How to Become a Detective (Private and Police)

Become a Detective,


If you are curious about everything, have the habit of finding things and exploring root causes to come up with legit answers, you must try your hand at being a detective.  However, if you want to become a detective just because you find Law and Order exciting, then hold on for a second because being a detective is not a cake walk. It requires commitment, refined skills, hard work, and long working hours, working without sleep, working late nights, patience, following leads diligently, and waiting for developments.

If you think you are ready to become a detective then you must read this blog and get yourself familiarized with the career and its intricacies.

What Do Detectives Do?

Police Detectives

A police detective investigates a crime and gathers evidence from the crime scene. He then interviews witnesses, collects their statements, examines records, and furthermore collects facts from people related to the case. They document collected information in the search of evidence. They make sure evidence is not hampered. They work with the department of police. They analyze the data (evidence) collected and attempt to explain the circumstances of the crime. They work on one case at a time, until it is solved or dropped. They are called upon in court as a witness or for providing testimony.

Police detectives work for local, state and federal levels, and these officers must work on patrol between two and five years before becoming a detective. They may work in specific departments of police to help solve cases, such as sex crime, cyber-crime, murder, homicide, fraud or narcotics.

Traveling will be part of the profession, including impromptu ones. During investigations, they will be exposed to a variety of conditions and scenarios, including witnessing murders or other crimes. Just like the department of police, police detectives work in a variety of shifts and often on weekends and holidays. They do not wear uniforms; rather are plain clothed and armed individuals all the time.

Private Detectives

They are licensed professionals. They work individually or work with the government on a subcontract basis or work for an agency. Individuals, the FBI, the law court or the police generally hire private detectives. These professionals investigate a vast number of cases, including finding a missing person, tracking a criminal down, discovering the cause of the crime, or incident, such as fire, recover stolen property, investigate the murder, theft, identity theft, and a whole lot of other crimes and incidences. They may also work to uncover crimes or potential threats to the state or the nation.

They work on the case by interviewing witnesses, performing surveillance, reviewing government and private records to collect evidence. They may work with the law and may require to appear during case hearing as testimony to evidence or a witness. They mostly work undercover and may carry firearms.

The job of detectives is very risky; during tough cases, they stand a high chance of being threatened or warned. Therefore, they earn very well depending upon the region and scope of the case. Their earning potential may also vary based on the specialization, industry, professional background, education, and location.

With the growing need for securing data and people, the demand for private detectives or investigation services continues to grow and evolve.

The work of private detectives is regulated at the state level to ensure the interest of the public is protected and that detectives abide by all laws and regulations, just like police detectives.

Steps To Become A Detective

Step 1: Finish Your Education

If you want to be a desirable candidate for a detective, you must finish your high school and then pursue a bachelor degree course. You must graduate with a bachelor degree in something relevant to policing and law, such as criminal law, criminology, human relations, political science, forensic science, criminal justice, and judicial procedure. While you are receiving education, make sure you sign up for an internship program to get needed exposure to real-life experiences and learn a foreign language. Urban departments and federal agencies prefer candidates who know any foreign language.  With a college degree, you stand a chance of getting a higher salary even as a fresher.

Also, you must be 21 years old to enter this profession. Like Nancy Drew, teenage sleuthing may give you the needed bonus point. However, you cannot be a professional detective until you are 21 and have gone through the required training.

Step 2: Meet The Additional Requirements

Apart from education, you must also pass a physical examination to make sure you have the perfect hearing, vision, strength, agility, and stamina. In addition, you can only become a detective yourself, if you have a clean chit. Any past act of felony can get you disqualified. You will have to go through a series of tests and interviews, especially if you are joining the police force, FBI or CBI. They may even put you on a lie detector test. So make sure you are honest during your application process and speak the truth only.

You will also have to get a driving license for both car and two-wheeler.

Step 3: Five Qualities You Need To Become A Detective

Whether you work on your own or work along with the police force, CBI, or FBI, you must possess certain skills and qualities to qualify as an excellent detective. While education, training, and experience do count, you will also be required to have sound judgment and critical thinking ability, and go beyond and above your cognitive skills to identify evidence and come to fruitful conclusions.

Here are the 5 qualities of detectives you must have:

Gut Instinct

You should have the ability to use your sixth sense. Mastering the art of reading a crime scene is one of the best skills of a detective. You should be able to immediately review a crime scene or smell foul play. For this, you need to have a clear conscious and presence of mind.

