Aspiring private detectives can earn an undergraduate or graduate degree in criminal justice or police science, which provide relevant background for the job. Career-focused certificate programs are also available at some schools.
Criminal Justice/Police Science Schools
These schools offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs in criminal justice, or other similar subjects, that will help prepare students to be private investigators.
|College/University||Location||Institution Type||Degrees Offered||Undergraduate Tuition and Fees (2015-2016)*|
|CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice||New York, NY||4-year, public||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, Graduate Certificate||$6,810 in-state, $13,920 out-of-state|
|City University of Seattle||Seattle, WA||4-year, private not-for-profit||Bachelor's||$16,500|
|Washington State University||Pullman, WA||4-year, public||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral||$11,967 in-state, $25,567 out-of-state|
|Idaho State University||Pocatello, ID||4-year, public||Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's||$6,784 in-state, $20,182 out-of-state|
|Texas State University||San Marcos, TX||4-year, public||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral||$9,348 in-state, $20,268 out-of-state|
|Ohio University||Athens, OH||4-year, public||Associate's, Bachelor's||$11,548 in-state, $20,512 out-of-state|
|Miami University||Oxford, OH||4-year, public||Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's||$14,287 in-state, $30,987 out-of-state|
|George Mason University||Fairfax, VA||4-year, public||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral||$10,952 in-state, $31,598 out-of-state|
|Florida State University||Tallahassee, FL||4-year, public||Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral||$6,507 in-state, $21,673 out-of-state|
|Arkansas State University||Jonesboro, AR||4-year, public||Bachelor's, Master's||$8,050 in-state; $14,050 out-of-state|
Source: *National Center for Education Statistics
School or College Selection Criteria
Students choosing a degree in criminal justice should consider the following:
- Students may want to find out what the pass rate is for graduates on the state licensure exam.
- In programs where an internship is required, students may want to find out if internships are available with working private investigators.
- Prospective graduate students may want to find out if there are faculty members at the school who are conducting research related to private investigation, as they may serve as thesis or dissertation advisors.
- It can be helpful to find out if the school offers formal concentration or minors that are particularly relevant for future private investigators.
Associate's Degree Programs
Associate's degree programs in criminal justice and related fields introduce students to the American judicial system, covering policing and the courts, as well as basic sociology and psychology principles. Students must also fulfill general education requirements in order to graduate.
Bachelor's Degree Programs
In bachelor's degree programs in criminology or criminal justice, undergraduate students receive the same overview of the field as is provided in associate's degree programs, but they also have the chance to study more advanced topics in the field, such as criminal justice ethics and criminal investigations. Students may also be required to complete an internship in the field, and they may have the opportunity to pursue a concentration in an investigation-related subject, such as intelligence analysis, information technology or data analysis.
Master's Degree Programs
In master's degree programs in criminal justice, students take high-level courses in the theoretical and practical aspects of the field. Students may be able to choose a particular specialization area, complete an internship in the field and/or conduct faculty-supervised criminology research. These advanced programs can meet the needs of individuals who want to prepare for jobs as private investigators, as well as experienced criminal justice professionals who want to advance or redirect their careers in the field.
Doctoral Degree Programs
Individuals who want to conduct advanced research in criminal justice or criminology can enroll in a doctoral degree program. In PhD programs, students take graduate-level courses in crime theory, criminal justice policy and research methods before choosing a particular focus area on which to write a research-based dissertation.
Aspiring private investigators who want to take a few career-focused courses without committing to a full degree program may choose a certificate program instead. These programs typically take less than a year to complete and prepare students specifically for the state licensure exam. Many programs are offered in the evenings or online in order to meet the needs of working professionals.
Programs for private investigators are available at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Students may want to look for schools that offer internships with working investigators.