Learn About Police Detective Careers

In local, state and federal law enforcement departments, a police detective's job description includes maintaining law and order, collecting evidence and conducting investigations.

Education and Requirements

For a police detective career, you must start out as a patrol officer. Patrol officers must pay their dues before moving up the ranks to become detectives. As detective positions open up, a police patrol officer can test for those jobs. The best candidates generally get the detective jobs. Many police departments and law enforcement agencies allow patrol officers to test for detective after 2 to 3 years on the job, but law enforcement agencies may require additional training.

Larger departments may require police detectives to earn 60 units of college credit or an associate's degree. Smaller departments may not require college credit, but a college education may help you earn a higher salary and can give you the upper hand when you apply for promotions. If this sounds like the advantage you've been looking for, check out our law enforcement degrees and criminal justice degree programs.

The majority of police departments require applicants to be 20 years old and U.S. citizens. You'll also need a high-school diploma or GED, and some departments may require an associate's degree or bachelor's degree to become a police officer. State and federal agency jobs require applicants to earn a 4-year college degree. Being able to speak a second language is a definite plus for applicants, especially if you plan to work in a multi-racial area. Police officer applicants also undergo a variety of tests including physical and medical fitness, a written exam and psychological testing. Once accepted into a police department, you will attend a police academy for 12 weeks to one year depending upon the department. It is only with experience and good on-the-job performance that you may be able to become a detective.

Keep in mind that the higher-paying police officer and detective jobs are in more affluent areas and are therefore much more competitive. Make sure to set yourself apart from the competition by earning a college degree before applying for one of those jobs. A college degree may also start you off at a higher salary in many areas. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that applicants with college training in criminal justice or police science should have the best job opportunities.

Find Schools that can help you get educated for a detective or begin a police officer career now

Police Detective Salary and Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for police and detectives is $56,980. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth. The more education you have, the better your police detective salary could be.

The BLS predicts that job opportunities in most local police departments will be good, but there will be a lot of competition for police jobs in State and Federal agencies. This is a good reason to earn a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. The BLS also states that employment is expected to grow by 5 percent through 2022, which is slower than average for all occupations.

Contact the schools below to ask about their criminal justice degree programs.

Ontario Criminal Justice Schools

Campuses: Barrie, Kitchener, Hamilton, Sudbury, Scarborough, Nepean, Ottawa, Toronto, Mississauga, Windsor

Degrees Offered:

  • Diploma - Law Enforcement Foundations

Campuses: Kingston, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Burlington, Oshawa

Degrees Offered:

  • Diploma in Police Foundations

Iowa Criminal Justice Schools

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Campuses: Cedar Falls, IA

Degrees Offered:

  • Private Security Certificate

Online Criminal Justice Schools

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Campuses: Online

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor's - Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement (Online)

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Campuses: Online

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Arts - Law Enforcement Administration (Online)

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Campuses: Online

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Science - Public Administration: Law Enforcement

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Program outcomes vary according to each institution's specific curriculum and employment opportunities are not guaranteed.
Earning a degree may not qualify you for specialized careers that require more education or experience in the field.