How to Become A Detective

Detectives investigate to prevent crimes or solve criminal cases. They also collect evidence of possible crimes and gather facts related to them.

While all detectives perform similar duties, not all have the same employer; i.e. the government. In addition to police detectives, there are also private detectives, who may work for individual clients such as law firms and insurance companies.

Police Hierarchy

In order to become a police Detective, you must first become a police officer. After a few years, you may be considered for promotion to detective. The following list exhibits the police hierarchy.

  • Police officer
  • Detective
  • Sergeant
  • Lieutenant
  • Captain

How to be a Detective

Being a detective is a career and not a job and therefore becoming a detective is a long process that requires commitment.

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

One of the fundamental requirements to be a detective is US citizenship. In addition, 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 requirements then take the first step in becoming a police officer and ultimately a detective.

How do you become a detective

Police departments are typically looking for whether you have had any priors such as:

This is not an exhaustive list of what your future employer is looking for in you but if you think you have had a clean past then proceed to the next step.

The application is likely to be divided in sections:

Once you are done, submit the application and print the confirmation page. You will need the page to sit for the written test. For exam location and other information, go online and check the calendar of events of the police department you are interested in joining. Remember, however, that not everyone who passes the exam becomes a police officer; only a selected few are chosen who have been found to be the most suitable to fill the positions.

Once you get a call, you are likely to be asked to complete the following requirements.

1. Visit the website of the police department you are interested in joining (NYPD, LAPD, etc.) and look for their background standards. Your background, previous behavior, may either help you become a police officer or disqualify you from becoming one.

  • Any illegal activity
  • Criminal felony convictions
  • Poor academic performance in school
  • Poor employment history
  • Drug use
  • Moving violations
  • Driving while under the influence
  • Domestic violence

2. Complete the online application

  • Registered Information
  • Application Questionnaire
  • Preliminary Background Application
  • Job Preview Questionnaire

3. Written test

  • Medical exam
  • Character investigation
  • Written psychological
  • Oral psychological
  • Job standard test
  • Pre-hire interview
  • Police academy – Provides leadership, criminal investigation, computer, firearms and tactics, driver education and physical training to the new recruits.

Becoming a Detective - From Police Officer to Police Detective

Initially you will be working as a police officer under the supervision of another senior police officer, doing various assignments. It typically takes 3 to 4 years before a police officer is considered for a detective’s position. Becoming a detective may require taking exam(s) and upon acceptance, further training in detective work.

How much do Detectives Make?

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

Detective Assignments

  • Undercover narcotics
  • Homicide and traffic accident follow-up
  • Robbery
  • Internal-affairs
  • Family violence
  • Juvenile crimes investigator

Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

An associate of science in criminal justice degree is typically a two-year degree which can be completed traditionally or online. In either case, it can also take shorter or longer to complete. The degree covers courses in police management, nature of crime, law, and criminal justice, along with criminal procedures regarding private security.


Every investigator needs to understand basic forensics, evidence gathering techniques,surveillance strategies, interview tactics, and the art and science of detective work. For those who intend to work in criminal justice investigations, whether as a homicide detective or crime scene investigator, there is a lot of science to understand. Physics, weaponry, ballistics, blood chemistry and more; all go into taking apart a criminal scene like a puzzle and then finding every clue in that location.

Private investigators

For those who are not employed with police departments as a police detective, there may be work available with many insurance and law firms that require detectives. Working as a private detective is also a good career option. In New York, for example, private investigators must be at least 25 years of age, have three years or more of work experience, get licensed by passing the test, and pay the licensing fees. Most other states have licensing requirements for individuals who work as private investigators as well.

So what does it take to Become a Detective?

  • High school diploma or GED; preferably an associate degree
  • US citizenship
  • At least 21 years of age
  • Valid driver’s license
  • Fulfill prerequisites to becoming a police recruit
  • Acceptance into a police program/academy as a recruit
  • Become a police officer
  • Become a police detective

Becoming a police officer is the first step in becoming a police detective. If you do not want to become a police detective, then become a private investigator.

Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:What kind of education is required to be a detective?

A:In order to become a detective, students must have at least a high school diploma. Those who aspire to get employed in federal level organizations, can opt for any of the accredited degree programs listed on our website. Also, a bachelor's degree in this field such as Bachelor in Law Enforcement Administration can help students earn good jobs as detectives.

Q:How to become detective or private investigator with criminal justice degree?

A:If you wish to work as a private detective or private investigator, there are a large number of criminal justice degrees that can move you towards the right path. A degree with a specialization in policing and investigation will give you the right skill set to be useful in these fields. There are no formal requirement for private investigators but getting a good education in the field will help you perform your job better.

Q:As I rad on the article on do you have to study criminal law if you want to become a detective, there was mention of the course on College Mathematics. What are the contents of this course?

A:It is common to get to read on the articles relating to do you have to study Criminal Law if you want to become a detective. This course may be worth 2-3 credits in total and basically serves to be a revision. Students get to review some of the basics of maths in this course. Areas of study include whole numbers manipulation, ratios, basic stats and basic algebra.

Q:Reading about how long does it take l become a police detective mentioned a course in political crime. What would I learn in this course?

A:Course on political crime would be mentioned when searching for how long does it take become a police detective. This course deals with three aspects of political crime. These aspects include crimes against the state, crimes committed by the state and crimes committed by splinter groups. Students will learn about the role of criminal justice, instances of government abuses and militia groups and their ideology.

Q:Can you give me some information on how to become a detective without acquiring a license?

A:It is not possible to get become a professional private investigator without acquiring a license. Even though you may have acquired relevant qualifications and certifications, it is a mandatory process to get an investigator license. Licenses for this occupation are issued by the police services and courts in a majority of states.

Q:What is the education track to become a detective?

A:To become a detective you need to have a bachelor's degree at least. It can be a bachelor's in criminal justice or any law related subject. You might need to get a foreign language course and also need to be aware of investigative methods and computer technology. There are specific courses that train you on investigation processes and evidence collecting that can be quite beneficial.

Q:How to become detective if I don't have a valid driver's license?

A:Having a valid driver's license is a very important step of how to become a detective. Failure to have a valid driver's license may result in a denial of the application. The best possible solution to overcome this would be to re-apply for a new driver's license or apply to re-new the old license.

Q:How do i become a detective if I am not a US citizen?

A:Unfortunately, you will not be eligible to apply for the police academy if you are not a legal US citizen or a green card holder. There may be other fields in the private detective business that may be worth your while.

Q:What are the requirements to become a detective?

A:The requirements to become a detective are simple.The most important requirement is that applicants must have completed a minimum of a high school diploma or an equivalent GED qualification. The applicants must also be holding US citizen status and should therefore have a valid driver's license. If applicants meet these requirements, they may apply to the police academy as a recruit and begin their training upon acceptance. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Q:I want to be a detective, but I am 19 right now, what do I do?

A:All you have to do is join the police academy after completing your high school diploma or GED certificate. You may qualify for an entry level police officer position. But you must be over the age of 21.

Q:What does it take to become a detective?

A:If you're wondering what does it take to become a detective then you've come to the right place. Essentially, you'll need hard work, dedication and after you complete your application to the police academy you might be accepted for a police officer position, after which, with continued hard work, you may be promoted to the ranks of a detective.

Q:What do you have to do to become a detective?

A:If you're confused about what do you have to do to become a detective, then look no further. This article should be a detailed outline for all that you will have to do. In order to become a detective, you should already hold a position as a police officer in your state or county force.

Q:What degree do you need to be a detective?

A:The degree that you need to be a detective can be a minimum of a high school diploma, GED or, preferably, an associate's degree in a subject related to law, criminal justice, forensics, crime scene investigation or legal studies. While a degree is not a mandatory part of the application, it is preferred if applicants have at least an associate's degree.

Q:What are the steps to becoming a detective?

