Step by step guide to becoming a detective

Detectives in public law enforcement begin their careers as police officers. With experience and formal training, police officers can move up the list of promotions to become a department detective. Training and experiential requirements vary by law enforcement agency. For example, college degree requirements are typically stricter and higher for federal detective jobs than they are for state, local police and sheriff’s departments. Most law enforcement organizations not only encourage, but require, continuing education after appointing a job candidate to the force.

What does a detective do?

Police detectives gather and collect evidence in support of a criminal investigation. Detectives interview witnesses and suspects, collect evidence from the crime scene, secure and execute search and arrest warrants, and prepare cases for court. You may specialize in investigating one type of crime, like homicide, tax evasion or fraud, and work on a case from inception until trial. Detectives are often plain clothes police officers, depending on the agency. And because crimes happen any time of the day or night, they must be ready and willing to work whenever summoned to a crime scene.

What kind of skills are required?

A detective’s job is to determine who is responsible for a specific crime or range of serial crimes. To accomplish this, a detective must be perceptive and be able to communicate well while interviewing witnesses, victims, and potential suspects. They must demonstrate good judgment as they research the background of a crime and determine the best methods to track down perpetrators. The job carries with it a degree of danger. And because detectives are often involved in arresting suspects, they must also have physical strength and stamina.

The steps to becoming a detective

  1. Become a Police Officer
  2. Gain experience (2-4 years)
  3. Apply or test for promotions