positive job outlook for detectives, and the field is expected to grow about four percent from 2014 to 2024. Detective applicants must build their qualifications, create a foundation of experience and seek promotions to be considered for the prestigious position. While most detectives come from a police background, private detectives usually dabble in many areas of investigative work. It takes years to hone the necessary skills to become a detective, but the exciting career is worth the persistence!