Become a Detective

How to Become a Detective in 5 Steps?


Being a detective is one of the most rewarding career choices in the USA. Not only do you get to pursue your passion for investigating and finding the truth. But you also earn a handsome salary.

That said, it’s not easy to become a detective. There are several different choices and procedures ready to confuse you at every stage. It is why we have dedicated this post to explaining everything in 5-simple steps. Hope this helps you get started!

Step 1: Decide the Type of Detective You Want to Become

There are two main types of detectives; a police investigator and a private detective. Both have different responsibilities, work settings, and career paths. Here’s a brief comparison:

?     A police investigator becomes a detective as a promotion through the police agency. His core tasks include examining records, documenting evidence, interviewing suspects, and preparing reports. He can also get arrest warrants and observe criminal scenes. 

?     A private detective refers to a licensed individual who offers independent services. Typically, people hire private detectives to perform background checks, search records, find missing people, and conduct interviews. Most people also refer to them as private investigators or PIs.

Step 2: Choose a Specialty

A detective has a massive range of job responsibilities. So, once you’ve decided on the type, you will have to choose the area you want to specialize in. It’ll help to perfect your skills and excel in your career. 

Usually, detectives choose the following specialties:

?     Homicide – is the most dangerous type involving suspicious killings, murders, and robberies.

?     Forensic – this requires data analysis and evidence research.

?     Commercial – the focus is on commercial crimes like forgery, auto theft, and scams.

?     Technical – these detectives go through technology-based criminal activities.

?     Narcotics – this includes investigations related to drug abuse, illegal sales, and mafias. 

Please note some detectives may choose to specialize in more than one area. However,  while this may increase job opportunities, they will have to spend extra time studying and gaining experience.

Step 3: Complete the Education Requirements

The course requirements to become a detective can greatly vary from state to state. Generally, all candidates must have a high school diploma with a good GED.  They should also have some volunteer experience in local police agencies or organizations.

After that, they should complete a degree in criminology, criminal justice, business, sociology, or relevant discipline. The time taken will depend on the degree type. While an associate’s degree takes around 2-years, a bachelor’s can take up to 4-years. 

That said, most aspiring police detectives will be eligible to apply to a police academy after high school. Typically, they need to be at least 18-years old, a US citizen, and a licensed driver. They should also have a clear criminal record with some volunteer experience.

Step 4: Gain Work Experience

You cannot become a detective until and unless you get yourself licensed. And, although each state has different licensure requirements, there is one general need in all; work experience. So, after graduation, you should gain hands-on experience in your specialized area.

Mostly, you should have an experience of 4000 to 5000-hours. However, private investigators may need to show evidence of up to 6000-hours of paid work.

Step 5: Become Certified!

After gaining experience, you have to appear for a final test. The type of test taken will depend on the state. Most people choose the National Detective/Investigative Test (NDIT) and Police Detective Test (PDT).