If you want to become an investigative specialist, you will need to begin by choosing an area of expertise. There is a wide range of careers in law enforcement and private firms for investigators of all types. You can also become an investigative specialist in various areas without being a sworn officer, in environmental, insurance or human resources fields. Law enforcement agencies don’t necessarily require police experience to hire, although degrees are preferred.
Investigative specialist duties include looking through records, interviewing suspects and victims of crimes, and surveillance. A police officer who works for a number of years in uniform may eventually become an investigative specialist in a detective division that specializes in violent crimes, narcotics or other investigations. Agents for the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and similar agencies around the world are sworn law enforcement officers and carry firearms. They may engage in activities such as executing arrest and search warrants and entering prisons to interview incarcerated subjects, all of which can sometimes be dangerous.
There are other ways to become an investigative specialist without becoming a sworn officer. Human resources and background checks are often done by investigators who verify information presented by applicants. Environmental and safety specialists may conduct inspections and investigations of incidents occurring at job sites. Health inspectors investigate unsafe conditions at restaurants and other establishments, as well as substandard housing conditions. Corporations, insurance companies and law firms employ investigators who search for fraud and other illegal activities.
Specific training and prior work experience should reflect your specialty. Since the job includes collecting and organizing information from various sources, interpersonal and computer skills need to be sharp. Law enforcement agencies typically look for some type of degree relating to their focus, but most skills are learned by specific schooling and on the job. Departments or agencies typically pay for new hires to attend training programs. The FBI also maintains international training assistance for law enforcement personnel around the world.
Most police departments promote officers to the position of detective following comprehensive exams. Private investigators can work their way up within their firm if practical, and many open their own businesses after gaining several years of experience. In addition to educational and training requirements, you will probably need to become licensed to become an investigative specialist. Whatever discipline you choose, you must pass a thorough background check and fulfill the job requirements to be considered.
Once you become an investigative specialist, you will be required to keep training up to date. Knowledge of federal, state and local laws is important so your duties don’t exceed the scope of those laws, which can invalidate your evidence. Investigators who are also sworn law enforcement must regularly refresh firearms skills and attend other training designed to assist them in their duties. Additionally, you may want to seek supplemental accreditation from professional organizations.