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Criminal Investigators

Detectives and Criminal Investigators

Degrees and Education

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What's Needed:

  • Larger law enforcement agencies require advanced degrees, such as certificate, associate's or bachelor's degree in law enforcement or related major, and training through an outside educational facility or an internal training program.
  • A bachelor's degree in a criminal justice or related area of study is usually required in order to start a career with a federal law enforcement agency.
  • A high school diploma may be all that is required in order to obtain an entry-level policing job in smaller venues.

Along with regular classroom hours in constitutional law, ethics, investigative techniques and other elements of law enforcement instruction, prospective criminal investigators and detectives typically undergo specialized training in the handling of firearms, proper shooting techniques and self-defense methods to prepare them for the challenges of their new career. Even after a four-year course of university studies, most aspiring detectives and investigators must work their way up to these elevated positions of responsibility and trust in the law enforcement environment.

What courses you'll take

Below are examples of courses that you'll likely take as part of a criminal justice program that is preparing you for a detective or criminal investigator career.

Course Studies Purpose
Introduction to Criminal Justice Sciences Presents basic concepts for the justice system as related to criminal proceedings, including law and criminal procedures. Introduces the actual workings of law enforcement, courts, and corrections. Explores the inherit conflicts between control of crime and due process. Covers role of research in driving criminal justice policies and activities. Prepare students for more advanced coursework by giving them the basics and broad context of how criminal justice systems work within the US.
Introduction to Criminology Criminal behaviors and their causes, including biological, psychological, sociological, and neighborhood explanations. Covers types of crimes, such as violent and property crimes, and offenders. Applying crime statistics and research results in the field are studied. Give the core knowledge needed to investigate a wide range of crimes and suspects.
Criminal Courts State and federal criminal courts and how cases are typically processed. Looks at the roles of prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, clerks, court administrators, juries, plea bargaining, and sentencing in court proceedings. Problems facing courts and prosecutors in carrying out their roles. Gain insights into issues faced by police, prosecution, and defenders as related to detective and criminal investigator jobs. Apply understanding of the court system to its navigation as part of case work.
Criminal Investigations Topics typically include crime scene investigations, undercover investigations, handing of physical evidence, application of forensic science, and follow up investigation. Detailed topics may include interviews, witnesses, interrogation, report writing, and sources of information. Crimes are studied such as burglaries, robbery, sex offenses, homicide, and drug trafficking. Teach students to apply scientific methods to their investigation work. Give students the guiding principles behind each part of their investigations for a variety of crimes.
Law of Criminal Investigations Legal topics can include principles of criminal procedures, arrests, search, seizures, evidence, and proof. Case studies are often used to illustrate concepts. Prepare students to take into account legal principles in their work.
Electives Depending on the school, students may be able to take elective studies such as: Juvenile Justice; Drugs and Crime; Race and Criminal Justice; White Collar and Organized Crime; Psychology of Criminal Behavior; Gangs; Guns and Crime; Forensic Sciences; and Field Internship. Ready students for specialization and advancement within the field.

Video Overview

Shows a quick overview of criminal investigator work. Produced for the US Department of Labor.

Certifications and Licensing

Detectives and criminal investigators in the public service environment typically require no additional certification or licensing apart from their law enforcement badge. In order to earn that badge, however, law enforcement detectives and investigators must meet stringent standards of personal conduct and may undergo polygraph investigations and background checks in order to gain employment at the higher levels of criminal investigations. State licensing is generally required for criminal investigators who perform their casework outside the public law enforcement framework.

Job Flexibility

Full-time versus part-time: Almost all jobs in the criminal investigation field are full-time positions requiring significant overtime availability. Because these jobs are regarded as necessary for public safety, minimal flexibility is available for work schedules and shift scheduling is typically enforced at all levels of the occupation. Newcomers to the field or the working environment may be assigned less desirable shifts and duties as preference is most often given to investigators and detectives with seniority in the workplace environment.

