CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a detective.
Is becoming a detective right for me?
The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:
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Earn a College Degree
A detective will typically begin their career as a police officer. Although a high school diploma may be all that's required for some police officer positions, many agencies require a college degree.
Both associate and bachelor degree programs are available in criminal justice, law enforcement, or a related field. Courses include criminal law, criminology, human relations, judicial function, forensic science, and criminal procedure. Some programs may also include an internship experience where students can acquire real-world insights.
Complete Training Academy
If an individual is going through the police officer route to become a detective, he or she must be at least 21 years old, a U.S. citizen, and needs to pass a drug and polygraph test. Police recruits must also complete a training academy program (police departments and state/federal agencies offer these). They must also pass written and physical tests which include a mixture of physical training and classroom study in areas such as firearm training, self defence, traffic control, and first aid.
Detectives can keep a sharp mind by brushing up on new techniques and technology. An example is studying computer forensics or forensic science, which can be very relevant to the job due to the increase in cybercrime. It is important for detectives to be very perceptive, observant, and have a keen attention to detail. These skills can be cultivated while on the job, paying close attention to people and their surroundings and learning how to capture these details in reports.
Build Work Experience
Many police agencies require police officers to serve at least three years before becoming eligible for detective positions. Aspiring detectives should express their interest to their superiors to be kept in mind for promotion. Promotion within an agency is generally based on an evaluation of an individual's performance as a police officer. Those with more experience and military training will likely have better prospects.