Becoming a Detective

A detective and a criminal investigator, who are often called special agents or agents, have the job of collecting evidence and gathering facts about possible crimes.

The duties of a detective will depend on the type and size of the organization that they work for.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 109,960 active detectives and criminal investigators working in the US with an average salary of $79,030.

Typical Duties of Detectives

The typical duties of a detective consist of:

  • Investigating crimes
  • Collecting evidence of crimes
  • Conducting interviews with witnesses and suspects
  • Observing the suspect’s activities
  • Arresting suspects
  • Writing detailed reports and filling out the necessary forms
  • Preparing cases and testifying in courts.

detective careersThe daily activity of a detective will vary based on their particular occupational specialty and whether they work for a federal, state, or local agency.

The duties of a detective differ among the federal agencies that enforce different areas of the law.

No matter where a detective works, they will be required to keep detailed records and reports of their investigations.

These reports are needed if they are called on to testify in court.

Education and Training

Those applying for a job as a police officer or detective are required to have at least a high school diploma or GED.

In addition, a person interested in this type of work will need to complete the training academy for the particular agency that they wish to work at.

Most law enforcement agencies prefer candidates who have at least an associate’s degree in an area such as criminology, sociology, psychology, criminal investigation, or something related.

Those with bachelor’s degrees in one of these areas will be at an advantage when it comes to law enforcement jobs.

It is also recommended that an individual who is interested in becoming a detective learn a foreign language, particularly Spanish.

Other Requirements

Potential detectives must be a citizen of the United States and in most cases, be over the age of 21.

A person must hold a valid United States driver’s license as well.

There are numerous physical qualifications that must be met as well.

This includes agility, strength, vision, and hearing examinations.

Candidates for detective positions often must go through a number of interviews and may be asked to take a polygraph test.

A background check and drug tests are often required for these positions as well.

In most cases, a detective will have started their career working as a police officer and then be promoted to the position of detective.

For those who are interested in becoming detectives, it is a good idea to obtain secondary education in a field that is related to law enforcement such as criminal justice.

When working as a police officer with the goal of becoming a detective it is a good idea to pursue further education in criminal investigation.

This will increase your chances of promotion within your department.

Almost all detectives have at the minimum an associate’s degree in criminal justice, with the majority of individuals working in this field having a bachelor’s degree in this area.

Salary Information by State

State Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
District of Columbia2,870$133,890$64.37$175,340$85,560
New Hampshire390$83,970$40.37$145,270$54,720
New Jersey3,740$103,960$49.98$163,240$60,990
New Mexico1,840$77,480$37.25$99,990$43,830
New York9,950$110,390$53.07$169,100$61,410
North Carolina3,060$66,150$31.80$122,760$43,400
North Dakota370$80,890$38.89$129,750$48,030
Rhode Island390$90,340$43.43$140,860$70,160
South Carolina1,160$68,170$32.77$137,610$40,980
South Dakota220$74,700$35.91$129,750$46,450
West Virginia230$87,670$42.15$149,410$41,700
Puerto Rico520$85,560$41.14$145,480$33,270

Annual Average Salary: Top 10 States

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $133,890.

These are the top 10 earning states in the field:

  • District of Columbia - $133,890
  • Alaska - $128,410
  • Hawaii - $119,290
  • Maryland - $117,800
  • Washington - $110,620
  • New York - $110,390
  • California - $110,320
  • New Jersey - $103,960
  • Illinois - $100,140
  • Virginia - $100,010
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Detectives and Criminal Investigators, OCC Code 33-3021, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Michael Morales

About Michael Morales

Michael Morales is the Webmaster and Editor in Chief for With a strong background in Web Publishing and Internet Marketing, he currently works as an independent consultant. A former paramedic and ems educator, he enjoys punishing himself doing triathlons and endurance sports. Michael currently lives in sunny Northern California, home of the highest tax rates in the world.

2 Responses to Becoming a Detective

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    Thomas Ball #

    Detectives often develop strong communication and interpersonal skills, which are valuable not only for their professional lives but also for personal growth and development.

  2. Avatar
    Kevin Moore #

    Being a detective requires a strong sense of ethics, as you play a vital role in upholding the law and protecting your community.

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