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How many years of experience do you need to be a criminal investigator?

I have read that you need to have experience as a police officer before you can be an investigator. What is the minimum number of year before you can begin your job as an investigator, is there any degrees? investigator policeofficer experience

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Kerri’s Answer

I guess I am confused are you meaning detective? Investigators are usually associated with Sheriff's Office officers, but detectives, sergeants, and lieutenants are associated with police. Depending on the job openings for detectives and whether someone has a number lower than yours (police jargon for they got hired before you) there may not come a chance for quite a while. You will be expected to work as a patrol office for as long at your Field Training Program around 16 weeks and then you will have about 6 months solo probation before you are considered a fully fledged police officer. This is after you go to the academy which is 16 to 26 weeks long depending on the state or city you are applying for. Then I would say on average probably not until 3 years of solo patrol work. You have to build up a knowledge base and working career with experience before you can become a detective of anything. Then there is detectives tests to take you have to pass to get in. If you are in it for the long haul it goes fast but knowing it might be 5 to 6 years from the time you start the academy to when you can be solely a detective or investigator maybe rethink things. Hope that helps!!

Also having a bachelor's degree definitely benefits pay increase right away and will be considered an added point for your application for a detective when the time comes.

Thank you very much Kerri. Ashley S.

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Nick’s Answer

Hello Ashley,
Law Enforcement experience comes in all shapes and sizes. So do Investigators. As a Criminal Investigator, it took me 15 years to achieve the title. However, I’ve been performing the job duties of an Investigator since my second year as an officer. A nearby police department has a Detective who has three years experience as an officer. So, the answer is: it all depends.

Larger law enforcement agencies will require experience as an officer. Most Investigator and Detective positions are promoted from within. With the extensive amount of internal paperwork an Investigator handles, it’s important for them to understand established processes. However, smaller departments are easier to adjust to. Therefore, Investigators often have much broader roles in these departments.

Also, don’t forget there are different types of Investigators: Investigators and Detectives in local Police and Sheriff Offices, Investigators in Prosecutor and Public Defender offices, Death Investigators, Background Investigators, Crime Scene Investigators, and Federal Agency Investigators (Often in an Office of Inspector General).

A degree can help. It depends on what you’re looking to work in though. FBI Special Agents with Accounting Degrees are much more likely to be working Financial Crimes, where someone with a degree in Psychology may be investigating homicides and Major Crimes.

Nick recommends the following next steps:

Interview small and large city Investigators
Research what field you want to work in
Read through job postings for interested positions
Ride along with law enforcement officers to experience the job
Search for Criminal Justice, Criminology, and Forensic Psychology degree plans

Thank you very much Nick Ashley S.

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