Career Development

What Does a Detective Do?

Find out what a detective does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a detective.

Detectives are responsible for investigating crimes and other incidents that occur in their jurisdiction. They gather evidence, interview witnesses, and interrogate suspects to solve cases such as murders, robberies, rapes, kidnappings, etc.

Detectives may work independently or as part of a larger investigative team. Their job is to gather information about crimes and criminals so they can help police make an arrest or prevent future crimes from occurring.

Detective Job Duties

Detectives have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Interviewing witnesses and suspects to obtain information about crimes that have been committed
  • Investigating thefts, burglaries, assaults, homicides, sexual assaults, computer crimes, narcotics trafficking, fraud cases, organized crime activities, prostitution operations, and other crimes
  • Gathering crime scene evidence such as fingerprints, DNA samples, blood samples, fibers, hair samples, and photographs of the scene
  • Conducting surveillance on suspects in order to gather evidence, identify new leads, or establish alibis for suspects who are being investigated
  • Writing reports about investigations, noting any significant findings and suggesting possible next steps in the investigation
  • Interviewing victims and witnesses to gather information about an incident or crime, or to confirm facts or details regarding an incident
  • Reviewing police reports and other records to identify patterns in criminal activity or identify potential suspects
  • Conducting polygraph tests, interrogations, and other investigative procedures to collect information from suspects or witnesses
  • Interacting with other law enforcement agencies to coordinate investigations or exchange information

Detective Salary & Outlook

Detective salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of work they do. Some detectives may work for a private company, while others may work for law enforcement.

  • Median Annual Salary: $52,500 ($25.24/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $87,500 ($42.07/hour)

The employment of detectives is expected to grow slower than average over the next decade.

The need to prevent and solve crimes will maintain demand for detectives. However, technological advances are expected to reduce the need for some detectives, as new technologies allow police departments to do more with fewer resources.

Detective Job Requirements

A detective typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: A detective typically needs a minimum of a high school diploma or General Education Diploma (GED). Some law enforcement agencies prefer to hire candidates who have an associate or bachelor’s degree.

Many detectives choose to pursue a degree in criminal justice or law enforcement. These programs typically take two years to complete and include courses in criminal law, criminology, police science, forensics, ethics and investigative techniques.

Training & Experience: Most detectives receive on-the-job training in their role. They may shadow a current detective or work in a different role in the police department before advancing to a detective position. Some detectives work in law enforcement before becoming a detective. Others have experience in other fields, such as accounting or computer programming.

Certifications & Licenses: Some employers may require employees to pass an industry-specific certification to show their general understanding of the field.

Detective Skills

Detectives need the following skills in order to be successful:

Active listening: Active listening is the ability to focus on the speaker and understand their message. Detectives use active listening skills to gather information from witnesses and suspects. They also use active listening to gather evidence from crime scenes.

Observation: Detectives use their observation skills to notice details about a crime scene or suspect. They need to be able to notice if a suspect is lying or if a crime scene has been tampered with. They also need to be able to notice if a suspect or victim is telling the truth. This can help them solve cases and find criminals.

Deductive reasoning: When working on a case, detectives use deductive reasoning to draw conclusions based on the evidence they find. They use their knowledge of the law and human behavior to determine what happened and who was involved. This is an important skill for detectives to have because it allows them to solve cases quickly and accurately.

Interpersonal skills: Detectives use interpersonal skills to build trust with others, communicate effectively and collaborate with others to solve cases. They use these skills to gather information from witnesses and suspects, conduct interviews and interrogate suspects. They also use interpersonal skills to build relationships with victims and suspects to gather information and solve cases.

Problem-solving: Problem-solving skills allow you to identify the source of a problem and develop a plan to solve it. As a detective, you may be called to crime scenes where a crime has been committed and you need to identify the perpetrator. You may also be called to crime scenes where a crime has not been committed but you need to identify the source of a problem and develop a solution.

Detective Work Environment

The work environment for detectives is usually an office, although they may spend considerable time away from the office conducting interviews, surveillance, or other investigations. They typically work a regular 40-hour week, although they may be required to work overtime, evenings, or weekends on occasion. The work can be stressful and dangerous, and detectives must be able to deal with the emotional stress of dealing with crime and criminals. They must also be able to maintain their composure in high-pressure situations and have the physical stamina to work long hours.

Detective Trends

Here are three trends influencing how detectives work. Detectives will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Use of Technology in Investigations

The use of technology in investigations is becoming increasingly common, as detectives are able to use a variety of tools to help them solve crimes.

One example of this is the use of forensic accounting software, which allows detectives to track financial transactions and find evidence of criminal activity. Another example is the use of social media monitoring tools, which allow detectives to keep track of what people are saying online and see if it relates to any current investigations.

More Collaboration Between Law Enforcement Agencies

As law enforcement agencies become more collaborative, detective professionals will need to learn how to work with other teams and departments. This trend will require detectives to be able to communicate effectively and collaborate on projects across different areas.

In order to be successful in this environment, detectives will need to be able to work well with others and be able to adapt to changing circumstances. They will also need to be able to manage their time effectively so that they can focus on the most important tasks.

Greater Focus on Cybercrime

As cybercrime becomes more prevalent, law enforcement agencies are placing a greater focus on investigating these types of crimes. This means that detectives who specialize in cybercrime will be in high demand.

Detective professionals who are able to investigate cybercrimes will need to have a deep understanding of computer systems and how they work. They will also need to be able to track down criminals who are using technology to hide their tracks.

How to Become a Detective

A detective career can be both rewarding and challenging. It’s important to consider all the factors that will influence your success, including the type of work you want to do, the hours you are willing to work, and the location in which you want to work.

You should also think about what skills and qualifications you need to become a detective. Do you have an interest in science or math? Are you good at solving puzzles? Can you think logically and make deductions? These are all qualities that can help you succeed as a detective.

Related: How to Write a Detective Resume

Advancement Prospects

The best way to advance in this career is to gain experience and education. Many detectives start out as police officers and then move up to detective positions. Some detectives may also have a degree in criminal justice or a related field.

As detectives gain experience, they may be promoted to higher-level positions, such as sergeant or lieutenant. Some detectives may also become involved in training new detectives. In larger police departments, detectives may specialize in a particular type of crime, such as homicide, robbery, or white-collar crime.

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