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Occupation Profile

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Police Detectives
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Description: what do they do?
Conduct investigations to prevent crimes or solve criminal cases.
Also known as:
Agent, Criminal Investigator, Detective, Fugitive Investigator, Detective Sergeant, Investigator, Fugitive Detective, Police Detective, Narcotics Investigator, Narcotics Detective

    What does this information tell me?

    This description is a quick overview of what workers in this career might do.

    "Also known as" shows other common names for this career.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from an O*NET database. Learn more on the Help page.

Career video
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    Transcript: Whether on foot, wheels, or horseback, detectives and police officers are alert for any threat to public safety, ready to respond at a moment’s notice when a need occurs. Police and sheriff’s officers protect lives and property. They respond to emergency and patrol their assigned area for signs of criminal activity. They wear recognizable uniforms, and may conduct searches and arrest suspected criminals. Some officers specialize in one type of crime, such as narcotics. Detectives and criminal investigators, or agents, gather facts and evidence of possible crimes. They conduct interviews, observe the activities of suspects, and participate in raids and arrests. Detectives often wear plain clothes, and usually specialize in investigating one type of crime, such as homicide or fraud. Transit and railroad police patrol railroad yards and transit stations to prevent thefts and protect property. Police and detective work requires patience, and paperwork; officers document every incident in detail, and must be ready to testify in court. Most officers carry law enforcement tools, such as radios, handcuffs, and firearms. Police and detective work can be physically demanding, stressful, and dangerous; injuries are common. Despite working shifts around the clock and dealing with life-threatening situations, officers must stay calm, think clearly, and use good judgment at all times. Most positions require graduation from a law enforcement agency’s training academy and extensive on-the-job training. Police officers and detectives need a license to carry firearms and enforce the law. Typically, candidates must be U.S. citizens, at least 21 years old, and in excellent physical and mental health, with no felony convictions.
View transcript
Outlook: will there be jobs?
Image. Employment outlook for this occupation
New job opportunities are likely in the future.


    What does this information tell me?

    Outlook information can tell you whether a career is expected to be in demand in the future—that is, whether there are likely to be job openings if you choose this career. Careers can have one of three outlooks:

    • A Bright outlook means new job opportunities are very likely in the future
    • An Average outlook means that a small number of new job opportunities are likely in the future (less than an 8 percent increase)
    • A Below Average outlook means new job opportunities are less likely in the future

    You can also view local job listings in this field by clicking "Find job openings" above. This can help you see if local businesses are hiring—another way of looking at demand.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET’s Bright Outlook occupations. Note this information is only available at a national level, so even if you selected a state, you’ll only see this information for the whole country.

Projected employment
United States
110,900
2016 Employment
115,900
2026 Employment
5%
Percent change
7,500
Annual projected job openings
You’re seeing projected employment information for Detectives and Criminal Investigators because we don’t have information for Police Detectives.

    What does this information tell me?

    Projected employment shows how much employment is expected to grow in this occupation over a 10-year period. This can help you decide if this career is a good choice for future job opportunities. You can look at projected employment in your state, or in other states where you might consider living.

    You can see the total number of people employed in this occupation in 2016, the number expected to be employed in 2026, and rate of growth over those years.

    The projections are based on assumptions of unemployment rates and labor productivity growth rates.  While the projected numbers may not be exact, they are helpful to compare one career to another, or one location to another.

    What is the source of this information?

    State-level data come from Projections Central and each state's Labor Market Information office.

    National-level data come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Projections, 2016-26.

Typical wages

Annual wages for Detectives and Criminal Investigators* in United States
This graph displays wage data.  Find details by selecting the table view.
* You’re seeing wages for Detectives and Criminal Investigators because we don’t have information for Police Detectives.
This chart displays wage data.  Find details by selecting the table view.
LocationUnited States
10%$43,800
25%$57,560
Median$81,920
75%$107,000
90%$138,860


    What does this information tell me?

    This chart shows you a range of how much most workers in this occupation earn per hour, in the location that you selected.

    You can select from three views of this data:

    • The Graph shows you wages at the 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th and 90th percentiles. Note that the lowest (10th %ile) wage shown is not necessarily a "starting wage." Instead it means that 10 percent of all workers in this career earn less that this amount, and 90 percent earn more. However, you can assume that you might earn close to the 10th or 25th %ile wages when you start out in most careers.
    • Select "Chart" to see a visual comparison between national wages and wages in the location you selected.
    • Select "Table" to see more wage data the national and local level.

    Please note that wage data are not available at the city or ZIP code level. If you selected a city or ZIP code, you will see wage data for the regional area.

    Also note that in this update, 21 detailed occupations found within the 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) were replaced with 10 new aggregations of those occupations; read more about these OES changes.

    You can learn more about wages for this and other occupations by clicking “See more wages” above.

    What is the source of this information?

    The wage information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics Program, 2018 data. For more detailed state wage data, please find the link to your state's wage data program in the Other Resources box.

