Home Career Advice How to Become a Detective – Education & Career

How to Become a Detective – Education & Career

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When we hear the term ‘detective’, the first image that comes to our mind is that of a smartly dressed character like Sherlock Holmes or Ricardo “Rico” Thomas. However, the real detective work is quite different from media portrayals and requires a great deal of patience, investigative experience, and a strong sense of ethics.
A detective is an investigator, who is in majority of the cases, a member of a law enforcement agency. Detectives are mostly concerned with gathering information from various sources to solve a mystery or a crime, either by investigating witnesses and informants or by gathering physical evidence and searching previous records in databases. You need to look at a number of factors carefully if you really want to know about how to become a detective and that too, a successful and accomplished one.

Major Steps to Become a Detective

The first essential step in adopting the detective profession is to get fully qualified for the job. Getting the right education is what you need to do to achieve your goal. Detectives need to start their career by taking the post of police officers. Besides having the high school diploma (GED), most of the agencies hiring the police officers demand relevant degrees, like a college degree in law enforcement, criminal justice or a similar field.

Some other specialized courses such as criminology, forensic science, psychology, judicial function, and criminal procedure can strengthen the chances of recruitment for the aspirant detectives. Learning foreign languages can also prove helpful, because it is handy, especially while working in urban surroundings.

In order to be eligible and to train to be a police officer, a candidate must be the US national, 21 years of age and must pass through a number of examinations including drug test, polygraph test, as well as a number of physical and psychological tests. After clearing the entrance examinations, Police recruits need to complete training academy programs where they need to qualify written and physical tests before they are designated as the post of police officers. These include both the physical training and classroom study in fields including firearm training, traffic control, first aid, and self-defense.

After graduating successfully from police training academy, aspirant detectives need further experience for at least three years working as a police officer before they get a promotion to the detective level. In addition, they must complete a specialized exam and their evaluation in the police department is performance-based.

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Specializations for Detectives

After completion of the specialization exams, young detectives are encouraged to take further responsibilities in investigative units to strengthen their resumes. There are multiple branches, in which detectives can specialize including fraud, homicide, computer crimes, financial crimes, surveillance, and missing people etc.

Some of the divisions or specializations generally headed by commanders or lieutenants include:

Robbery and Homicide Unit: In this unit, all the cases involving murders, mysterious kidnapping, deaths, and robberies are dealt through proper scrutiny.

Juvenile Unit: The juvenile unit deals with all kinds of child abuse and exploitation investigations along with and any other under-age cases.

Forensic Unit: Forensic division involves deep investigation of different types of digital media and physical evidence obtained from crime scenes.

Commercial Unit: Commercial crimes include auto theft but also include forgery and fraud cases.

Narcotics and Gang: These detectives tackle the use and sale of illegal drugs, violent street gangs, and firearms.

Detective Support and Vice: The department of detective support and vice handles missing persons, hate crimes, animal cruelty, human trafficking, pornography, and other such crimes.

Technical Investigation Unit: This branch of investigation involves the Internet and financial crimes against young children.

Special Victims Unit (SVU): SVU detectives deal with crimes against adults, crimes against children, sexual assault, domestic abuse, and other ferocious.


Young aspirants learning about how to become a CIA agent or detective need to adopt certain attributes in order to be successful in his career. Detectives must be able to communicate with people when recording facts about a crime and they should be able to express all minor and major details about an incident in writing. Detectives need to acknowledge the perspectives of a variety of people in their jurisdiction and must have a willingness to help the public in need. Moreover, good leadership skills, physical stamina, and mental tolerance are a requirement to become an accomplished detective.


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