Detectives and Investigators
Detectives and investigators gather facts and evidence for criminal cases.
Detectives and investigators work in state and local police departments. They also work in a variety of federal agencies related to criminal justice such as the FBI and DEA.
Well above the statewide median
$32.34 / hour Read more about wages
Below statewide average Read more about outlook
Education & Training:
|Work experience (in related occupation) is common.|
On the Job:
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Wages & Outlook
Total earnings for detectives who work for state and local government agencies often exceed the salary listed above because of overtime pay. Federal law provides special salary rates for federal law enforcement agents. This is because they are required to work a set number of overtime hours. They receive an additional 25 percent of their regular salary for overtime.
Wages vary by employer and area of the country. Wages also vary by the detective's rank or level of education.
Full-time detectives and investigators usually receive benefits. These include paid vacation, sick leave, and health insurance. They also receive life insurance and excellent retirement plans. Many retire at half-pay after 20 or 25 years of service.
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In Minnesota, about 948 detectives and investigators work in this small occupation.
All detectives work for federal, state, or local law enforcement agencies.
A more security-conscious society and concern about drug-related crimes will spur the demand for detectives and investigators. Growth is expected to be highest at the federal level. This is most likely the result of additional investigators working on homeland security and terrorism. The level of government spending determines the number of jobs. Job openings can vary from year to year and from place to place. Still, layoffs are rare because early retirements are common.
Despite high demand, the number of qualified applicants will exceed the number of job openings. This is for many reasons. One, the occupation is attractive to many because of the level of challenge and responsibility. Two, it offers excellent salaries and benefits without a great deal of education. Three, the turnover rate is among the lowest of all occupations. Applicants with military police experience or college training in law enforcement will have the best chances.
|Seven County Mpls-St Paul, MN||951||966||15||1.6%|
On the Job
Detectives and investigators gather facts and evidence for criminal cases.
In the last few years, prime-time television has been overtaken by crime. Crooks, thieves, and murderers dominate the airwaves. This doesn't mean that criminals are behind all the shows on TV. Instead, they're IN the shows! Dramas and even comedies that show all aspects of investigating crimes and convicting criminals, from detective work to forensic science to court cases, are hugely popular. We are fascinated by mysteries and respect the people who solve them. While TV tends to glamorize everyday life, many of these shows give us a good look at the life of a detective or investigator.Detectives and investigators work in state and local police departments. They also work in a variety of federal agencies. Their specific tasks depend on the size and type of the agency they work for. For example, a detective on a small city police force would perform very different tasks than an FBI agent. Nevertheless, all detectives have many duties in common.
When detectives receive cases, they begin by gathering data. They interview witnesses, suspects, and others who might have information. Detectives review and analyze records and case files. Many search computer files. Some types of detectives visit crime scenes to find fingerprints and collect other evidence. This can include blood, hair, fibers, or weapons. In some cases, they are the first to arrive at the crime scene. They make sure that evidence is not disturbed. They also keep potential suspects and witnesses at the scene. They may take them into custody or interview them. Detectives also may observe the activities of suspects without their knowledge. Sometimes detectives get court orders for searches or wiretaps. In addition, detectives record evidence with photos, videotape, or audio recordings.
Throughout investigations, detectives record their progress. They keep files on suspects and write reports of their findings. Records must be detailed and accurate since they are often used in court. When they have enough evidence to prosecute suspects, detectives make arrests. They often testify before the court or a grand jury.
Investigators often contact other departments. For example, some investigators work on task forces and must coordinate their work with other task force agencies. Another example is federal agents. FBI agents investigate crimes that violate federal laws, such as bank robbery. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents enforce laws relating to illegal drugs. These agents must keep local police departments informed of their activities.
Immigration inspectors interview people who are seeking entrance to the United States. They explain laws, check documents, and process applications for residence. They issue or deny permits based on their findings. Customs inspectors enforce laws that control imports and exports. They check cargo, luggage, and items carried by people as they enter or leave the U.S. They also seize prohibited or smuggled items.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Secure crime scene to prevent tampering of evidence. Alert appropriate medical and police officers, requesting assistance if needed.
- Preserve, store, and analyze evidence obtained from crime scenes and suspects.
- Interview witnesses, suspects, and others who have information.
- Examine records, case files, and other documents. Determine if more information is needed.
- Organize and inspect crime scenes to gather evidence, or inspect collected evidence.
- Observe the activities of suspects through surveillance, searches, or wiretaps.
- Record evidence with photographs, recordings, or videotape.
- Record progress of investigations, maintain files on suspects, and write reports of findings.
- Make arrests or assist with arrests and raids.
- Prepare assigned cases for court and testify before court or grand jury.
- Report information to, and coordinate activities with, other offices or agencies.
- Prevent illegal aliens or prohibited goods from entering the country.
- Interpret and explain laws and regulations. Process applications and issue or deny permits.
- Set-up and maintain surveillance of crimes scenes or suspects.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Document and record information.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Work with the public.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Process information.
