What Does a Criminal Investigator Do?

A criminal investigator performs a variety of job duties to discover information that can be used to solve crimes and prosecute criminals. Keep reading to learn more about this career, including educational requirements and job outlook. Schools offering Forensic Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

A criminal investigator works with individuals, law enforcement agencies, and businesses to find and analyze information, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). Criminal investigators and private detectives may offer protection to celebrities and executives. Clerical work would include background information and pre-employment verifications. Criminal investigators may investigate such computer crimes as identity theft and illegal downloading of copyrighted material.

Important Facts About Criminal Investigators

On-the-Job Training Typically lasts several years; provided by employer
Professional Certification Vary by state; requirements available through the Professional Investigator Magazine
Key Skills Critical thinking, active listening, problem solving, social awareness, reading comprehension, written and oral communication, decision making
Similar Occupations Police officers, detectives, accountants, auditors, personal financial advisors, financial examiners, security guards, gaming surveillance officers

Work Environment

The BLS reports that local governments, as of 2014, employed approximately 42% of all investigators. Work hours for a criminal investigator are irregular, and the work may be quite dangerous. Many criminal investigators spend a great deal of time away from their offices conducting surveillance and interviews. Office work for a criminal investigator will likely include performing computer-based research and making phone calls.

Educational Requirements

According to the BLS, many criminal investigators have both formal education and prior experience in investigative work. These professionals are required to be licensed in many states. Although criminal investigation has no formal education requirements, courses in police science and criminal justice might be helpful to an individual entering this field. Many people enter criminal investigation directly from college and hold an associate's or bachelor's degree in criminal justice or police science.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

According to the BLS, the employment of private detectives and investigators is expected to grow 5% in the decade between 2014 through 2024. This is about as fast as average for all occupations and is due to the need for higher security and the need to protect confidential information. Because of increased criminal activity on the Internet, criminal investigators specializing in tracking cyber crimes are expected to have excellent job prospects. The BLS expects strong competition for most jobs in this field.

The Bureau reported in May 2014 that the median annual salary earned by detectives and criminal investigators was $74,300. Those employed by the federal government made the most money that year, reporting an average annual salary of $105,470. Other well-paying industries included the US Post Office, post-secondary schools, substance abuse and psychiatric hospitals, and local government agencies.

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