Should I Be a Court Investigator?
Court investigators play integral roles in the legal field given the versatility of their positions. Moreover, their involvement in legal matters both inside and outside the courtroom lend them an extensive knowledge of how the legal system works, and they can utilize this understanding towards conducting savvy detective-like work for their clients. Many court investigators work as independent contractors or for the local police department.
Court investigators need a bachelor's degree in psychology, social science or behavioral science, and police science or criminal justice courses may also be beneficial. Additionally, some states prefer candidates with a graduate degree. Court investigators should have 2-5 years relevant experience. Prospective court investigators should also have knowledge of local laws. Some states require licensure, which involves passing a statewide exam, and most states require continued education to remain acclimated with new regulations and changes to the law. These professionals should have excellent research, communication, critical thinking and multi-tasking skills. They should be patient, detail oriented, self-driven and able to operate independently. According to 2015 earnings data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, private detectives and investigators earned a median salary of $45,610 annually.
Steps to Be a Court Investigator
Step 1: Find a Postsecondary Institution
The educational requirements for court investigators can vary from state to state. Some courts require investigators to hold a bachelor's degree in psychology, social or behavioral science or a related field. Other courts require investigators to hold a graduate degree in those areas. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also states that police science or criminal justice courses could be of use for potential court investigators. Many accredited institutions across the nation offer these degrees. Graduate certificate programs are also available for aspiring legal and court professionals. Students should also be aware that some states require licensure for investigators.
Step 2: Obtain Relevant Career Experience
Because court investigators are responsible for gathering legal data, interviewing people of interest, reporting findings and often speaking in court, they are rarely hired without experience or straight out of college. Court investigators must be familiar with local laws, have excellent communication skills, provide objective and factual data and adhere to ethical standards.
Prospective court investigators may develop these skills in other occupations while they gain professional experience. Employers look for candidates who have experience in law enforcement, legal or investigative fields. Between two and five years' experience in a relevant field is a common minimum requirement.
Step 3: Network with Professional Contacts
Another way to obtain professional experience is through networking with professionals in the field of court investigation. Since there may be limited positions for court investigators, it may help to find professionals who know of job openings or who may have expert counsel in becoming a court investigator.
Step 4: Find a Job and Continue Education
After gaining a solid foundation of professional experience as well as postsecondary training in a related field, a potential court investigator may start his or her career. While these positions may be limited, it is possible to advance to a court investigator position by gaining subsequent promotions. Additionally, even after obtaining a position, court investigators may need to continue their education in order to stay current with investigative tools, new laws, research techniques or other vital information. In 2014, the BLS projected 5% job growth for these professionals through 2024, which was about average compared to all other job sectors.
Court investigators typically need a bachelor's degree in social science, behavioral science or psychology, though a graduate degree might be required by some employers. Additionally, several years of experience are needed to work in this field and, depending on the state, licensure might be required.