Criminal investigators and detectives typically specialize in one area of crime such as homicide, bank robbery, or fraud. Working as an investigator requires knowledge of jurisdictional law, law enforcement policies and procedures, interpersonal skills, verbal and written communication skills, and problem solving and analytical skills. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that law enforcement professionals frequently experience dangerous situations and stressful working conditions. As a criminal investigator, you may work at violent crime scenes and encounter severely injured or deceased crime victims.
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These professionals are assigned crimes by their agencies and usually work each case from start to finish. Observing crime scenes, interviewing witnesses, victims, and persons connected with the crime scene or suspects is all part of the job. You may also be involved in researching suspects, reviewing statements provided by witnesses, coordinating with colleagues for investigating crimes and developing case files. Unlike the pristine designer clothes worn by TV criminal investigators, you can expect to get “down and dirty” on the job. Criminal investigators work long hours and several days in a row, when working a crime.
Criminal investigator jobs: where they are and what they pay
The BLS reports that the highest number of detective and criminal investigator jobs were found in local government agencies followed by the executive branch of the federal government and state agencies. The highest paying investigator jobs are rare. The top paying employers are the U.S. Postal Service and federal executive branch.
Criminal investigator education requirements
Members of local police departments can generally progress through the ranks to become detectives, but state and federal positions generally require a bachelor’s degree in administrative justice, criminal justice, law enforcement or related field. As law enforcement officers, criminal justice officers also receive job training through a law enforcement training academy and ongoing on-the-job training.
College coursework includes police science, state and local law, constitutional law and civil rights, investigative techniques and law enforcement technology. Military service and training may substitute for some types of law enforcement training. Criminal investigator positions hired through state and local law enforcement agencies typically require passing a competitive written civil service examination. Reading, language comprehension, quantitative and analytical skills are necessary for passing such exams.
Earning a degree in criminal justice or a related field can help current law enforcement officers fast-track their careers toward a criminal investigator position.