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What college classes do you recommend for someone interested in becoming a detective?

I'm in middle school and taking a career class. I'm interested in learning more about how to become a detective, so I would like to know what classes are recommend. #career #detective

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Paladin "Pj"’s Answer

Introduction to Law Enforcement and Introduction to Criminal Justice are 2 college courses I recommend. The introduction to law enforcement course covers the duties and responsibilities of law enforcement officers. The course describes the differences in the job duties of various law enforcement officers. For example, local law enforcement officers are city police officers. Their duties include responding to everyday crimes, traffic issues, and investigating crimes like burglary, domestic violence, and complaints between neighbors, etc.

State and county police perform the same types of duties in areas which have no city police officers. State and county police also conduct investigations involving gangs, drugs, human trafficking, and more complicated investigations like bribery, organized crime, and financial crimes like fraud and deceptive practices. State and county law enforcement also offer police training classes. Police officers must receive special training in weapons use, high speed driving, report writing, first aid, responding to emergencies like earthquakes and tornadoes.

Federal law enforcement, like the FBI, DEA, and Homeland Security, conduct investigations of terrorists, espionage, political corruption, kidnapping, internet-related crimes, and crimes which may occur in different states or regions of the USA at the same time. Federal law enforcement also provides training and financial resources to local and state law enforcement.

The Introduction to Law Enforcement course also describes the history of law enforcement, as well as how police officers are hired and trained.

The Introduction to Criminal Justice Course covers the three parts of the criminal justice system: law enforcement, the courts, and corrections. In America, law enforcement is responsible for enforcing the law, investigating crimes, and arresting offenders. The courts are responsible for determining whether the arrested person is guilty or innocent of the crime. Corrections are responsible for handling offenders found guilty of committing crimes. Corrections keeps offenders in jail and monitors those on probation and parole. The Introduction to Criminal Justice course describes how the police, courts, and corrections work together, what their duties are, and what the challenges are in each area.

There is some overlap between the two courses. Taking either course provides an understanding of what a detective's duties are. You will also see how detective work is used in other areas of law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

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Michael’s Answer

You're in a god place to get your plan started.

#1: Your school should have foreign language options today, or in high school. Take as many years of Spanish, French, Russian or Chinese, depending on what's available in your location. Wherever you may end up working, having a second language will always be a valuable skill.

#2: English - pay close attention to your English teachers for the rest of your time in school. Over half of the job in law enforcement requires strong literary skills, as you'll be writing thousands of pages of reports as an officer and as an investigator/detective. (Hollywood rarely shows us how much time detectives on TV and in movies must dedicate to writing down what happened in every call, every interview, every surveillance operation, and the analysis of every crime scene you encounter. From the beginning of your career, you'll be closely evaluated based on your WRITING skills. Complete sentences matter, spelling and grammar matter, the depth of your vocabulary matters, and your ability to tell a story in a solid, comprehensive narrative about the facts (and very little opinion). READING is also an essential skill, as you'll also be expected to read large quantities of other people's reports- statements, crime stats, patrol officer's reports, field interview notes, forensic reports, coroner reports, legal opinions (precedent court cases), parole & probation reports, psychological reports, etc., etc.

#3: Civics/Social Studies - You'll need a detailed understanding about how government works, at the County, Municipal, State and Federal levels. You may need to testify about specific cases, or series of crimes, or policy and procedure to a committee involving your local legislature. You may be tasked to explain existing law to members of the press, witnesses and victims, lawyers, suspects, your superiors or people you may end up training and supervising. You may eventually be working with your Union (Fraternal Order of Police, etc.) to lobby for or against pending legislation, and/or in disciplinary issues regarding your co-workers.

#4: Gym/Physical Fitness/Sports - you should be working out regularly to build and maintain a high degree of physical fitness. You need to ensure you are fit, cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength, agility, speed, and endurance. You should work with coaches and peers to learn how to RUN, with a goal of running 3-5 miles several times per week (for the rest of your life). Wrestling, Boxing, contact sports all teach you how to win in a fight when only points matter- when you are trying to make an arrest, losing the fight probably ends with your death or serious physical injuries. Do these things throughout middle and high school and while in college, and train yourself physically and mentally to WIN that first violent encounter with someone determined NOT to go to jail.

#5: Computer skills- learn and master Microsoft Office- Word, Excel, Windows platforms, Adobe, etc. You'll spend 65% of your career (or more) on a laptop or desktop, and your employer won't have time to teach you how to format a letter or set up a spreadsheet. FORENSICS- if you can, take as many computer courses as you can find.

