There are two primary types of detectives. Police detectives investigate legal matters and crimes. Private detectives look into legal, financial, and personal issues for private clients. Private detective work doesn’t require a traditional college education, though many states need private detectives to be licensed. Detectives who are employed with police forces, also called criminal investigators, attempt to solve crimes and help in the prosecution of those responsible. Police detectives typically start their careers as police officers.
What Do Detectives and Criminal Investigators Do?
Detectives and criminal investigators – sometimes referred to as special agents or agents – gather information for criminal investigations. They compile evidence by interviewing witnesses and suspects, examining physical evidence and observing suspects. If there is adequate evidence, they will formally charge a suspect with a crime. Criminal investigators and detectives often participate in raids or arrests. These law enforcement professionals generally specialize in different crimes, such as drug trafficking, homicide, or fraud.
How Much Do Detectives Make
According to the BLS, private investigators averaged $25.74 an hour or $53,530 a year as of May 2019. The median salary was $50,510 a year or $24.28 an hour. The median-earning half of private investigators and detectives earned between $35,710 and $66,300 annually.
Private Detective Earnings by Location
Most private detectives are employed in the security services and investigation industry, where they made an average annual salary of $53,480 as of May 2019. Those working for local governments averaged $60,100 per annum, while those who worked in legal services averaged $54,370 per annum. Private detective incomes also vary by location. Those in the District of Columbia made the highest mean income at $74,760 annually. The lowest average salary, $29,500 per annum, is from South Dakota.
Police Detective Salaries
Police detectives tend to make considerably more than private detectives. The BLS reports that as of May 2019, the average annual pay of a police detective was $83,170 a year, and the median income was $78,120 per annum. And 50 percent of police investigators made between $55,180 and $103,330 annually. The top-earning ten percent earned $131,200 or more per annum, while the bottom earning ten percent earned $42,220 or less.
Private Detective Earnings by Location
Detectives working for the federal government were earning far more than those at the state and local levels, at an average of $103,620 per annum. Detectives employed by local governments made an average of $69,370 annually, and state detectives averaged $62,050 per annum. Due to the presence of several high-paying federal jobs, the District of Columbia reported the highest average pay at $121,100 per annum. States in the top 5 also included Hawaii, Alaska, New Jersey, and California, where police detectives averaged between $99,180 and $113,960 a year. The lowest-paying state was Arkansas, where police detectives averaged just $57,550 annually.(1)
Careers in Europe: The initial salary for a newly recruited constable in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, is £23,123, rising in annual increments to £38,382 at the top of the constable range; the initial salary for constables in Scotland is £28,392, rising incrementally to £40,877 after 10 years.
Experienced staff in England, Northern Ireland and Wales make between £39,693 and £43,134 as a sergeant, £49,176 and £55,512 as an inspector, £54,432 and £56,670 as a chief inspector, £65,478 to £77,340 as a superintendent and £81,156 to £85,614 as a chief superintendent.
Careers in Asia: An entry-level homicide detective (1-5 years of experience) earns an average salary of RM62,190 (Malaysia). On the other hand, a senior level homicide detective (9+ years of experience) makes an average salary of RM106,524.
The U.S. BLS estimates that the employment of criminal investigators and detectives will grow in the coming decades. Career development will occur as the population expands, and the demand for trained law enforcement experts increases. Competition for jobs is estimated to be higher in federal and state agencies compared with local police departments. Bilingual candidates with military service, a college degree, or law enforcement experience – particularly investigative expertise – can enjoy the best prospects.