How Do You Become a Criminal Investigator?

The person in the position of criminal investigator, or CI, will investigate crimes by applying their education and experience to the task. The investigator will work in a police department investigating crimes like theft or murder. Other organizations need investigators too. U.S. Immigration, state police, FBI or Customs Enforcement all need investigators working crimes to find the responsible party.

Tasks and Duties

An investigator who is new to the position will start on the bottom by learning how to investigate crimes. Even after years of schooling, they need to understand procedures and how to prepare evidence properly. They’ll start by learning to prepare written records, taking notes and assisting more experienced investigators. At crime scenes, the new investigator will observe and study the scene. Once the investigator has experience, she’ll be allowed to handle her own investigations, which will involve interviewing witnesses, gathering evidence and organizing a case against a guilty party.

Education Requirements

A criminal investigator or detective will need to start as an officer with a high school diploma. More and more, police departments are requiring the officer to have a college degree. If you want to move ahead in the ranks from officer to investigator, it’s important to have an advanced education in a topic like forensics, investigation, sociology or criminal justice. For a position in a federal agency, you’ll need to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the very least. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pay of a criminal investigator is around $79,000 annually depending on the area as well as experience of the investigator.

Training on the Job

To be hired, you’ll need to apply for the investigator job. This usually involves being in the department as an officer or other type of investigator. The on-the-job training will prepare the officer for an advanced position of investigator or detective. When applying for the position, the officer will need years of experience as well as the right skills. Skills include critical thinking and reasoning. After years of police work, the officer can apply for the role of investigator or detective. There’s often a test involves in obtaining the promotion.

Promotion to Investigator

Before being promoted to investigator or detective, police officers must have been good at their jobs. That means responding promptly to calls, turning in complete paperwork at the end of the shift and establishing a reputation as a hard worker. In many departments, the investigators have been on the job for years. You’ll have to work as an officer before you can be promoted to investigator with your own cases.

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You can decide to become a police office before being promoted to criminal investigator in the department. You might decide to hold the position of officer before attending school to learn whether it fits your career path. After obtaining a degree, you can become a U.S. Marshal, crime scene investigator, homicide detective, FBI agent or fire investigator. When you want to advance in a law enforcement career, you’ll need to have the right skills and education.