- Communicate with people from outside the organization.
- Use computers.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Analyze data or information.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
- Operate vehicles or mechanized equipment.
- Explain the meaning of information to others.
- Perform activities that use the whole body.
- Resolve conflicts and negotiate with others.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a medium level of social contact. Detectives in some agencies have a high level of social contact.
- Communicate with others by telephone, in person, and e-mail. They also write letters and memos, but less frequently.
- Are sometimes placed in conflict situations where they must deal with angry or unpleasant people.
- Deal directly with suspects, witnesses, and others involved with cases.
- Sometimes deal with physical aggression of violent suspects.
- Are somewhat responsible for the work done by other workers.
- Are responsible for the safety of the community.
- May occasionally deal with people who may become physically violent or aggressive.
- Usually work as part of a team.
- Often work indoors, but sometimes work outdoors.
- Sometimes wear a special uniform. Many detectives are "plainclothes investigators."
- May sometimes wear protective or safety attire, such as latex gloves or bulletproof vests.
- Some detectives may be exposed to contaminants or diseases and infections from blood or other bodily fluids found at a crime scene.
- Are sometimes exposed to loud or distracting sounds and noise levels.
- May work in very hot or very cold weather.
- Often travel to surveillance sites in a car, truck, or van.
- Must be very exact in their work and be sure all details are done. Errors could have serious safety consequences for self, other detectives, and the public.
- Must be constantly aware of frequently changing events, especially while making arrests.
- Make decisions daily that have major impacts on the image of the department or company and on subordinates.
- Rarely consult a supervisor before making a decision or setting tasks and goals.
- Work in a competitive environment.
- Meet strict daily and weekly deadlines.
- Repeat the same physical or mental activities.
- Are usually scheduled to work a 40-hour week, but often work overtime.
- May work nights, weekends, and holidays.
- May work long hours during investigations.
- Sometimes travel a great deal, especially federal agents.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Sit when doing paper or computer work.
- Use hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- Stand, walk, or run when investigating cases.
- Kneel, stoop, crouch, or crawl.
- See details of objects whether they are nearby or far away.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Use fingers to grasp, move, or assemble objects.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- Use one or two or hands to grasp, move, or assemble small objects.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
- Use muscles to lift or carry heavy objects, or to jump or sprint.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Be physically active and use muscles for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
- Move arms and legs quickly.
- Adjust body movements or equipment controls to keep pace with speed changes of moving objects.
- Bend, stretch, twist, or reach out.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- While looking forward, see objects or movements that are off to the side.
- See objects in very bright or very low light.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.
Education & Training
To work as a detective or investigator, you typically need to:
- have a high school diploma or GED;
- pass a physical exam and background check;
- complete police academy training;
- have three to five years of work experience as a police officer;
- complete moderate-term on-the-job training; and
- pass a written exam.
To work as an FBI agent, you typically need to:
- be between 23 and 37 years old when you start the job;
- have a bachelor's degree from an approved school;
- have at least three years of professional work experience;
- have a valid driver's license; and
- be available for assignment anywhere in the FBI's jurisdiction.
In addition, you must have training in accounting, computer science or information technology, foreign language, or law. For more information about the requirements to become an FBI agent, go to:
Education after high school
You need at least a high school diploma for police work. However, most detectives and investigators have college training and at least an associate degree. Many community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities offer programs in law enforcement or criminal justice.
You must have three to five years of experience as a police officer before you can be promoted to detective or investigator. You need to demonstrate you have the skills to work as a detective. Some police departments require officers to pass a written exam and an interview before they can be promoted.
Fluency in a second language is very helpful.
Most police departments have training programs for newly hired or promoted detectives and investigators. These programs last from a few months to a year.
Some branches of the military train people to be law enforcement and security officers or specialists. Experience in either of these military occupations can prepare you to be a detective or investigator.
Training for specialists lasts five to 12 weeks, depending on your specialty. You need at least a bachelor's degree to enter the officer occupation. Training lasts seven to 28 weeks. Additional training for both occupations is on the job.
Related Programs (Current training programs available)
- Natural Resources Law Enforcement and Protective Services.
- Criminal Justice/Police Science
- Criminalistics and Criminal Science.
- Law Enforcement Investigation and Interviewing.
- Law Enforcement Record-Keeping and Evidence Management.
- Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysis.
- Suspension and Debarment Investigation.
- Maritime Law Enforcement.
- Cultural/Archaelogical Resources Protection.
Fields of Study (What to study to prepare for this career)
Click on any of the Fields of Study listed below to find out more about preparing for this career.
- Biological Sciences, General
- Criminal Justice
- Law Enforcement and Police Science
Helpful High School Courses
In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.
You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.
Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this occupation include:
- Computer Applications
- Criminal Justice Assisting
- Legal System
- Physical Education
The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.
You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.
Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career.
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.
People in this career need to:
- Understand spoken information by listening and asking questions.
- Express ideas clearly when speaking or writing.
- Read and understand work-related materials.
- Notice when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong.
