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Special Investigator: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a special investigator. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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If you have an interest in the criminal justice system, working as a special investigator is something to consider. These professionals aid in criminal cases by uncovering and analyzing background information relating to the case. An associate's degree in criminal justice is a good way to gain the required skills and knowledge, and special investigators typically need to be licensed in order to practice.

Essential Information

A special investigator gathers and analyzes information about financial, legal, personal and criminal activities. There isn't a typical degree requirement for a career as a special investigator, but earning an Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice will give prospective investigators a solid understanding of the legal system. The majority of states require special investigators to be licensed.

Required Education No specific degree is mandatory; associate's degree programs in criminal justice are available
Other Requirements Most states require licensing for special investigators; several years of professional experience might be required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 5% for private detectives and investigators*
Median Salary (2015) $45,610 for private detectives and investigators*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Special investigators primarily search for evidence and clues for cases. Investigators search the Internet, personal computers and databases, interview potential sources and conduct covert surveillance. There are different types of investigators, including financial, criminal, legal and computer forensic investigators.

Job Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that private investigator and detective positions were projected to grow at an average pace of 5% from 2014-2024. Candidates with experience and knowledge of computers should have good opportunities. Private investigators and detectives earned a median salary of $45,610 in May 2015.

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Duties

Special investigators gather and examine financial records, as well as conduct background checks to find clues and useful information. They prepare reports on findings to show their clients. They might send evidence to be analyzed through a variety of laboratory tests. In some cases, they communicate with other investigators or law enforcement agencies. Occasionally, a special investigator will be called upon to testify in cases that go to court.

Requirements

Although there is not a typically required degree to become a special investigator, there are educational programs that can give prospective investigators a head start on the career. Earning an Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice can give aspiring investigators an understanding of how the legal system is structured. Core courses in the degree program include:

  • Introduction to criminal justice
  • Criminal law
  • Constitutional law
  • Court systems and practice
  • Introduction to corrections
  • Introduction to American law enforcement

Licensing

Most states requires that special investigators be licensed. Requirements might include meeting age, education and previous experience requirements, as well as passing a criminal background check and a 2-hour written exam.

You can prepare to become a special investigator by taking classes or earning an associate's degree in criminal justice. Knowledge of the legal system is important, and state licensing procedures often test this knowledge, in addition to performing a background check. Job growth for special investigators should be as fast as the national average over the next decade.

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