To be eligible for a police detective's job, one usually requires law enforcement experience, completion of police academy training, and possibly college coursework. After working as a regular police officer, further training is usually completed to become a detective. Federal agencies have their own special training.
Find schools that offer these popular programs
- Corrections Admin
- Corrections, Probation, and Parole
- Criminal Justice and Safety Studies
- Criminal Science
- Forensic Science
- Juvenile Corrections
- Law Enforcement Administration
- Police Science and Law Enforcement
- Securities Services Mgmt
- Security and Theft Prevention Services
The requirements for becoming a detective or special agent vary based on department, but all candidates must be U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years of age. Many departments require graduation from a police academy and/or on-the-job training before they can even apply to become a detective. Continue reading for more information on how to become a detective or special agent.
|Required Education||High school diploma or equivalent at minimum; some departments require college coursework|
|Other Requirements||Police academy training and additional training (varies by department), passing a physical fitness exam|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||4% for police and detectives|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)*||$60,270 for police and detectives|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Police detectives, also known as agents or special agents, complete a multi-step process to obtain employment. Many attend a police academy and complete on-the-job training to become officers before applying to become detectives. Agents employed by a federal agency complete specialized training programs to obtain detective positions.
Many detectives begin their careers as patrol officers with local or state police departments. To obtain officer positions, individuals generally attend a regional or state police academy for anywhere from 12-25 weeks. Training includes both classroom and practical instruction. Coursework includes laws and procedures, report writing, readiness and investigation. Officers obtain additional training in emergency response, firearm usage, first aid and vehicle operation. They also complete on-the-job training. After training, they may work with a more experienced partner or receive instruction from their superiors. Many departments allow officers to apply for detective positions after 2-5 years of employment.
To become an agent with a federal agency, candidates undergo specialized training. Training requirements may vary from one agency or bureau to another. To be considered for the position of special agent with the ATF, for example, officers must complete the Criminal Investigators Training Program (CITP). This 12-week program teaches candidates the techniques used in criminal investigation. Areas of training include firearms operations, physical maneuvers, interviewing and court procedures. Following CITP, candidates attend Special Agent Basic Training. This 15-week course teaches prospective detectives advanced firearm use, interviewing and undercover techniques, countermeasures and investigations. Potential agents also learn close-quarter combat skills.
Candidates must meet basic requirements to become police detectives, which include being a U.S. citizen who is physically fit and at least 21 years old. Some departments require that officers applying for detective positions complete college coursework or hold a college degree. Detectives also undergo personal interviews and a background check. Applicants to federal agencies are required to meet the same physical fitness and citizenship requirements. They're also required to pass extensive background and character checks. Completion of a bachelor's degree or higher may be required to join certain federal agencies, such as the FBI.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for police and detectives were predicted to increase 4% from 2014-2024, which was below the average for all jobs. In May 2015, the BLS reported that police and detectives made a median salary of $60,270 annually.
After passing physical examinations and background checks, in addition to completing training at a police academy and on the job, one will become a police officer. Then with enough experience, one can opt for a job as a detective. Additional training and education is typically needed for this position.