If you are like me, you like reading a good mystery story that has some action and adventure mixed in. That’s fun reading on a rainy day, but what’s even better is living the life as a Detective first hand.
I have been a police officer for over 15 years and while serving as a Detective, I got to fly all over the country investigating serious crimes. From rapes to robberies and even Murders, I worked all the cases I was assigned. I had the opportunity to work with some of the most dedicated investigators I have ever met. I didn’t have to watch TV for any drama, because I got to see it all first-hand in real life. As a Detective I got to enjoy the satisfaction from solving the puzzle and to experience the thrill of the chase. Truth be told, sometimes the bad guy got away, but more often than not I had a great deal of satisfaction from bringing the crooks to justice. I also did double duty by being on the SWAT team. As a member of the SWAT team I also got to be involved in the entry and physical apprehension of the dangerous criminals I was pursuing.
If you are reading this, you are likely up for the same challenge and adventure. You want to know how to become a Detective. Fortunately, you are in the right place and I want to show you how to achieve your dreams. I must give you a word of caution though, because Becoming a Detective is certainly not for everyone, is not easy, and is not a calling that everyone will be able to achieve. But of course that is likely part of the allure.
First, you need to have the right personality and character traits. A good Detective is tenacious and driven for success. Of all the Detectives I worked with, the best investigators would seem to be willing to go to the ends of the earth to track down their suspects. These same traits are needed for the complex hiring process that is part of getting started in the law enforcement profession.
There are lots of “Detective’s” out there and the name can often be misused in an attempt to garner some of the mystique that comes from a law enforcement career. I am assuming of course that you want to be a criminal investigator, like a Homicide Detective, or perhaps even a FBI Agent. This is only something that you can do as part of a full time law enforcement job.
Step two towards Becoming a Detective is to decide on a career path. There are two main routes to this job and a third is starting to emerge, but is certainly not as much of a sure thing. Due to my work in the police hiring process, I know that many people want to get hired as a Detective right out of college and without putting their time in as a street cop. Although this is not impossible, it is certainly a much more difficult way to go because of the limited amount of these positions available.
I’ll start by talking about this third option. There are a limited number of investigator positions that are open to non-sworn personnel at some police and sheriff departments. For example, I just read an article that announced that the Chicago Police Department is now going to start using civilian investigators to work on online financial fraud cases. This type of case is often a labor intensive process of tracking a paper trail with subpoenas and court orders. This is of course an option if you are happy simply being an investigator and working the most serious crimes and the process it takes to get there is not appealing to you.
Other civilian investigator jobs for public agencies entail work as a crime scene investigator, on personnel background investigators, or other similar work. Although there are exceptions, many of these jobs are normally reserved for retired cops, those with advanced degrees, and others who are already familiar with the law enforcement profession.
The two main paths towards becoming a detective are achieved by first becoming a street cop like we already mentioned and second by applying to become an FBI Agent.
Becoming an FBI Agent is not something you can usually do right out of college. They have some strict requirements.
Let’s briefly go over the minimum requirements for becoming an FBI Agent.
To start with, you must be at least 23 years of age, but younger than 37 upon your appointment. (There are some exceptions to this rule for military veterans)
You must possess a four-year college degree.
You must possess three years professional work experience.
You must have a valid driver’s license and be willing to work anywhere in the FBI’s jurisdiction (All over the world).
In reality, you need to have a degree in one of the following areas to really be considered for the FBI. These preferred areas include:
- Computer Science/Information Technology Expertise
- Engineering Expertise
- Foreign Language(s) Proficiency
- Intelligence Experience
- Law Experience
- Law Enforcement/Investigative Experience
- Military Experience
- Physical Sciences (e.g., physics, chemistry, biology, etc.) Expertise
- Diversified Experience
The degree requirement is a big obstacle for many people. The other main obstacle is the three years of professional work experience. Although that could be in any of the above “preferred area” fields, two years of prior law enforcement experience is a big benefit in many ways.
Many people are surprised to learn that in reality, becoming a cop is the fastest road toward becoming an Investigator or Detective. True, you have to attend the police academy, and do all the other required police training, but in reality you will be a better investigator for it anyway.
In short, 9-1-1 Emergency calls are not answered by the FBI. They are answered by the local law enforcement jurisdiction. These local law enforcement careers are the first line of defense and are a great place to cut your teeth in the criminal justice world. You learn the in’s and out’s of becoming a criminal investigator as a street cop, starting with the smaller cases and working your way up through the ranks.
But make no mistake, the lessons you learn from the little cases are huge. You learn a great deal about becoming a detective by watching the small child lie to the store clerk about shoplifting a candy bar. You get some good hands-on law enforcement training by dealing with the young adults trying to hide their alcohol, fake ID’s, or Marijuana. And you get to interact with the hardened career criminals who do their job day in and day out like you do. They are professional criminals and may have more experience and training at that game then you. You get to match wits with the criminal mind and see how it all works.
In my opinion, only after getting this valuable street experience are you ready for the police detective job. With the right law enforcement training under your belt, you will be a great Investigator or FBI Agent.
Whether you choose to stay as a police officer for a municipality and ultimately work as a Homicide Investigator or if you choose to move on and secure a FBI job, you’ll have an exciting career wither way. I chose to stay in local law enforcement and it certainly has been a rewarding career. However, I also know quite a few FBI Agents and the FBI also has some unique attributes as well. Working for the Federal Bureau of Investigations can make for an exciting career working some interesting and unique investigations.
After reading this, I’m sure you agree that regardless of the two main career paths you choose, the start of it all involves becoming a cop. It’s great preparation for work as a Detective. As I said at the beginning you need tenacity and dedication to work your way through this long process and put in the ground work necessary for achieving your dream of Becoming a Detective. Best of luck in your career search!