Recommended Websites

These websites offer the most comprehensive and up-to-date information for individuals interested in careers as detectives or criminal investigators.
  • U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Handbook -- One of the most comprehensive sources for statistical and salary information on the Internet, this website provides in-depth information on the job prospects and expected working environments for detectives and criminal investigators.
  • United States Association of Professional Investigators -- Open to all professional investigators in the private and public sectors, the U.S. Association of Professional Investigators offers benefits for members and podcasts that can provide added insight into the workflows and activities of criminal investigators and detectives in the modern world.
  • National Association of Legal Investigators -- Founded in 1967, this organization is designed to serve the needs of private investigators in the field of litigation investigation. The website offers links and resources designed to provide support for investigators working on behalf of plaintiffs in civil and criminal legal cases.
  • Criminal Defense Investigation Training Council -- This website delves more deeply into the philosophical underpinnings and legal ramifications of the criminal investigation process. Designed specifically to help investigators in defense cases understand the processes and legal implications of various actions, this is an outstanding resource for public and private sector detectives and investigators.
  • U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation -- The federal agency responsible for criminal investigations within U.S. borders, the FBI is one of the best-known and most comprehensive sources for information on ongoing criminal investigation techniques and news in the field of law enforcement throughout the country.

Salaries by City

See typical salaries and ranges for this career below*. Shift click to sort by more than one column -- for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.

