Police detectives, also known as criminal investigators or simply detectives, are law enforcement officials with specialized training and knowledge in solving crimes. When a tough case presents itself, police detectives are called in to survey the scene, collect evidence, and determine the motives and perpetrators involved.In order to become a police detective, you need to put in a considerable amount of time and effort. The academic and physical training is rigorous to make it up to the rank of detective.If you’re considering pursuing a career as a police detective, read on to learn more about the requirements you need to satisfy.

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What is a police detective?

Police detectives are a type of law enforcement officials, which rank higher than your typical police officer. These are individuals who work as investigators to look into and solve crimes. Their job involves carrying out tasks such as:

  • Examining crime scenes
  • Talking to witnesses and suspects
  • Gathering evidence
  • Writing reports
  • Arresting criminals
  • Appearing in court to help convict suspects

Police detectives are employed at all levels, including local, state, and national. As a police detective, you can specialize in a specific area of law enforcement such as drugs, standard crimes, or cybercrimes.

Being a police detective is tough work. The hours are long, and detectives work full time. Typical work shifts are 24 hours and new detectives can expect to put in a lot of long night shifts. The job can also be extremely dangerous and that’s why detectives must always be armed while on duty and by able to physically defend themselves.

Police Detective Requirements

  • Have a minimum of an associate’s degree in criminal justice
  • Be a police officer with a solid reputation (typically for 2-5 years depending on the police department)
  • Have excellent report writing skills
  • Show strong team working abilities

Candidates interested in becoming detectives must also exhibit the following personality traits:

  • Resilience
  • Perceptiveness
  • Dependability
  • Strong work ethic
  • Honesty and integrity
  • Trustworthiness
  • Open-mindedness
  • Critical thinking
  • The ability to think outside the box
  • Excellent organizational and time management skills

In some precincts, police officers may be required to complete a promotional exam and undergo further police detective training in order to become detectives. This may include further firearms training and physical training required to cope with the demands of the job.

Step to become police detective

In order to become a police detective, you have to first be a police officer. Police detectives are usually officers who have been promoted after making a strong reputation for themselves. After working for a considerable amount of time as officers, individuals may be considered for promotion to the rank of detective.

To summarize, here are the steps you need to take if you wish to become a police detective:

  1. Complete a minimum of an associate’s degree in criminal justice or a related field.
  2. Meet the minimum requirements for becoming a police officer and enroll in academy training.
  3. Work as a police officer for several years and build a strong reputation for yourself.
  4. Network with other police detectives and get valuable feedback from them on how to be selected for a promotion.
  5. Apply to be promoted to the rank of police detective.
  6. Complete any necessary further training or exams to become a detective.

Skills Required to Become a Police Detective in the US

Becoming a police detective in the US requires a combination of education, experience, skills, and personal attributes. Here are some essential skills and requirements to become a successful police detective:


A high school diploma or GED is typically the minimum educational requirement for a police officer. However, many departments prefer or require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, criminology, or a related field.


Most police detectives start their careers as patrol officers and gain experience on the job. Some departments require a specific number of years of service as a patrol officer before becoming eligible to apply for a detective position.

Physical Fitness

Police detectives must maintain a high level of physical fitness to meet the demands of their job, which can include chasing suspects, restraining individuals, and engaging in hand-to-hand combat.

Critical Thinking and Problem-solving

Detectives need to analyze complex situations, identify patterns, and think critically to solve cases. They must be able to gather and evaluate evidence, draw logical conclusions, and make informed decisions.

Communication and Interpersonal Skills

Detectives must be able to communicate effectively with a diverse range of people, including victims, witnesses, suspects, and fellow law enforcement officers. They need to be skilled in both verbal and written communication, as well as active listening.

Attention to Detail

Detectives need to be detail-oriented and thorough in their investigations, as small pieces of evidence can often make or break a case. This includes carefully documenting all aspects of an investigation and maintaining accurate records.

Ethical conduct and Integrity

Police detectives must adhere to a strict code of ethics and maintain the highest level of integrity, as they are responsible for upholding the law and protecting the rights of citizens.

Emotional Intelligence and Resilience

Detectives often deal with high-stress situations and traumatic events. They need to be emotionally resilient and able to handle stress, as well as demonstrate empathy and compassion when dealing with victims and their families.

Technical Skills

Police detectives must be familiar with various types of technology and equipment, including computers, databases, surveillance equipment, and forensic tools. Some detectives may also need specialized training in areas such as cybercrime, financial crimes, or forensics.

Knowledge of Laws and Procedures

Detectives need to have a thorough understanding of local, state, and federal laws, as well as department policies and procedures to ensure they conduct their investigations legally and effectively.

Job Prospects and Salary

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), detectives and criminal investigators made an annual median wage of $86,280 in 2022.
Furthermore, the top 5 states in which detectives and criminal investigators were paid the most in 2022 were:


Annual Mean Wage

New Jersey$110,620

Furthermore, data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that the projected employment growth for detectives and criminal investigators from 2021 to 2031 will be -1%.

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