When people hear about a crime, most feel bad for the victims and some might take extra steps to protect themselves from the same fate. A few people feel the urge to bring the bad guys to justice. If that feeling is familiar to you, you should seriously consider becoming a police detective.

Detectives aren’t just guys sleuthing around in trench coats and fedoras. They’re highly skilled professionals trained to gather evidence and facts to figure out who committed crimes and why. They work in local, state and federal law enforcement agencies doing everything from surveilling suspects to testifying at criminal trials. Detectives who work in small departments might do some of everything; larger agencies often have people who specialize in various kinds of crimes, like fraud, homicide and narcotics.

Becoming a detective takes commitment. You’ll need a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) certificate for sure, and some jobs require a bachelor’s degree. A master of science degree in criminal justice could help bring you to the top of the candidate pool, especially if you’re hoping to move into leadership down the road. Your first job will be as a police officer, where you’ll probably need a few years of experience before rising into the detective ranks. That degree will serve you well in a lot of ways, including counting as a year of experience in some police departments.

There are lots of great reasons to become a police detective. Solving crimes and doing good for society are high on the list, but you can do pretty well for yourself too. The median annual salary for detectives and criminal investigators was $79,970 as of May 2017. If you work for the federal government, you could be looking at a median salary of $84,660.1 Promotions to lieutenant, captain, commander and deputy chief are possibilities and the benefits are usually pretty sweet.

A career as a police detective? It’s definitely worth investigating.


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[1] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Police and Detectives, April 13, 2018

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