- Analyze ideas and use logic to determine their strengths and weaknesses.
- Combine several pieces of information and draw conclusions.
- Use reasoning to discover answers to problems.
- Judge the costs and benefits of a possible action.
- Follow guidelines to arrange objects or actions in a certain order.
- Identify problems and review information. Analyze options and apply solutions.
- Concentrate and not be distracted while performing a task.
- Make sense of new information by studying or working with it.
- Think of new ideas or original and creative ways to solve problems.
- Add, subtract, multiply, and divide quickly and correctly.
- Check how well one is learning or doing something.
- Manage the time of self and others.
- Go back and forth between two or more activities or sources of information without becoming confused.
- Be aware of others' reactions and change behavior in relation to them.
- Persuade others to approach things differently.
- Solve problems by bringing others together to discuss differences.
- Look for ways to help people.
- Identify a pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in distracting material.
- Quickly and accurately compare letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns.
- Imagine how something will look if it is moved around or its parts are rearranged.
Reason and Problem Solve
Use Math and Science
Manage Oneself, People, Time and Things
Work with People
Perceive and Visualize
People in this career need knowledge in the following areas:
- Public Safety and Security: Knowledge of protecting people, data, and property.
- Law, Government, and Jurisprudence: Knowledge of laws, rules, court procedures, and the political process.
- English Language: Knowledge of the meaning, spelling, and use of the English language.
- Customer and Personal Service: Knowledge of providing special services to customers based on their needs.
- Computers and Electronics: Knowledge of computer hardware and software.
- Clerical: Knowledge of general office work such as filing and recording information.
- Education and Training: Knowledge of teaching and the methods involved in learning and instruction.
- Psychology: Knowledge of people, their actions, and mental processes. This may include knowledge of how to treat emotional and behavioral problems.
- Administration and Management: Knowledge of managing the operations of a business, company, or group.
People in this career are people who tend to:
- Consider support from their employer important. They like to be treated fairly and have supervisors who will back them up. They prefer jobs where they are trained well.
- Consider good working conditions important. They like jobs offering steady employment and good pay. They want employment that fits their individual work style. They may prefer doing a variety of tasks, working alone, or being busy all the time.
- Consider independence important. They like to make decisions and try out ideas on their own. They prefer jobs where they can plan their work with little supervision.
- Consider achievement important. They like to see the results of their work and to use their strongest abilities. They like to get a feeling of accomplishment from their work.
- Consider recognition important. They like to work in jobs which have opportunities for them to advance, be recognized for their work, and direct and instruct others. They usually prefer jobs in which they are looked up to by others.
- Have enterprising interests. They like work activities that involve starting up and carrying out projects, especially in business. They like to lead and persuade others, make decisions, and take risks for profit.
- Have conventional interests. They like work activities that follow set procedures, routines, and standards. They like to work with data and detail. They prefer working where there is a clear line of authority to follow.
- Have investigative interests. They like work activities that have to do with ideas and thinking. They like to search for facts and figure out solutions to problems mentally.
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.
Tools & Technology for Police Detectives
- Criminal Investigators and Special Agents
- Immigration and Customs Inspectors
- Police Identification and Records Officers
|Alcohol analysers||Infrared lamps|
|Charting software||Internet browser software|
Licensing / Certification
Certifications are examinations that test or enhance your knowledge, experience or skills in an occupation or profession.
There are 35 certifications related to this career.
No State of Minnesota license requirements are found for this career.
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Most employers require detectives and investigators to be U.S. citizens and at least 20 years of age. Applicants must have at least a high school diploma or GED. Law enforcement agencies may prefer applicants who have college-level training. Federal and most state agencies require a bachelor's degree.
Employers require applicants to meet strict physical and personal qualifications. Physical exams often include tests of vision, hearing, strength, and agility. Most departments also give psychological interviews, drug tests, and background checks.
Personal traits such as honesty, judgment, integrity, and responsibility are very important in law enforcement. Senior officers interview applicants and check their backgrounds with these traits in mind. In some agencies, candidates are interviewed by a psychologist or psychiatrist, or given a personality test.
The FBI requires applicants for special agent positions to be a graduate of an approved law school or a college graduate with a major in accounting. The FBI also considers applicants with college degrees who are fluent in a foreign language or have three years of full-time work experience. Applicants for other federal agent jobs must have a college degree and work experience.
Police officers usually are eligible for promotion after a probation period. This period ranges from six months to three years. Promotions may enable an officer to become a detective. Promotions to higher ranks are usually made according to a candidate's position on a promotion list. Scores on written exams and job performance determine a candidate's position.
Continuing training helps detectives and investigators improve their job performance and their chances for promotion. They can obtain training through police academies and other training centers. In addition, many departments pay all or part of the tuition for officers to work toward college degrees in criminal justice.
Detective Supervisor, Fugitive Detective, Fugitive Investigator, Narcotics Investigator, Sex Crimes Detective, Detective Sergeant, Narcotics Detective, Police Detective
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