Criminal investigators may work for police departments or they may work as private detectives who serve their own clients. The type of job that a criminal investigator chooses can significantly affect how much the person earns and what job duties he or she fulfills. Some common job duties include:
Gathering evidence for criminal cases
Using covert surveillance techniques to track suspects
Identifying and arresting suspects
Conducting suspect and witness interviews
Sharing information with other agencies
Giving court testimony
Criminal investigators have jobs that challenge their mental and physical limits. Those who enjoy working with the public, solving complex puzzles, and helping convict suspects may enjoy a job in criminal investigation.
Criminal Investigator Job Education Requirements
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, criminal investigators need a high school diploma or its equivalent. The job, however, often requires several years of on-the-job training. Specific departments, however, may set their own educational and training standards. Those with college degrees tend to get promotions faster than those with less education.
Private investigators do not have educational requirements, but they need to acquire licenses from state boards. Each state has its own licensing requirements.
Other jobs with similar training requirements include police officer jobs and criminalist jobs. Many criminal investigators start their careers as police officers. Criminalists may need to earn degrees in forensic science.
Criminal Investigator Job Market
In 2012, there were 780,000 people working as police or detectives. People who wish to enter the industry should know that it only has a 5 percent growth rate, which is about half the national average of 9-11 percent. Between 2012 and 2022, police departments will add about 41,400 detectives and officers. Some states hire more criminal investigators than others. Texas, California, and New York employ the most investigators.
While private detectives can expect their industry to grow by about 11 percent, they shouldn't expect more job opportunities. In 2012, there were 30,000 private investigators working in the United States. An 11 percent increase will add 3,300 jobs.
Criminal Investigator Job Salary Information
In 2013, detectives and criminal investigators earned a mean salary of $79,000. Those in the 90th percentile earned over $125,000, while those in the bottom 10th earned just over $40,000. Several factors can affect an investigator's salary. Those working for a local police department earned a mean wage of $65,420 in 2013. Those working for the Federal government earned a mean wage of $103,180 during the same period.
Where an investigator works can also affect salary. Those working in Washington, D.C., for instance, earned a mean wage of $116,210, while those working in Montana earned $74,950. Professionals continuing their careers should consider the pros and cons of accepting high-paying positions in areas with higher costs of living.