How to Become a Police Detective

Police Detective by Clif 1006, license CC 2.0
Police Detective

If you'd like to learn how to become a Police Detective, this article will guide you through the requirements as well as career pathways and salary information.

What Does a Police Detective Do?

As someone interesting in becoming a detective, you may wonder what types of duties police detectives have. A Police Detective solves crimes related to homicide, robbery, burglary, auto theft, organized crimes, missing persons, juvenile crime, fraud, narcotics, vice, criminal intelligence, aggravated assault/battery, sexual assault, computer crime, domestic violence, surveillance, and arson, among others. Phew, that's a long list.

Often the position and title of Detective is attained after hard work as a uniformed police officer. However, policies may vary from police department to police department, and state to state. Talk with someone in your local law enforcement agency to be sure.

Often, the first stepping stone to becoming a detective is becoming a law enforcement officer. If you're interested, here are some basic steps to becoming a police officer to help you through the process.

Police Detective Requirements

These requirements are the same as a Law Enforcement Officer, or Police Officer. Each police department is different, however most departments nowadays would like to see applicants with an associate's or bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice or other related field. If you need to work while getting a degree, consider getting your criminal justice degree online.

In some areas, becoming a law enforcement officer is extraordinarily competitive, so the more education you have in the appropriate fields, the more advantage you have over other applicants.

For those in high school considering different careers and professions, many areas have a Police Explorer Program for youth to participate in, like this one. Real uniformed police officers and detectives volunteer their efforts to reach out to youth in their community, giving them a taste of what it's like to be a police officer. The Explorers in the program often help the public through community service like helping with security at your local Air Shows or running traffic control for a major sporting event. Explorers even accompany Police Officers on ride-alongs in the department vehicles to witness traffic stops. Becoming a Police Explorer is a great stepping stone, and a wonderful place to experience part of the job first hand.


To be a successful detective you must have keen senses, be observant, have excellent written and oral communication skills, be approachable by others (so you earn the confidence and trust of witnesses who can give you valuable information), be able to multi-task and prioritize events, have great critical thinking skills, be physically fit, and decisive enough to take action when necessary. We should also add that you need to be able to make good judgement calls under high pressure, stressful situations while keeping your cool.

"Police officers usually become eligible for promotion after a probationary period. Promotions to corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, and captain usually are made according to a candidate's position on a promotion list, as determined by scores on a written examination and on-the-job performance. In large departments, promotion may enable an officer to become a detective or to specialize in one type of police work, such as working with juveniles." - Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Police Detective Salary Information

These salary figures may be more or less in your area, however according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics in 2012, police officers and detectives made an average of $56,980 per year, or $27.40 per hour.

Detective Jobs

As we mentioned before, detective jobs are earned through successful work as a law enforcement officer. Therefore, you'll want to begin your job search on government agency sites looking at openings for various law enforcement positions. After successful work on the job, you may be offered a promotion to detective.

Other Resources

National Police Association