A:The steps to becoming a detective are: Firstly, visit the official website of the police force you wish to be a part of and check yourself against their entry requirements. Secondly, if you think you fare well against the requirements then move on to complete the online form. Thirdly, the police dept will review your application and call you in for a written test and medical exam.

Q:Is there any such thing as detective colleges?

A:Detective colleges may refer to the police detective training academies that are a part of most police forces, especially in large metropolitan cities. However, you would like a higher education in order to become a detective then any college or university which offers courses and degrees about crime and law should be fine.

Q:How long does it take to be a detective if I am already a police officer?

A:If you are already a member of the police force in the capacity of a police officer then you are on the right track to becoming a detective. However, there is no fixed time period which will guarantee your promotion from officer to detective. There are several factors which the police force will use to determine the right time for your promotion.

Q:What do you need to become a detective?

A:There are several things you need to become a detective. Aside from the educational qualification and skills mentioned in this article, you will need to submit some things along with your application. You will need: complete college, high school transcripts or a GED score, a completed application form, a valid driver's license and a social security number.

Q:What are the detective qualifications that are needed for a promotion?

A:There are no specific requirements of detective qualifications that will guarantee your promotion. The requirements are more subjectively related to your achievements as a police officer. The way your career has been so far will reflect how your promotion will follow through. You may increase your chances by taking online courses to increase your qualifications.

Q:How can I become a detective without an associate's degree?

A:The educational requirements of how you can become a detective don't include an associate's degree. The minimum education you need to enroll in the police academy is either a high school diploma or an equivalent GED. While the associate's degree may give you a competitive edge over other applicants, you may still have a chance of entry without it.

Q:How many years does it take to become a detective? Is there any kind of minimum age limit for this occupation?

A:To become detective, individuals must be over the age of 21. The time needed to prepare for this occupation will vary and depend upon many factors. Usually, detectives start off their careers as police officers. After completing the probationary period and acquiring enough experience in the field of investigation and policing, one can advance to the job position of a detective.

Q:Can someone please correctly tell me what do you need to be a detective?

A:To become a detective in the police force, one must start his or her career as a police officer. This means, individuals must complete their high school diploma (minimum). Usually detectives must first acquire experience as a police officer. This will help them learn about investigative procedures and policing. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Q:Where is it possible to receive formal detective education?

A:Before one can move towards the post or job position of a police detective, he or she must work as a police officer. Police training is provided at a police academy. After working as a police officer and acquiring plenty of experience, one can further apply for specialized training in investigation. There are no colleges or schools offering education in this field. Detective education is only offered the authority of the federal government.

Q:Do the steps to become a detective include any kind of firearms training?

A:Yes, the training programs designed for detectives includes forearm training. The program will cover various aspects of the field and is usually completed on-the-job. Individuals will learn how to carefully operate firearms, conduct various physical maneuvers, provide first aid, undercover measures, and investigation techniques. Browse through our page for more detail.

Q:What it takes to be a detective? Tell me with regards to physical skills?

A:Police detectives must first work as police officers in the field. The career as a detective can be very challenging and dangerous. Before becoming a detective, individuals must undergo specialized training that will include firearms control, investigations techniques, and more. This training program is usually covered at a training center under the federal government.

Q:What degree do you need to become a detective?

A:To apply towards a detective position in the police force you only need a minimum of a high school diploma or an equivalent GED qualification. However, there are some colleges that require students to have a college degree, either an associate or bachelors in criminal justice or a law related subject. The education requirements may vary from state to state.

Q:What do detectives do?

A:Police officers are in charge of protecting the lives and property of people in their assigned jurisdiction. Detectives and criminal investigators, who are sometimes called agents or special agents, gather facts and collect evidence of possible crimes. Detectives are a more advanced form of police officers and have more job responsibilities.

Q:Why become a detective?

A:According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, police and detectives had an annual median pay of $56,980 while the expected job growth from 2012 to 2022 is 5%. Aside from the monetary and compensation benefits, detectives also get the authority to protect the citizens and civilians under their jurisdiction. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Q:What are the requirements that I need to fulfill if I plan on becoming a detective?

