How to Become a Detective – Step by Step Guide

Curious to know about how to become a detective? Private detectives lead to enjoy a great deal of professional independence, which is precisely what draws many investigators to the field. These experts often choose when they work, how many clients they serve, and the types of cases they accept. However, before they achieve this degree of flexibility, private investigators must meet all training and licensing regulations governing their work.

These terms are state-specific, so not all detectives pursue the same certificates, degrees, and professional licenses. Prospective PIs’ academic choices frame the legality of their work and future career opportunities and earnings, so they must research their options and choose wisely. The following lead outlines the steps to becoming a private detective, what the future might hold for them, and how these factors interrelate.

Private Investigators

Private investigators are detectives who work for their clients, rather than law enforcement agencies. Personal detective work doesn’t usually involve solving significant crimes such as homicide, as that is law enforcement’s responsibility. Private investigators can assist find missing people, gather evidence of spousal infidelity in divorce cases, and expose insurance fraud. They may interview witnesses to a crime to gather data for the prosecution or the defence in a case. Other investigators give bodyguard services and perform background checks.

Becoming a PI

Most states require all private detectives to have a license, and some need extra licensing for private investigators who wish to take a firearm or provide bodyguard services. The requirements for a PI license are different in each state. The state of New York, for example, needs private detectives to be at least 25 years old, pass a test, pay the licensing fees, and have three years or more of work experience.

how to become a homicide detective
how to become a homicide detective

How to Become a Detective?

Living a detective is a career and not a job, and therefore becoming a detective is a long method that requires commitment.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) describes that police detectives must have a high school diploma or GED. However, an associate degree in criminal justice may improve a candidate’s employment chances, as some police departments require a college degree. Proficiency in a language other than English may further improve the chances of employment. Previous military experience may also increase the chances of employment.

One of the fundamental necessities to be a detective is US citizenship. Besides, most prospective police officers must be at least 21 years of age, hold a valid driver’s license, and meet specific physical qualifications of the police department they are applying to.

If you think you can fulfill the necessities, then take the first step in becoming a police officer and ultimately a detective.

How much do Detectives Make?

NYPD police detectives officially earn a top-base salary of $87,278 per year. With compensation, they may make even more. According to BLS, the median annual wage for a police detective in 2013 was $76,730.

How Much Time It Take To Become A Detective?

While the way towards becoming a police detective may modify, generally, after receiving a high school diploma or GED, it can take anywhere from five to eight years to be promoted from a police officer to a detective. In fact, according to the BLS (Dec. 2019), prospective detectives will require to graduate high school (or obtain their GED), and most will complete an associate’s (two-year) or bachelor’s (four-year) degree in criminal justice, psychology, criminology, sociology, or a related field.

Besides, to be a competitive applicant for the police department, prospective officers will have to pass physical exams, background checks, and other requirements. In some instances, once hired as a police officer, candidates will attend a police academy for further training. The length of academies varies by department, city, and state. In Oregon, basic police training lasts 16 weeks, whereas, in San Jose, CA, training lasts for 26 weeks.

Additionally, after graduating from a police academy, aspiring detectives will need to continue developing an experience for a minimum of three years as a police officer before being promoted to detective. To be announced, officers must complete an exam, and they will be evaluated based on their service within the police department.


Q: Can you join the police force as a detective?
A; Conventionally, a police officer will spend the first two years of their profession as a constable, after which they can access accusers, forensics, liaison officer positions, and road policing. Becoming a detective is a profession path advertised as being available to officers with five years of experience.
Q: Can you become a detective without being a police officer in the UK?
A: At least two years’ work experience as a police constable is required before you can apply for detective training.
Q: How long do you need to be in college to be a detective?
A: Thus, it would be best if you worked on getting an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree in criminology or some related field. The former takes about two years while the latter takes somewhere around four years. They prepare you with the skills and knowledge that a genuine policeman/investigator should have.
Q: Is a detective a dangerous job?
A: He also notes the potential danger when working undercover and the possibility of being beaten up, stabbed, punched, or shot at. For both police and private detectives, the work can be risky and stressful, and detectives often work long and irregular hours.


Given the field’s competitive nature, departments often seek out detectives with specialized skills, such as military training or fluency in a second language. If you’re curious about becoming a licensed detective, most states require you to work for one first. Private investigators sometimes hire associates to perform some of their duties and learn the business in the process.

Most private-detective bureaus will teach you how to do the task themselves, but it may still be helpful to have a college degree with some coursework in criminology, legality, or police science. Other types of investigative work, such as insurance fraud investigation, may also count as relevant work experience when applying for a PI license, depending on your state’s laws. Share your valuable thoughts and suggestions in the comment box section below.

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