StateCity / RegionTypical SalarySalary RangeJob Count% of All Jobs
AKAnchorage$108,840$78K - $141K800.04%
ALBirmingham - Hoover$62,490$38K - $119K2300.05%
ALHuntsville$71,220$50K - $132K1200.06%
ALMobile$37,530$28K - $113K2300.14%
ARFayetteville - Springdale - Rogers$44,010$34K - $109K800.04%
ARFort Smith$42,310$30K - $74K900.08%
ARLittle Rock - North Little Rock - Conway$40,100$32K - $123K2200.06%
AZFlagstaff$71,780$53K - $112K500.09%
AZPhoenix - Mesa - Glendale$83,160$43K - $119K1,3300.08%
AZTucson$86,020$55K - $106K1,6200.46%
CABakersfield - Delano$73,830$61K - $112KN/AN/A
CAChico$71,110$39K - $97K500.07%
CAFresno$75,980$51K - $109K2500.08%
CALos Angeles - Long Beach - Glendale (Metro Area)$104,000$71K - $129K3,0900.08%
CAModesto$79,080$63K - $103K800.05%
CAOakland - Fremont - Hayward (Metro Area)$89,590$65K - $141K3800.04%
CARedding$86,020$52K - $119K600.10%
CARiverside - San Bernardino - Ontario$91,070$70K - $112K1,1200.10%
CASacramento - Arden - Arcade - Roseville$75,980$50K - $116K1,0100.12%
CASalinas$95,760$68K - $137K400.03%
CASan Diego - Carlsbad - San Marcos$96,690$73K - $122K3,0700.24%
CASan Francisco - San Mateo - Redwood City (Metro Area)$125,590$75K - $146K6300.06%
CASan Jose - Sunnyvale - Santa Clara$103,170$66K - $141K2800.03%
CASan Luis Obispo - Paso Robles$75,730$62K - $92K400.04%
CASanta Ana - Anaheim - Irvine (Metro Area)$97,300$65K - $133K7500.05%
CASanta Barbara - Santa Maria - Goleta$94,290$76K - $115K600.04%
CASanta Rosa - Petaluma$87,850$70K - $133K500.03%
CAStockton$81,520$52K - $129K800.04%
CAVallejo - Fairfield$77,520$67K - $129K400.04%
CAVisalia - Porterville$68,430$53K - $88K400.03%
COBoulder$67,450$49K - $91K500.03%
COColorado Springs$68,810$40K - $119KN/AN/A
CODenver - Aurora - Broomfield$82,760$54K - $128K1,1300.09%
COGrand Junction$73,400$50K - $123K400.07%
COPueblo$54,850$37K - $85K500.09%
CTBridgeport - Stamford - Norwalk$80,370$62K - $97K2100.05%
CTDanbury$68,130$62K - $77K400.06%
CTHartford - West Hartford - East Hartford$76,950$61K - $120K3500.06%
CTNew Haven$73,580$61K - $138K1800.07%
CTNorwich - New London$66,230$46K - $95K700.06%
CTWaterbury$49,760$33K - $73K700.10%
DCWashington - Arlington - Alexandria (Metro Area)$122,410$67K - $153K4,2300.18%
DEWilmington (Metro Area)$95,420$53K - $138K900.03%
FLCape Coral - Fort Myers$58,660$40K - $119K1500.08%
FLDeltona - Daytona Beach - Ormond Beach$47,610$39K - $66K1300.08%
FLFort Lauderdale - Pompano Beach - Deerfield Beach (Metro Area)$86,390$48K - $130K1,0100.14%
FLGainesville$47,220$39K - $112K1300.11%
FLJacksonville$82,570$41K - $123K3700.06%
FLMiami - Miami Beach - Kendall (Metro Area)$91,000$47K - $130K1,0100.10%
FLNaples - Marco Island$55,420$41K - $79K500.04%
FLOrlando - Kissimmee - Sanford$54,370$40K - $106K8900.09%
FLPensacola - Ferry Pass - Brent$51,330$36K - $123K1900.13%
FLPort St. Lucie$56,480$41K - $116K1300.10%
FLPunta Gorda$46,280$40K - $59K700.17%
FLTallahassee$47,060$34K - $80K4300.27%
FLTampa - St. Petersburg - Clearwater$66,990$42K - $119K1,2100.11%
FLWest Palm Beach - Boca Raton - Boynton Beach (Metro Area)$72,030$46K - $106K5400.11%
GAAlbany$43,920$30K - $123K500.08%
GAAthens - Clarke County$43,920$32K - $79K500.07%
GAAtlanta - Sandy Springs - Marietta$46,290$32K - $121K2,2300.10%
GAAugusta - Richmond CountyN/AN/A - N/A1800.09%
GABrunswick$115,920$69K - $133K1700.46%
GAColumbus$45,960$36K - $91K1800.17%
GAGainesville$42,920$32K - $90K400.05%
GAMaconN/AN/A - N/A1700.18%
GASavannah$75,690$33K - $126K1900.13%
GAWarner Robins$43,960$32K - $75KN/AN/A
HIHonolulu$87,110$65K - $125K3800.09%
IACedar RapidsN/AN/A - N/A400.03%
IADavenport - Moline - Rock Island$61,630$45K - $113K700.04%
IADes Moines - West Des Moines$66,400$47K - $113K2000.06%
IDBoise City - Nampa$66,670$34K - $123K1600.06%
IDIdaho Falls$59,150$43K - $109K400.07%
ILChicago - Joliet - Naperville (Metro Area)$86,240$56K - $135K1,8100.05%
ILLake County - Kenosha County (Metro Area)$71,770$62K - $113K1000.03%
