Detective work is a high-pressure but rewarding job that has profound effects on communities. You will need a degree or significant police experience (in some cases both) to become a detective. You must focus on gaining expertise with the variety of activities that detectives have to perform after meeting basic qualifications criteria and joining the job, including gathering evidence, questioning witnesses, appearing in court, and writing reports. Once you’ve got your feet wet, study and experience will allow you to further your education and develop your skills.
Meets Specific Requirements
1. Browse your local police force’s website for entrance requirements. Check the website of the police force in your area to find out the eligibility requirements for signing up. If you can’t find the information, call your local station’s non-emergency number. Tell them you’re interested in joining the force. You also be able to talk to police recruiters at a career day or job fair if there’s one in your area.
2. Comply with eligibility requirements. You will have to wait until, at least, you are the minimum age. You’ll most likely need a high school diploma, if not a college diploma. The basic expectations include usually items such as:
- Be a citizen of the country in which you reside. You must also reside in the geographic area in which you wish to serve for some agencies.
- Be over a minimum age, for example, 18, 21, or 25.
- Have a clear criminal record.
- Keep a diploma in high school or a college degree.
3. Be in good physical and mental health. Being a detective is hard work, and often stressful, and it can tax your body and mind. Police departments want investigators to have: To do the job well:
- Excellent eyesight
- Good overall health
- No major physical or mental issues
4. Should not indulge in conduct which is dangerous, offensive, or illegal. Detectives participate in high-level research, and professional expectations are required to be excellent. As officials, they will be upstanding people. Take, for example:
- Detectives should not be using any illegal drugs.
- Many departments do not authorize offensive tattoos on officers or tattoos on their hands.
- Professional behavior on your record may make being a detective difficult or impossible.
5. Gain any Police Officer training. The Police Academy teaches you about procedures, investigations, use of force, and community relationships. Ultimately, this theoretical foundation helps you prepare for detective work, but the practical experience of actually serving as an officer is also very instructive. You can be a more suitable choice for detective posts after you have proved yourself as an officer.
- Some agencies require you, without previous police experience, to join the force directly as a detective. However, in a particular field, such as criminal justice, you might be expected to have a college degree.
6. Pass your exams on the detective. Even if you enter detective work with several years of policing experience, when you apply for the new job you will be asked to pass a series of exams. Each police department has its own collection of tests and will provide you with a timetable for the test. These exams can be extensive, and if not longer, take several days. They cover:
- A written test of your knowledge in law enforcement
- A physical ability test and an endurance test
- A complete look at the background
- A Psychological Assessment
1. Serve your time on probation. Normally, as an investigator you will be closely mentored and watched in the first few months to a year or more to help you move into the new line of work. You should start working on fairly straightforward criminal cases before dealing with violent, extreme, or complex crimes.
2. Master the Detective’s day-to-day duties. Like their television portrayals, detectives spend the bulk of their time-solving crimes and writing reports. They also do on-the-ground work cases, and sometimes appear in court. Common duties encompass:
- Picking up facts
- Witness interview
- Watching suspects, places, and events
- Getting warrants
- Official reports are published to help or close cases
- To appear in court
3. Practice caution. To do their job well a detective must be highly observant and aware. Focusing and multi-tasking ability is key to solving many cases. If you find it difficult to concentrate, you might try exercises in mindfulness to help you learn how to “live in the moment.”
4. Wait for opportunities for progression. When you gain experience working in a number of situations, promotional opportunities may be coming your way. For example, after a certain number of years of service, you may be eligible for promotion to senior detective. Do the best job you can, and let your bosses know you are involved in the prospects for advancement.
Developing Your Skills
1. Develop your communications capabilities. Detective work, like many law enforcement jobs, usually revolves around interacting with others. Since cases can often involve serious and sometimes dangerous situations, it is important to be able to communicate with others clearly and calmly and to listen carefully. Even investigators benefit from learning how to de-escalate problems by talking to others.
- Consider taking interpersonal communication classes to further your competencies in this area.
- You can also ask your superiors to host a workshop where experts can come and discuss how to communicate well with the detectives.
2. Further your education to increase the opportunities for advancement. Consider earning an advanced degree, such as a master’s degree in criminal justice, sociology, forensics, or a similar field. A few programs can be found online. Search for short term educational opportunities in these same fields, such as workshops or continuing education courses. Advanced education may also entitle you to pay increases.
3. Develop expert knowledge. Getting unique skills, such as learning a foreign language or familiarizing yourself with information security, is a bonus to law enforcement agencies. If you already have these abilities, let your bosses know so you can receive any pay raises or promotion opportunities associated with that.
- Consider taking classes to give you an edge if you don’t have any specialized skills.