How Do I Become a Police Detective?

Britt Archer

If you like protecting people and properties or getting to the bottom of a mystery, a job as a police detective may be for you. Police detectives, also called agents or special agents, gather facts and collect evidence about crimes in an attempt to find out what happened. The requirements to become a police detective vary from location to location, but all require some experience and training in the field.

A police detective conducts criminal investigations.
A police detective conducts criminal investigations.

The first step on the road to becoming a police detective is seeking out information about your local jurisdiction. Call or visit your local station and speak to some of the police officers. Inquire about what it takes to become a police detective in your area. For example, one region might require a two- or four-year degree for special agents while others might only require experience in the field.

Police detectives often serve for several years as a patrol officer before becoming a detective.
Police detectives often serve for several years as a patrol officer before becoming a detective.

You should seek out the appropriate education. Most policemen are required to have at least a high school diploma. If a degree or higher education coursework is required, it usually falls under the category of criminal justice. After completing the required education to become a police detective, qualified applicants must usually take an entrance exam to be accepted to a specialized police academy. Successful completion of the entrance exam and the academy coursework specified by your location means you are qualified to work as a police officer in your locale.

You shouldn’t expect to become a detective overnight. Few, if any, police organizations will accept new hires as detectives. Speak to your superiors to find out the necessary requirements for becoming a detective in your organization. Interested parties must usually, but not always, put in three to five years of experience as a patrol officer before being considered for a police detective job.

Learn all you can about your chosen field and determine the areas that interest you most. Police detectives may work as generalized officers, investigating a wide array of crimes, or they may choose to focus on one area. Homicide detectives, for example, specifically work on crimes involving the deliberate taking of a human life. Drug enforcement agents work to uncover crimes involving illegal or illicit substances. Seek out opportunities to work with or train with detectives in your chosen specialty.

Upon completing the preliminary requirements needed to become a police detective, request a transfer to your local investigation bureau. Each police department has different requirements for transferring to become a detective. You may have to write a letter of intent, supply a resume, undergo an interview and psychological, physical and practical examinations to determine whether or not you are suited for the job.

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