Schools for Detectives & Criminal Investigators

Learn about the undergraduate and graduate programs offered for aspiring detectives and criminal investigators. Find out more on the theoretical and practical topics covered, the certification graduates require, and the skills expected of those in this profession. Schools offering Forensic Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Those who wish to pursue a career as a detective or criminal investigator will typically need years of legal and intelligence work under their belt. However, having a degree will likely improve your employment prospects and eligibility to sit for certain license specifications. To become successful in this field, you'll need an excellent understanding of the legal system, human behavior, and the methodologies applied in investigative cases.

What Are the Undergraduate Requirements for Becoming a Detective or Criminal Investigator?

The undergraduate requirements of pursuing a professional career in criminal investigation can vary widely from one job to the next. The most common entry-level educational requirement is a high school diploma, coupled with years of on-the-job experience (usually involving work in the legal, military, or federal intelligence field.)

However, some roles may require a 2- or 4-year degree in criminal justice. The most common type of tertiary degree acquired is a bachelor's. Individuals who pursue a bachelor's program in criminal justice will explore course topics related to human psychology, sociology, legal policies, and crime theory.

Some degrees may allow you to specialize in areas such as intelligence, forensic science, law enforcement, or corrections.

What Schools Offer a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice?

Schools offering a bachelor's degree in criminal justice include:

  • Clark University
  • Boston University
  • Adelphi University
  • DeSales University
  • Caldwell University

Should I Pursue a Master's Degree?

A master's degree in criminal justice can help further your knowledge of the American justice system and concepts surrounding crime causation, societal laws, security management, and judicial administration.

Students will learn of the contemporary issues in today's legal field and will explore a wide variety of crime cases, including terrorism, cybercrime, and human trafficking.

You will be equipped with both the practical and theoretical knowledge required to prevent and control crime as a professional in the criminal justice field, which is invaluable for aspiring detectives or criminal investigators.

What Schools Offer a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice?

Schools that offer master's degree programs in criminal justice include:

  • Boston University
  • Rowan University
  • Albany State University
  • Michigan State University
  • DeSales University

What Certification Might I Require?

Those who wish to become practicing detectives or criminal investigators require a license in most states. Acquiring this license involves passing an examination that covers the technical knowledge and skills in your chosen discipline.

According to the National Association of Legal Investigators (NALI), those who wish to apply for examination in legal investigation must have successfully completed at least 60 semester hours or 90 quarter hours of coursework at an accredited school, submit a 1,000-word research paper on an investigative topic, and have a minimum of five years of work experience as a criminal defense or civil plaintiff investigator.

Other investigators can turn to ASIS International, which offers a variety of certifications in professional investigation. The educational and work experience requirements to sit for each examination vary.

What Skills Are Required of Detectives or Criminal Investigators?

Detectives and criminal investigators require excellent communication skills in order to ask the right questions and pick up on important details when working on a case.

They must also have a high level of curiosity to do so, along with sharp decision-making skills in critical situations. Resourcefulness is another mandatory skill of a criminal investigator, as they need to use whatever evidence they have to uncover further information.

Of course, criminal investigators must also have a well-rounded knowledge of laws and governmental regulations.

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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The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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