Police detectives participate in many of the processes needed to apprehend and convict criminals, including visiting crime scenes, interviewing witnesses, interrogating suspects, managing evidence, consulting with prosecutors and criminal psychologists, and giving testimony in court. Nearly 80% of detectives are employed by a government agency, from the usually at the city, county or state level. Some investigative officers, like FBI agents, are employed by the federal government. Police detectives must be prepared to deal with unpleasant people and situations, from examining dead bodies to interviewing potentially violent or unstable criminals to visiting a crime scene or making an arrest during the middle of the night. Police detectives also find themselves in dangerous situations that require them to be armed and to chase or come into physical contact with criminals. Police detectives have the authority to give out tickets, ask for and use warrants, conduct raids and searches, make arrests, interrogate suspects and interview witnesses, implement fines, issue fines and more.
Police detectives earn higher salaries than regular police officers, and those who live in major cities where crime is high can earn some of the highest salaries for their field. The mean salary for a police detective in 2006 was $58,260, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. FBI agents and detectives employed by federal agencies can earn between $48,159 and $60,199 early in their careers. Benefits packages are awarded to police detectives, and those who work for the government will have access to the best benefits. These can include health insurance and life insurance, retirement savings plans, paid training, paid time off, paid holidays and more.
One of the most important qualifications for becoming a police detective is participation in and passing the police academy. You also need to have a high school diploma, and perhaps even an associate’s degree or some college experience. Police detectives can get promoted through the department after years of service as a regular police officer, and they must pass another exam to become a detective. Those with a higher college degree or experience in the military may be able to reach detective status faster than someone with only a high school diploma. If you are going to pursue a higher degree for the purpose of becoming a police detective, choose a field that will be related to your job, like criminal justice. A graduate level criminal justice program will teach you about terrorism, the legal system, criminal behavior, investigations, and more.