#6: Plan on enlisting with the military (US Army or Marines) when you reach 17-18. Both have an excellent career booster in the Military Police Corps, where they will send you to Ft Leonard Wood, MO, for your first professional Law Enforcement Academy. (Talk to both recruiters- you could go active duty/full time, or join the Reserves/National Guard in your own region.) While other 18-21 year old "kids" are wasting time with "Criminal Justice" programs at Community or 4 year colleges, you'll actually be SERVING as a Military Police officer on an Army or Marine Corps base, performing real LE work and building both experience and seniority towards your long term goal (whether you stay for 20 years in the military or transition to a City, County, State or Federal law enforcement agency. (Almost every agency out there allows you to use your military service time towards your retirement/pension plan.) On most assignments, you can actually be serving full time as an MP, and attending college on-line or in person on base, using your military college (GI Bill) benefits to PAY for your degree.

As a Military Police (Soldier or Marine), you’ll protect peoples’ lives and property on Army or Navy installations by enforcing military laws and regulations. You’ll also control traffic, prevent crime, and respond to all emergencies. You’ll conduct force protection, anti-terrorism, area security, and police intelligence operations. You’ll also train in corrections and detention, investigations and mobility, and security around the world. All of this experience will make you a highly attractive candidate for any civilian police agency once you complete your contract - and you'll have earned Veteran's Preference for hiring and promotion for the rest of your career.

#7: In College or University, skip the "Criminal Justice" majors- they take 3-4 years to teach you what you'll learn in Police Academies. It would be wiser to take a major in Political Science, English, Accounting, Computer Science or any other major that interests you. Take at least 4 semesters in a foreign language, and work on becoming as functionally fluent as possible.

#8: Consider joining your local Volunteer Fire /Rescue Company as soon as you reach age 16. When practical, you can probably complete the Fire Academy in your state before you graduate from high school. You should also try and take the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) course and earn the National Registry card. Having the combination of skills as a firefighter will open a pathway to become am Arson/Explosives Investigator, a rapid path to becoming a Detective at the State or Municipal level. Having the EMT card will give you critical medical skills that may enable you to save multiple lives during your career- it also makes you more knowledgeable about medical terms and injuries that help you solve cases. The combination of experience as a Firefighter/EMT and MP also makes you an excellent candidate for Special Weapons & Tactics in larger departments.

#9: Extra option - Enlist in the National Guard/Reserves in your local community. Most recruiters can arrange for you to attend Basic Training during your summer break (Junior year or immediately after graduation). While selecting your college, look for one that has ROTC as an option (see link below) which allows you to graduate with a BA/BS and a Commission in the US Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force or Coast Guard. All 5 branches have Law Enforcement options, any of which would promote your chances of earning the rank of Detective in a civilian agency, or you could pursue a career in US Army CID, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, or Coast Guard Investigative Service.

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Mark’s Answer

Many agencies require a college degree in Law Enforcement or Criminal Justice. One would obviously take courses in Criminal Law and Forensic Science. However, the basics such as Math, Science & English are super important for a foundation. Communication skills, both verbal and written are a necessity! As in many careers, one is constantly continuing their education taking workshops, seminars and sometimes even additional college.

I think the best detectives need to be Self-motivated and disciplined as well as highly organized and good at time-management. Any classed that help develop these skills and traits are helpful as well as human relations, criminal procedure and judicial function.

I personally am not in law enforcement. However, I hold law enforcement in very high regard!

Hope this helps!!

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Stephen’s Answer


Thanks for your interest in law enforcement! There are so many classes that can help you become a Police Detective. I can tell you everything from psychology, and sociology to communications classes can help. Other things such as basic as English, math, and especially being able to type fast are a must. Computer science and an understanding of current technology is very important as this seems to dictate a great deal of the work that we tend to do. Find the things that you are interested in and see if there is a correlation to using them as a Detective. This can make things easier and keep them interesting. As a Detective you need to be able and willing to learn anything that might be required of you, so maintaining this attitude and mind set will help you a great deal as well.

I hope this helps a little. If becoming a Police Detective is something that you decide you want to do, understand that you CAN make it happen. Just dedicate yourself to it and work hard.

Take care,

Stephen Brunner-Murphy
Police Detective (Ret.)
Hamilton Montana Police Dept.