Police Detective Career, Job, Degrees and Training Information

What Does a Police Detective Do?

Police detectives gather evidence and investigate crimes. Some are assigned to work for an interagency task force that specializes in specific crimes such as homicide or fraud. They examine records, conduct interviews, and arrest suspected criminals. They are assigned cases on a rotating basis and will work on a case until it is closed or a conviction is secured.

A career as a police detective typically means long days, intermitent battles with politics, investigative dead ends and regular sleepless nights. This career can also lead to a fulfilling adventure into the world of law and criminal justice. Most police detectives specialize in a specific area – such as white collar crimes, homicide or sex crimes – and they work each case until it is either solved or goes 'cold'.

A few select police detectives are commissioned by federal law enforcement agencies to work on task forces toward a common end. For example, VICAP (Violent Criminal Apprehension Unit) is a task force that is comprised of FBI Profilers, FBI Special Agents, police detectives and forensic pathologists who investigate violent crimes with federal jurisdiction.

Police Detective Salary, Earnings and Wage Information

The average pay for a Police Detective is $81,490 per year or $40.06 hourly wage, with a range of $42,880-$135,530. There is a positive trend for pay by experience for Police Detectives. Employment and pay for Police Detectives varies greatly from state to state, with Police Detectives in California and New York earning annual salaries considerably higher than the national average.

Source: US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Payscale.com, Salary.com

How to Become a Police Detective

To become a police detective you must usually start out as a uniformed police patrol officer. A patrol officer is required to pay his or her dues and gaining experience and education before moving up the ranks to become a police detective. As positions become available a police officer can test for the position of police detective. Many police agencies allow patrol officers to test to become a detective after 2 to 3 years with the department. Some departments require 5 years. The promotion from police patrol officer to police detective is typically not a speedy process. Larger departments require applicants to possess 60 units of college credit or an associate degree. Smaller police departments may not require college credit but a college degree or college education at some level makes for a much more well-rounded and qualified police detective.

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