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 $80,540 as of May 2014 (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 $40,780 or less annually and that the 10% of workers with the highest pay made $127,400 or more.

Salary by Employer

According to May 2014 BLS figures, the mean wage for criminal investigators and detectives working for local government was $66,650 annually, while investigators working for the federal government made a much higher average yearly income of $105,470. Those working for the state government earned a lower mean wage of $59,790. Criminal Investigators working for colleges, universities and professional schools made average wages of $69,740.

Salary by Location

The highest-paying state for criminal investigators and detectives was the District of Columbia, which the BLS reported paid an average yearly salary of $118,170 as of May 2014. Other locations with high average earnings included Alaska ($111,970), Delaware ($100,550) and New Jersey ($99,600).

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 $77,630-$118,170 in May 2014, reported the BLS.

Salary by Experience

PayScale.com reported that criminal investigators and detectives with less than five years of experience earned a median salary of $47,000 in September 2015, while those with 5-10 years of experience made a median salary of $52,000 per year. Criminal investigators with 10-20 years of experience earned a median salary of $59,000 annually, while the median yearly salary for workers with 20 or more years of experience was $67,000.

Job Outlook

The BLS expects 5% growth for private detectives and investigators over the 2014-2024 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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