ILPeoria$71,750$60K - $106K400.02%
ILRockford$68,740$60K - $116K700.05%
ILSpringfield$91,490$76K - $123K800.07%
INEvansville$54,700$48K - $103K900.05%
INGary (Metro Area)$64,500$43K - $127K1400.05%
INIndianapolis - Carmel$53,010$33K - $123K3100.04%
INLafayette$48,380$40K - $59K500.06%
INMichigan City - La Porte$43,480$34K - $48K400.09%
KSManhattan$55,020$38K - $71K300.06%
KSTopeka$44,240$34K - $72K1500.14%
KSWichita$62,740$44K - $86K3000.11%
KYBowling Green$47,720$36K - $132K400.07%
KYLexington - Fayette$91,740$38K - $123K800.03%
KYLouisville - Jefferson County$72,530$36K - $123K1600.03%
LAAlexandria$44,650$36K - $58K900.14%
LABaton Rouge$45,490$33K - $109K4300.12%
LAHouma - Bayou Cane - Thibodaux$43,410$35K - $60K700.08%
LALafayette$49,800$33K - $103K1100.07%
LALake Charles$41,650$33K - $92K1700.19%
LAMonroe$55,220$22K - $94KN/AN/A
LANew Orleans - Metairie - Kenner$71,770$37K - $126K4900.10%
LAShreveport - Bossier City$53,250$36K - $112K1500.08%
MABarnstable Town$65,930$48K - $88K500.05%
MABoston - Cambridge - Quincy (Metro Area)$68,390$48K - $131K1,3600.08%
MABrockton - Bridgewater - Easton (Metro Area)$59,920$42K - $98K1000.12%
MALawrence - Methuen - Salem (Metro Area)$64,520$49K - $90KN/AN/A
MAPeabody (Metro Area)$59,080$46K - $74K1000.10%
MASpringfield$58,870$41K - $128K1600.06%
MAWorcester$66,830$50K - $134K1200.05%
MDBaltimore - Towson$96,700$39K - $137K5200.04%
MEBangor$52,440$41K - $109K600.09%
MEPortland - South Portland - Biddeford$53,910$39K - $119K1500.08%
MIAnn ArborN/AN/A - N/A400.02%
MIDetroit - Livonia - Dearborn (Metro Area)$93,490$64K - $133K7300.11%
MIFlint$74,580$52K - $141K400.03%
MIGrand Rapids - Wyoming$102,280$55K - $130K900.02%
MIKalamazoo - Portage$68,170$52K - $100K300.03%
MILansing - East Lansing$69,380$57K - $116KN/AN/A
MISaginaw - Saginaw Township North$72,560$61K - $119K400.05%
MIWarren - Troy - Farmington Hills (Metro Area)$74,740$60K - $115K2700.03%
MNDuluth$58,490$50K - $95K1300.10%
MNMinneapolis - St. Paul - Bloomington$68,430$46K - $119K8000.05%
MOCape Girardeau - Jackson$98,780$45K - $138KN/AN/A
MOJefferson City$37,180$27K - $61K1100.16%
MOKansas City$69,480$41K - $118K9500.10%
MOSpringfield$111,810$34K - $126KN/AN/A
MOSt. Louis$63,200$41K - $123K5600.04%
MSHattiesburg$39,840$32K - $109K500.09%
MSJackson$49,950$33K - $102K5000.20%
MTGreat Falls$77,990$45K - $116K700.21%
MTMissoula$58,620$47K - $123K400.08%
NCAsheville$45,260$36K - $112K1400.08%
NCCharlotte - Gastonia - Rock Hill$51,580$36K - $123K4200.05%
NCDurham - Chapel Hill$48,010$36K - $63K1900.07%
NCFayetteville$52,420$39K - $89K1700.13%
NCGoldsboro$41,720$34K - $48K300.09%
NCGreensboro - High Point$46,890$30K - $119K2400.07%
NCGreenville$45,800$40K - $66K600.08%
NCHickory - Lenoir - Morganton$41,060$32K - $55K900.07%
NCRaleigh - Cary$56,810$41K - $116K4500.09%
NCWilmington$45,870$39K - $116K1500.11%
NDBismarck$38,840$25K - $100K700.10%
NDGrand Forks$91,750$53K - $112K800.16%
NEOmaha - Council Bluffs$64,100$37K - $119K1800.04%
NHNashua (Metro Area)$62,760$46K - $91K400.03%
NHPortsmouth$60,830$50K - $145K400.06%
NJAtlantic City - Hammonton$85,660$56K - $127K1400.10%
NJCamden (Metro Area)$90,510$67K - $123K3900.08%
NJEdison - New Brunswick (Metro Area)$104,150$78K - $134K5200.05%
NJNewark - Union (Metro Area)$101,930$69K - $138K8800.09%
NJOcean City$84,020$63K - $110K300.09%
NJTrenton - Ewing$88,360$67K - $120K2900.13%
NJVineland - Millville - Bridgeton$81,870$61K - $105K400.06%
NMAlbuquerque$71,780$39K - $123K2600.07%
NMFarmington$51,780$40K - $59K500.09%
NMLas Cruces$88,860$55K - $92K6701.01%
NMSanta Fe$50,130$38K - $72K700.12%
NVCarson City$65,680$52K - $76K500.18%
NVReno - Sparks$75,130$53K - $123K900.05%
NYAlbany - Schenectady - Troy$88,670$51K - $116K6800.16%
NYBinghamtonN/AN/A - N/A900.09%
NYBuffalo - Niagara Falls$78,270$61K - $119K6500.12%
NYNassau - Suffolk (Metro Area)$127,160$73K - $145KN/AN/A
NYNew York - White Plains - Wayne (Metro Area)$95,390$43K - $131K6,6000.13%
