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how to become a detective

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Brittany’s Answer

There are many types of detectives out there - so any answer would be dependent on what type of field or specification you are looking at. I will assume you mean a police/LEO detective, in which case, you will need your High School education or GED equivalent, a 2-4yr degree in criminology or criminal justice, and will first serve as a police officer and receive training through that track. Every country and state/municipality has varying requirements, so my suggestion would be to determine where you would like to work and what specific field (forensics, investigations, etc.), and go to the local law enforcement's website for FAQs and possible points of contact to provide specific details on what they look for in prospective hires.

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Rahat’s Answer

Step 1: Graduate from high school (four years). At this stage, aspiring detectives are encouraged to foster skills such as critical thinking, deductive reasoning, and inductive reasoning.

Some students may choose to seek out volunteer opportunities through their local police departments, civic organizations, or federal agencies in order to get hands-on training in the field.

Step 2: Get a degree in criminal justice, criminology, sociology, or a related discipline (two to four years). Some prospective police detectives may be eligible to enroll directly in a police academy, but many police academies require at least some college to qualify.

Step 3: For prospective police detectives: Enroll in a police academy and get investigative experience (one to three years). For those looking to become police detectives—an option which can be more lucrative than becoming a private investigator (PI)—enrolling in a police academy is the next step.

Although requirements vary by department and region, to qualify for a police academy, candidates must be US citizens; be at least 18 years old; possess a driver’s license; have no felony convictions; and have some college experience. Please note that state and federal agencies typically require at least four years of undergraduate education. Police academy programs generally last six to eight months with specialized training in firearm use, patrol procedures, ethics, self-defense, report-writing, CPR and first aid, physical fitness, and emergency response.

After the academy, aspiring detectives are urged to take on advanced training and responsibilities in investigative units to build their resumes. There are various branches of investigation including homicide, surveillance, fraud, computer crimes, financial crimes, and missing people.

Step 4a: Prospective private investigators (PIs) should pursue on-the-job investigative experience and state licensure (timeline varies). For civilian PIs, requirements vary by state, but many require licensure.

Step 4b: Take the police detective test or get professionally certified (timeline varies). There is a wealth of certifications available for both police detectives and private investigators.

For those who have several years of investigative experience in law enforcement, they may qualify to take the National Detective/Investigative Test (NDIT) which measures a police officer’s readiness to become a detective or investigator. This 75-question exam measures candidates’ knowledge in criminal investigations, major court cases, and investigative interviewing.

Similarly, the Police Detective (PDET) 200 Series provides a 100-question test gauging law enforcement professionals’ knowledge in police investigative procedures, laws related to police work, and how to complete reports. There are also professional certifications available to detectives and PIs outside of police forces.

Step 5: Fulfill local credentialing requirements (timeline varies). Requirements to become a detective can vary by state. Since most states have different requirements to become a police officer, steps to join the state’s detective division may also vary.

Overall, some police departments require prospective detectives to hold only a high school diploma or GED, while others require some college courses or a two- to four-year college degree.

In short, the requirements to become a detective vary widely by state. Aspiring candidates are encouraged to reach out to their local government offices to find out about eligibility.