What Are the Requirements to Become a Police Detective?

Whether you're an amateur sleuth or looking to bring criminals to justice, you might want to consider working as a police detective. If you enter this field, you'll question witnesses and suspects, investigate crime scenes, and collect evidence. Read on to learn more about the requirements needed to become a detective. Schools offering Law Enforcement degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

If you'd like to become a police detective, you must first meet the requirements for becoming a police officer. Potential police detectives typically start out as police officers and are only allowed to become detectives after a period of probation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), this period could be as short as six months or as long as three years. If you wish to advance beyond the rank of detective, you may be able to become a sergeant, lieutenant, or captain with at least five years of police experience and satisfactory job performance.

Education

The educational requirements for becoming a police detective vary from state to state; some police departments require you to hold only a high school diploma or GED, while others require you to complete some college courses or earn a college degree. In most cases, you only need to earn an associate's degree, but a bachelor's degree might help you advance through the ranks more quickly. You might consider a degree program in administration of justice, law enforcement, criminal justice, or police science. Some police departments waive their educational requirements if you have two to five years of active duty with the military.

Training

Most of your detective training can be accomplished while you're working as a police officer. Your time 'on the beat' can help you develop instincts about criminal activity and sharpen your investigative skills. You usually won't be able to begin working as a police officer, however, until you receive training at your department's police academy.

Police academy training consists of both classroom and hands-on instruction. You'll learn about the laws and ordinances you must uphold, as well as how to safely perform your duties, from traffic stops to emergency calls. Your training will be conducted in a controlled environment, so that you may become comfortable before you begin working. Once you've completed your training, you may be awarded certification, or you may need to pass an exam and receive licensure as a police officer. Exact certification and licensing requirements are determined by the state in which you plan on working.

Additional Requirements

You can't be hired as a police officer or detective without meeting a few requirements that contribute to your safety and the safety of the public. You must be physically fit and pass a fitness test that may include timed running or fence climbing. Drug use is expressly forbidden; you'll probably undergo a drug test prior to being hired and be subject to random drug testing for the rest of your police detective career. You must also be at least 21 years of age and a U.S. citizen, have adequate vision and hearing, complete a psychological assessment, pass a polygraph examination, and undergo a background screening.

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