NYPoughkeepsie - Newburgh - Middletown$98,110$68K - $117K2500.10%
NYRochester$86,020$50K - $117K2600.05%
NYSyracuse$94,600$54K - $119K2300.08%
OHAkron$57,160$35K - $113K1200.04%
OHCanton - Massillon$56,120$29K - $81K600.03%
OHCincinnati - Middletown$68,040$49K - $110K4800.05%
OHCleveland - Elyria - Mentor$71,330$52K - $121K6200.06%
OHColumbus$59,160$41K - $109K5400.06%
OHDayton$67,010$43K - $125K1500.04%
OHToledo$57,710$42K - $109K1200.04%
OHYoungstown - Warren - Boardman$56,220$33K - $113K500.02%
OKOklahoma City$46,160$27K - $112K6900.12%
OKTulsa$45,380$27K - $111KN/AN/A
ORBend$78,980$64K - $123K300.05%
OREugene - Springfield$71,920$52K - $123K500.03%
ORPortland - Vancouver - Hillsboro$75,650$44K - $119K5100.05%
ORSalem$60,690$41K - $86K1500.11%
PAAllentown - Bethlehem - Easton$75,780$58K - $123K700.02%
PAErie$91,730$49K - $116K700.05%
PAHarrisburg - Carlisle$68,810$49K - $119K2200.07%
PAPhiladelphia (Metro Area)$73,320$58K - $126K1,4400.08%
PAPittsburgh$77,170$47K - $122K4400.04%
PAReading$62,970$34K - $119K1000.06%
PAScranton - Wilkes - Barre$74,390$49K - $123K700.03%
PAState College$67,560$55K - $94K300.05%
PAYork - Hanover$72,610$48K - $94K300.02%
PRSan Juan - Caguas - Guaynabo$39,730$27K - $113K5700.08%
RIProvidence - Fall River - Warwick$69,500$51K - $130K3400.06%
SCCharleston - North Charleston - Summerville$103,220$40K - $123K1300.04%
SCColumbia$48,740$34K - $113K3400.10%
SCFlorence$42,120$32K - $92K900.11%
SCGreenville - Mauldin - Easley$48,610$35K - $123K1200.04%
SCMyrtle Beach - North Myrtle Beach - Conway$61,620$39K - $113K400.04%
SDRapid City$58,820$43K - $123KN/AN/A
SDSioux Falls$89,450$43K - $126K500.04%
TNChattanooga$44,790$35K - $119K1400.06%
TNClarksville$46,830$39K - $87K300.04%
TNJackson$45,870$37K - $123K600.10%
TNJohnson City$40,070$26K - $112K600.07%
TNKnoxville$58,600$34K - $123K2200.07%
TNMorristown$41,660$29K - $60K400.09%
TNNashville - Davidson - Murfreesboro - Franklin$56,890$37K - $131K4000.05%
TXAbilene$42,330$32K - $70K600.09%
TXAmarillo$48,910$31K - $86K700.07%
TXAustin - Round Rock - San Marcos$57,380$33K - $107K1,3300.16%
TXBeaumont - Port Arthur$49,360$33K - $116K1100.07%
TXBrownsville - Harlingen$88,870$58K - $95K8700.69%
TXCorpus Christi$71,770$35K - $116K1800.10%
TXDallas - Plano - Irving (Metro Area)$73,800$36K - $130K1,1700.06%
TXEl Paso$88,860$52K - $106K1,6000.58%
TXFort Worth - Arlington (Metro Area)$54,350$33K - $119K5000.06%
TXHouston - Sugar Land - Baytown$63,610$35K - $142K1,6900.06%
TXKilleen - Temple - Fort Hood$49,900$32K - $73K1200.09%
TXLaredo$86,020$57K - $92K1,3101.45%
TXLongview$45,170$33K - $68K600.06%
TXLubbock$56,680$33K - $98K2400.19%
TXMcAllen - Edinburg - Mission$86,020$42K - $95K9500.42%
TXMidland$59,050$37K - $92K1000.13%
TXSan Angelo$97,480$29K - $126K700.15%
TXSan Antonio - New Braunfels$64,490$38K - $116K1,2200.14%
TXTexarkana - Texarkana$51,470$28K - $106K400.08%
TXTyler$41,440$27K - $119K1000.11%
TXVictoria$43,170$34K - $57K600.12%
TXWaco$53,270$33K - $116K800.08%
TXWichita Falls$43,700$33K - $66K500.09%
UTOgden - Clearfield$59,610$45K - $119K700.04%
UTProvo - Orem$46,140$35K - $89K400.02%
UTSalt Lake City$86,030$48K - $123K1700.03%
VABlacksburg - Christiansburg - Radford$76,840$43K - $93K1100.18%
VACharlottesville$49,700$41K - $91K500.05%
VALynchburg$73,110$45K - $93K1500.15%
VARichmond$62,570$45K - $122K5400.09%
VARoanoke$75,260$48K - $112K1700.12%
VAVirginia Beach - Norfolk - Newport News$59,260$42K - $119K5800.08%
VTBurlington - South Burlington$71,770$44K - $123K600.05%
WABremerton - Silverdale$109,130$65K - $131KN/AN/A
WAOlympia$61,680$52K - $69K900.09%
WASeattle - Bellevue - Everett (Metro Area)$96,150$76K - $131K5700.04%
WASpokane$88,770$70K - $123K1700.09%
WAYakima$76,540$51K - $119K400.06%
WIAppleton$63,190$50K - $75K300.03%
WIGreen Bay$75,960$46K - $119K300.02%
WIMadison$70,300$53K - $95K2000.06%
WIMilwaukee - Waukesha - West Allis$68,890$54K - $113K5100.06%
WVCharleston$36,470$30K - $113K1800.12%