Education and experience: to get started
You’re seeing education information for Detectives and Criminal Investigators because we don’t have information for Police Detectives. Please note the information may not be the same for both occupations.

    What does this information tell me?

    This shows you the typical level of education, work experience, and on-the-job training that most people have when they start in this career. Note that these are not requirements for entering this field, but the information can help you understand how qualified you might be.

    Interested in starting in this career? You can search for education programs in your local area by clicking “Find local training” above.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections Education and Training Data.

Typical education
How much education do most people in this career have?
Chart. Percent of workers in this field by education level attained
You’re seeing education information for Detectives and Criminal Investigators because we don’t have information for Police Detectives. Please note the information may not be the same for both occupations.

    What does this information tell me?

    This chart shows you the range of education levels that people who currently work in this field have. You can use this to see if you fit in this range. Note that this includes ALL people who work in this field and not just those getting started.

    Interested in getting qualified for this career? You can search for programs that lead to the education needed, in your local area, by clicking “Find local training” above.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections Education and Training Data.

Certifications: show your skills
Let employers know you have the skills to do well at this job.
Earning a certification can help you:
  • Get a job
  • Get a promotion

    What does this information tell me?

    When you click "Find certifications" you'll see a list of national certifications that are related to this career. From there, you can learn how to achieve one of these certifications to help you enter or get ahead in this field.

    What is the source of this information?

    This collection of occupational certifications is collected and regularly updated by CareerOneStop. Learn more at Certification Finder Help.

Licenses: do you need one?
Some states require an occupational license to work in this career.

    What does this information tell me?

    When you click "Find license details in your state" you'll see the license name and contact information for the agency in your state that oversees licensing for this field. If you have not selected a location, you'll see a list of all state licenses for this occupation.

    What is the source of this information?

    Information on licensed occupations is gathered in each state by Labor Market Information units under a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. Learn more at License Finder Help.

Apprenticeships: learn on the job
Apprenticeships combine paid on-the-job-training with classroom lessons.

    What does this information tell me?

    When you click "Find apprenticeship sponsors" you'll find information that can help you locate apprenticeship opportunities in your state:

    • If there are businesses that have sponsored apprenticeships in this field in the past, you'll find their name and contact information.
    • If there are related occupations that might have apprenticeship opportunities, you'll find links to that information.
    • You'll also see contact information for state and federal agencies that oversee apprenticeship programs.

    What is the source of this information?

    Apprenticeship information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeships, and from CareerOneStop. Learn more at Apprenticeship Finder Help.

Activities: what you might do in a day
  • Testify at legal or legislative proceedings.
  • Check physical condition of people or animals.
  • Prevent unauthorized individuals from entering restricted areas.
  • Examine crime scenes to obtain evidence.
  • Interview people to gather information about criminal activities.
  • Prepare investigation or incident reports.
  • Record information about suspects or criminals.
  • Document legal or regulatory information.
  • Analyze crime scene evidence.
  • Process forensic or legal evidence in accordance with procedures.
  • Record crime or accident scene evidence with video or still cameras.
  • Examine records or other types of data to investigate criminal activities.
  • Use databases to locate investigation details or other information.
  • Detain suspects or witnesses.
  • Communicate situation details to appropriate personnel.
  • Serve court ordered documents.
  • Observe individuals' activities to gather information or compile evidence.
  • Apprehend criminal suspects.
  • Direct criminal investigations.
  • Request emergency personnel.
  • Block physical access to restricted areas.
  • Maintain surveillance of individuals or establishments.
  • Record information about environmental conditions.
  • Collaborate with outside groups to develop programs or projects.
  • Collaborate with law enforcement or security agencies to share information.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of typical work activities that people in this career might do on the job. You can use this list to get an idea of whether this career might be a good fit for you.

    Click on “More activities” to see more detailed examples of activities for this career.

    You can also use this list to help you prepare for a job interview. Or, if you’ve already held a job like this, you can copy these activities to use on your resume.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from O*NET OnLine's Occupation Information. They are O*NET’s Detailed Work Activities.

Knowledge
People in this career often know a lot about:
  • Law and Government - Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.
  • Public Safety and Security - Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Psychology - Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
  • Customer and Personal Service - Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
  • Education and Training - Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
  • Clerical - Knowledge of administrative and clerical procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and other office procedures and terminology.
  • Administration and Management - Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
  • Computers and Electronics - Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of general knowledge areas that are most commonly required for jobs in the career. Knowledge is typically gained through education and related experience.

    This list can help you learn if you are prepared for a job in this career. It can also help you decide on education or training programs that could help you prepare for the career.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Knowledge descriptors.

