How to Become a Police Detective in 5 Steps

As a police detective, you'll investigate crimes and help keep the peace in your neighborhood. Learn about the education and training you'd need to become a police detective. Find out more about police academy and the civil service exam. Schools offering Law Enforcement degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Police Detective Duties?

As a police officer, you'll investigate crimes, gather evidence, conduct raids and make arrests. Depending on the rank and position of officer you make, you can become a detective, traffic cop or a similar law enforcement officer. Police detectives tend to work in one area, such as homicide, narcotics or sexual assault.

Step 1: Research Police Detective Career Information

To become a police detective, you should be at least 21 years old and hold a high school diploma. Some college can be useful for career advancement. For instance, to work with the FBI you'll need to have a bachelor's degree. Studying law enforcement or criminal justice can be helpful preparation.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), police detectives are expected to have a 17% employment increase between 2008-2018 ( An additional 18,700 job openings are anticipated. In 2009 the average salary for detectives was $65,860, and the highest concentration of detectives was in New Mexico.

Step 2: Complete High School

Obtaining a high school diploma is a mandatory step to becoming a police detective. You'll want to take electives that'll work on your physical fitness and build your knowledge of criminal justice and familiarity with psychology theories. Extracurricular sports will benefit your fitness and conditioning, and they're essential to becoming a police officer.

Step 3: Go to College

While the BLS states that a high school diploma is sufficient to become an officer, it's wise to continue your education for career advancement into alternative law enforcement positions. Many colleges offer both online and on-campus bachelor's degree programs in law enforcement. These programs introduce you to law, corrections, judicial systems, constitutional rights, juvenile delinquency, criminology and abnormal behavior.

Step 4: Graduate from the Police Academy

With a good application, great references and clean background checks, you'll be admitted into the police academy to undergo rigorous training. The BLS reports that police academy training lasts approximately 3-4 months. It covers local laws, traffic control, self-defense, gun regulations and safety. If you're under age when you complete this training, you may be placed in an office doing clerical work, until you reach the age of 21.

Step 5: Pass the Civil Service Exam

Some states require you to pass the civil service examination to enroll in your local police academy. For other states, you can sit for a civil service exam to seek employment. Every county and state has its own exams, so whether you want to work for a town, county or state agency, you'll need to sit for separate exams.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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