What Is the Average Salary of a Criminal Investigator?

Criminal investigators analyze evidence and apprehend suspects. The average salary for criminal investigators varies based on your employer, location and experience. Schools offering Forensic Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

Criminal investigators gather, organize and interpret evidence to help solve crimes. This job combines a variety of fields, including law enforcement, accounting and computer forensics. Investigations might cover technology crimes, homicides and breaches of contract.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Required Education High school degree is the minimum requirement; an associate's or bachelor's degree may be required by some employers
On-the-Job Training Several years of on-the-job training and experience
Licensure Required by most states; individual state requirements vary
Professional Certification Voluntary specialty certification is available through various organizations
Key Skills Communication and decision-making skills; resourcefulness, inquisitiveness, and patience
Similar Occupations Financial analyst, detective, security guard

Salary Overview

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that criminal investigators and detectives earned a mean annual salary of $85,020 as of May 2018 (www.bls.gov). Although this is the standard wage in the United States, your employer, location and experience level can all impact how much you make. The BLS also reported that the 10% of workers with the lowest pay made $43,800 or less annually and that the 10% of workers with the highest pay made $138,860 or more.

Salary by Employer

According to May 2018 BLS figures, the mean wage for criminal investigators and detectives working for postal service (federal government) was $100,620 annually, while investigators working for the federal executive branch made a much higher average yearly income of $108,770. Those working for psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals earned a lower mean wage of $84,490. Criminal Investigators working for local government, excluding schools and hospitals made average wages of $72,340, while those in state government, excluding schools and hospitals earned an average of $66,700.

Salary by Location

The highest-paying area in the country for criminal investigators and detectives was the District of Columbia, which the BLS reported paid an average yearly salary of $122,460 as of May 2018. Other locations with high average earnings included Alaska ($118,360), California ($107,120), Hawaii ($107,010) and, New Jersey ($102,600).

The states with the highest concentrations of workers were the District of Columbia, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and New York. Mean salaries in these locations ranged from $77,890-$122,460 in May 2018, reported the BLS.

Salary by Experience

PayScale.com reported that criminal investigators and detectives in early career earned a median salary of $51,548 in April 2019, while those in mid-career made a median salary of $56,217 per year. Criminal investigators with enough experience earned a median salary of $66,551 annually, while the median yearly salary for workers at late-career was $71,062.

Job Outlook

The BLS expects 11% growth for private detectives and investigators over the 2016-2026 decade. Workers will particularly be needed to conduct background checks, protect information and perform investigative services. While there will be competition, having work experience can help you find jobs.

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