Skills
People in this career often have these skills:
  • Active Listening - Listening to others, not interrupting, and asking good questions.
  • Critical Thinking - Thinking about the pros and cons of different ways to solve a problem.
  • Speaking - Talking to others.
  • Complex Problem Solving - Noticing a problem and figuring out the best way to solve it.
  • Reading Comprehension - Reading work-related information.
  • Social Perceptiveness - Understanding people's reactions.
  • Judgment and Decision Making - Thinking about the pros and cons of different options and picking the best one.
  • Writing - Writing things for co-workers or customers.
  • Active Learning - Figuring out how to use new ideas or things.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of a list the work-related skills most commonly required for jobs in the career.

    This list can help you understand how well your current skills fit this career. It can also help you plan your education or professional development.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Skills descriptors.

Abilities
People in this career often have talent in:
  • Inductive Reasoning - Making general rules or coming up with answers from lots of detailed information.
  • Problem Sensitivity - Noticing when problems happen.
  • Oral Comprehension - Listening and understanding what people say.
  • Speech Recognition - Recognizing spoken words.
  • Deductive Reasoning - Using rules to solve problems.
  • Oral Expression - Communicating by speaking.
  • Written Comprehension - Reading and understanding what is written.
  • Speech Clarity - Speaking clearly.
  • Information Ordering - Ordering or arranging things.
  • Written Expression - Communicating by writing.
  • Near Vision - Seeing details up close.
  • Fluency of Ideas - Coming up with lots of ideas.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of a list of personal qualities that might influence work and are most commonly required for success in this career.

    This list can help you understand if your natural strengths and abilities are a good fit for this career.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Abilities descriptors.

Interests
  • Enterprising - Occupations with Enterprising interests frequently involve starting up and carrying out projects. Many involve leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk taking and often deal with business.
  • Investigative - Occupations with Investigative interests frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. They often involve research and figuring out problems mentally.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of work environment-preferences that are most commonly associated with the career. It can help you understand if your natural interests are a good fit for this career.

    Click "Take an interest assessment" for a quick 30-question assessment that can help you understand your interests and see careers that might be good matches for them.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from the O*NET Resource Center. Learn more about O*NET's Interest descriptors.

Typical tasks
  • Provide testimony as a witness in court.
  • Check victims for signs of life, such as breathing and pulse.
  • Secure deceased body and obtain evidence from it, preventing bystanders from tampering with it prior to medical examiner's arrival.
  • Obtain facts or statements from complainants, witnesses, and accused persons and record interviews, using recording device.
  • Record progress of investigation, maintain informational files on suspects, and submit reports to commanding officer or magistrate to authorize warrants.
  • Prepare charges or responses to charges, or information for court cases, according to formalized procedures.
  • Preserve, process, and analyze items of evidence obtained from crime scenes and suspects, placing them in proper containers and destroying evidence no longer needed.
  • Examine crime scenes to obtain clues and evidence, such as loose hairs, fibers, clothing, or weapons.
  • Obtain evidence from suspects.
  • Note, mark, and photograph location of objects found, such as footprints, tire tracks, bullets and bloodstains, and take measurements of the scene.
  • Examine records and governmental agency files to find identifying data about suspects.
  • Take photographs from all angles of relevant parts of a crime scene, including entrance and exit routes and streets and intersections.
  • Secure persons at scene, keeping witnesses from conversing or leaving the scene before investigators arrive.
  • Provide information to lab personnel concerning the source of an item of evidence and tests to be performed.
  • Videotape scenes where possible, including collection of evidence, examination of victim at scene, and defendants and witnesses.
  • Analyze completed police reports to determine what additional information and investigative work is needed.
  • Prepare and serve search and arrest warrants.
  • Question individuals or observe persons and establishments to confirm information given to patrol officers.
  • Participate or assist in raids and arrests.
  • Organize scene search, assigning specific tasks and areas of search to individual officers and obtaining adequate lighting as necessary.
  • Summon medical help for injured individuals and alert medical personnel to take statements from them.
  • Notify command of situation and request assistance.
  • Observe and photograph narcotic purchase transactions to compile evidence and protect undercover investigators.
  • Block or rope off scene and check perimeter to ensure that entire scene is secured.
  • Maintain surveillance of establishments to obtain identifying information on suspects.
  • Note relevant details upon arrival at scene, such as time of day and weather conditions.
  • Monitor conditions of victims who are unconscious so that arrangements can be made to take statements if consciousness is regained.
  • Coordinate with outside agencies and serve on interagency task forces to combat specific types of crime.

    What does this information tell me?

    This is a list of typical tasks that people in this career might do on the job.  You can use this list to get an idea of whether this career might be a good fit for you.

    Click on “More tasks” to see more detailed examples for this career.

    You can also use this list to help you prepare for a job interview. Or, if you’ve already held a job like this, you can copy these tasks to use on your resume.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information comes from O*NET OnLine's Occupation Information. They are O*NET‘s Tasks.

Other resources

    What does this information tell me?

    These are additional online resources related to this career. You may find different or more detailed information at these sources.

    What is the source of this information?

    This information is collected and maintained by CareerOneStop.