Interrogation Skills and Communication

You must learn to read people subtly and clearly. Detectives interview a whole lot of witnesses, potential criminals, victims, and other suspects. Therefore, you must work discreetly and extract as much information as possible. You must also know to read people by their gestures, and facial and body language.

Emotional Check

You cannot deviate from the case because you have to deal with emotional issues. Keep your emotions under control and do not exhibit any overwhelming emotion, including anger. You have to create a safe environment, and at the same time, use your emotional card at the right places to make people share things comfortably.

Analytical and Critical Thinking Skills

Since you will not be served with the evidence on a platter, you have to do all that is required to pull out facts that will work as proof. In order to do so, you must be patient, be a good critical thinker, and brainstorm scenarios. You have to use your analytical skills to unravel contradictory statements. The skills will help you approach a case with an open mind.

Research and Documenting Skills

When working on a case that requires you to dig deep into the past to pull out data from company policies, action, taxation, accounts, medical and financial history, you have to follow systematic and relevant research to document the information retrieved for further study. No stone is unturned in your research, even if it takes time to extract information.

[Also Read: How Much Can You Earn Annually As A Detective?]

Steps To Become A Police Detective

Step 1: Get Your Official Training

Although it is not important for you to be a trained police officer to serve the department as a detective, being one is highly recommended in this profession. You must at least serve in the police force for a couple of years and know the ins and outs of the job to ace in your detective career. However, you can even choose the military path and gain military training. It is also very a well-trodden path.

After you complete your police training academy program, you will be required to pass a written and physical test. The training program typically is 14 weeks long, which involve classroom study and on-field training on self-defense, traffic control, interrogation, first aid, arms usage, etc.

You can either train at your local police department or enroll in state or federal agency.

Step 2: Gain Experience

After becoming a police officer, you have to work in the force and put in your best effort before becoming a desirable candidate for a police detective. From the very beginning, make your superiors aware of what your ultimate aim is and why they should consider you for promotion. There will be competition for your position, and therefore, you have to prove yourself in many ways. For instance, you could work off-duty, score high on exams, and aim for receiving better marks from your superiors. Make sure you are persistent and true to your work. Your hard work and effort should be natural and not an involuntary measure to receive a promotion. Some of the ways to stand out while working with the force:

  • Study forensic science, learn about cyber-crime, study the latest technology, techniques and gain computer knowledge.
  • Exercise regularly, build core strength and stay physically fit.
  • Develop investigation skills. Pay attention to details and become perceptive.
  • Write reports on crime scenes and investigation. Make sure your superiors see your work.

Step 3:  Take Detective Test And Get Trained By A Detective

If your agency offers this test, you should take it. Take the test regardless of any current openings. Taking the test will show your interest and initiative for the job, which will make you more likely the top priority amongst other eligible candidates.

If your police department is large or if you work for a state, then you will be lucky to get training right in your academy. You will get a chance to work with senior detectives. However, if you work in a small department, then you may have to apply for training in a regional or state academy. Training typically involves classroom lectures on civil rights, state laws, police codes and ethics, and constitutional laws. Working with firearms, self-defense, first aid, emergency rescuing or response will also be part of the training syllabus. If you wish to, you can join the Federal Bureau Investigation’s National Academy and receive training there.

Steps To Become A Private Detective

Step 1: Gain Experience

You can work in the police department and later become a private detective – this should be an ideal choice. However, you can also work for the insurance, law, finance, in collection companies, as a lawyer, paralegal or as an accountant to gain considerable experience in investigation. You can even gain experience by working with the FBI, CBI or in the military. You must have some kind of experience or credentials to be hired by individuals. No one wants a detective who has absolutely nil experience in solving crimes. So, do not skip this step.

Step 2: Get Your License

You have to get your license to carry private investigations legally. It is a mandatory requirement in most states. While most states have only one or two licensure requirements, some states have far more requirements. So, look up your state’s administrative website and find out the information regarding licensure. For instance, if you carry a handgun, you must obtain the necessary permit. The same applies to firearms.

If you plan to become a computer forensic investigator, apply for a private investigation license. It may not be compulsory, but it will help you carry out follow-up investigations peacefully.

Step 3: Get Certification And Start Working At A Private Agency

If you specialize in a particular area, say criminal defense or negligence, you can own certification from the National Association of Legal Investigators. For security, you have to be certified by ASIS international. After you have received your certifications, join a private detective agency. Although it is not much, the experience will help you move up in your career. Gain a few years of experience before you launch your own agency. You can also work as a corporate or legal investigator instead of working in private agencies.


Hope we were able to answer most of the questions lurking in your mind. However, for more information, you can always connect to us via comments below.