A:Detective applicants must have completed high school education or have a GED, and be a graduate of their agency's training academy. College coursework or a college degree is required by some agencies. Candidates must be U.S. citizens, be at least 21 years old, have a valid driver's license, and be physically fit. Typically, applicants have to pass physical exams of vision, hearing and strength. Applicants might also have to take lie detector and drug tests. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Q:How to become a homicide detective with regards to education?

A:In order to pursue the career of a homicide detective, one needs to have a solid base; consisting of the right kind of training and education. Working police officers aspiring to become homicide detectives only require high school education to begin their careers, however majority of those who aspire to the higher ranks in the police department usually have a college degree.

Q:What are the skills needed to become a detective?

A:Good investigative skills are essential in order to become a detective; these are acquired throughout the course of education and training. Communicative and interpersonal skills are play an integral part in detective work. Detectives must be outgoing, assertive and comfortable in speaking to strangers. Interrogative skills are also extremely important to extract the information needed in order to effectively conduct investigations. Eventually, detectives must be able to integrate their investigative and communications skills in order to solve cases. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Q:How do you become a detective with regards to duties?

A:You must be able to examine crime scenes and extract evidence following the correct procedures. A detective must be able to secure deceased bodies and obtain evidence from them. You must prevent bystanders from tampering with evidence at the crime scene before the medical examiner's arrival. A detective should be able to obtain evidence from suspects and provide testimony as a witness in court. Being a detective, you should be able to analyze police reports to obtain additional information.

Q:How long does it take to become a detective?

A:It typically takes 4 years of education or previous job experience, 6 months for the hiring process, 6 months for the academy or agency training, 3-5 years of experience working as a patrol officer or other specialty position. So, summing that up, it would take on average 8 years minimum time from high school to being a low level detective and almost 15 years or more to being a homicide detective.

Q:I want to become a detective, what do I do?

A:You must at least have a high school diploma for this field. Before you become a detective, it is important that you work as a police officer for which you will need a high school diploma. You must also be a citizen of the United States and over 21 years of age. You must have a valid driver's license and you must fulfill physical requirements. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Q:Can someone tell me how to become a narcotics detective?

A:To become a narcotics detective, you will have to gain work experience in a police department first. You must fulfill all the requirements to become a police officer before you can be placed as a narcotics detective. You must be a U.S. citizen and above the age of 21. You must have a valid driver's license and it is preferable that you acquire an associate's degree before joining the force. The exact requirements will vary from state to state. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Q:How to be a detective and what are the requirements?

A:In order to become a detective you must serve and gain experience in a police department. After several years of service you will be promoted to the rank of a detective. Some of the requirements include that you must be an American citizen and above the age of 21. You must have a valid driver's license. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Q:What it takes to become a detective in America?

A:To become a detective in America, you must gain experience in a police department for some years before becoming a detective. You must have a valid driver's license and you must have acquired a high school diploma at least. You must at least be 21 years of age and have a valid driver's license. Visit your local police department's website for more details.

Q:Can you tell me how to become a detective in NY?

A:In order to become a detective in New York, you must join the New York Police Department first as a police officer. You must at least be 21 years old and have a valid driver's license. You must have completed high school. In addition to this you must complete physical requirements and drug tests of the NYPD. (Source: NYPD and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Q:How long to become a detective after high school?

A:It takes you 3 to 4 years to become a police officer after you graduate from high school. To become a detective you must serve as a police department for several years. After gaining enough experience you might be promoted to the rank of detective. You cannot be directly placed as a detective in any police department.

Q:How to become a detective for the fbi and what are the bureau's requirements?

A:In order to become a detective for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, you must at least acquire a high school diploma or equivalent. Although, it is recommended that you pursue an associate's degree in a relevant subject like criminal justice. Taking courses in foreign languages is also preferable. You must be at least 21 years of age. You must be a U.S. citizen. For more details, visit the official website of the FBI.

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