What is a Criminal Investigator?

Working as a criminal investigator can be a rewarding life experience if you are the type of person who can effectively apply analytical skills to critically examine complex situations and come up with accurate results. However, it is very important to first understand what the job entails. This includes knowing the key roles of crime investigators, educational and training requirements and the essential skills and attributes.

Roles of Criminal Investigators

The main objective of criminal investigators is to gather facts surrounding a particular crime. They are usually called to the scene of the crime where they gather the evidence required to draw meaningful conclusions and charge the suspects. They collect evidence by reaching out to the witnesses, taking and examining samples and interviewing the suspects. Other roles include keeping the records of investigations, presenting findings in courts and collaborating with other law enforcement units to exchange information.

Criminal investigators work closely with police officers and often participate in arrests or raids. They specialize in crimes against people, drug trafficking, sex violation, homicide and fraud. They may work in offices or streets. The job sometimes requires a lot of traveling, especially if you are working with the federal and state agencies.

Education and Training for Criminal Investigators

A criminal investigator must have both educational and investigative training to work effectively. An associate’s or bachelor’s degree is usually the minimum requirement for an investigator or detective. There are some states that allow individuals with high school diplomas. A good idea is to obtain a bachelor’s or master’s degree in criminal justice or law enforcement to increase your job opportunities and earn good salaries.

Most of the investigators begin their profession by joining a police academy. The academy training program usually takes between 12 and 14 weeks to complete. Eligible candidates must have an acceptable hearing, vision, strength and agility. Written examinations and previous education experience are also required before admission.

You will learn how about the criminal justice system, from the investigation stages to arrests and court proceedings. You will be taught how to apply the legal concepts such as use of force, personal search and seizure effectively. Other essential areas include the techniques and methods of identifying criminal activities and the prevention of delinquency risk factors.

Essential Skills and Attributes

Great crime investigators must have strong communication and interviewing skills. The investigator must interview the suspects or witness and extract as much information as possible. Other essential skills include a sound knowledge of the law and justice system, ability to control emotions and strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Salary and Job Outlook

The increasing importance of forensic evidence in the justice system means that the demand for criminal investigators will continue to grow across all law enforcement units. The federal government agencies project the employment rate to grow by 27 percent through 2024. Much of the growth in demand will be driven by the new technologies that have made crime investigation easier and faster.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that criminal investigators and detectives earned an average salary of $81,490 in 2016.

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Undergraduate and graduate students who major in criminal justice and law enforcement can work as criminal investigators in various government agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the US Marshals Service. A strong knowledge of the law and the justice system is also necessary to succeed as a criminal investigator.