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Detectives And Criminal Investigator Career

Career Description

Detectives and Criminal Investigators conduct investigations related to suspected violations of Federal, State, or local laws to prevent or solve crimes.

Common Work Tasks

  • Gather facts and collect evidence for criminal cases
  • Conduct interviews, examine records, observe the activities of suspects, and participate in raids or arrests
  • Collaborate with other authorities on activities such as surveillance, transcription, and research
  • Develop relationships with informants to obtain information related to cases
  • Search for and collect evidence, such as fingerprints, using investigative equipment
  • Collect and record physical information about arrested suspects, including fingerprints, height and weight measurements, and photographs
  • Compare crime scene fingerprints with those from suspects or fingerprint files to identify perpetrators, using computers
  • Administer counterterrorism and counternarcotics reward programs
  • Provide protection for individuals, such as government leaders, political candidates, and visiting foreign dignitaries
  • Perform undercover assignments and maintain surveillance, including monitoring authorized wiretaps

Other Job Titles

Detectives and Criminal Investigators are also known by other titles, including:

  • Police Officers
  • Secret Service Agents
  • U.S. Marshals
  • FBI Agents

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
  Applicants usually must have at least a high school education, and some departments require 1 or 2 years of college coursework or, in some cases, a college degree.

Law enforcement agencies encourage applicants to take courses or training related to law enforcement subjects after high school. Many entry-level applicants for police jobs have completed some formal postsecondary education, and a significant number are college graduates. Many junior colleges, colleges, and universities offer programs in law enforcement or administration of justice.

  Candidates should enjoy working with people and meeting the public. Because personal characteristics such as honesty, sound judgment, integrity, and a sense of responsibility are especially important in law enforcement, candidates are interviewed by senior officers, and their character traits and backgrounds are investigated. In some agencies, candidates are interviewed by a psychiatrist or a psychologist or given a personality test. Most applicants are subjected to lie detector examinations or drug testing. Some agencies subject sworn personnel to random drug testing as a condition of continuing employment.


The median annual salary for Detectives and Criminal Investigators is $60,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $96,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $36,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of detectives and criminal investigators are:

  • Local Government- $58,200
  • Federal Executive Branch  - $71,230
  • State Government -  $53,490
  • Postal Service  - $81,900
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools  - $54,000

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  17%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 18,000
  • Employment 2006 : 106,000
  • Employment 2016:  125,000
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