There are a couple of different types of detectives. You have the PI (Private Investigator), which sounds rather exotic and exciting, or you have the person working as part of the city’s Police Department.
Generally, a PI started his / her career in the police department and gained the necessary skills, knowledge and contacts to work privately.
Television has given us an exciting view of what detective work is…with a contrived script. In fact, real detectives have joined the government as police officers and worked their way up to this more elite position. The job entails the gathering of evidence, usually for a criminal case, and that means interviewing people, not always suspects, digging through records and information and the analysing of the evidence which these days can probably be done by computer.
Is it the Right Job for You?
Are you a public spirited, law abiding citizen? Do you know what’s right from wrong? Will dealing with the dark side of criminal behaviour and perhaps putting yourself at the risk of personal injury, even death, make you feel uncomfortable or a little excited? Are you a good communicator with better than average perception skills, able to separate the truth from lies? Can you speak more than one language? Are you physically fit, have good stamina and enjoy training to stay that way? These are probably a few of the questions you need to ask yourself before you embark on a career as a policeman and detective.
Education and Training
The minimum requirement to become a policeman, because that’s where you will have to start, is a high school diploma. Depending on the positions in a police department you might need a college diploma in a relevant field. Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement are two majors that come to mind. You will have to be accepted and enter the Police Academy and that will require you to be a citizen of your country and to be at least 21 years old. There are physical and written tests to be passed and prior to acceptance you will have to pass a drug test which, these days, is a pre-requisite for many jobs. You will be trained to use a firearm, how to control traffic and practise self – defence. Your ability to be able to handle mental stress will be of paramount importance.
Once you have passed through the Police Academy you will then be ready for patrol work and dealing with daily crime, be it petty or major. One important aspect of police work is to be able to understand how a criminal mind works. You might spend 3 – 4 years on different types of police work before being eligible to apply for a detective’s position. It’s at this point that you might wish you had taken up computer studies because the area of cybercrime is becoming extremely prevalent and the opportunities for detective work in that field is growing exponentially.
You Made It!
After at least 3 years as a police officer on the beat, you can take the promotion to detective. No doubt, during the 3 years you expressed your feelings to superior officers that you were looking for a higher position in the force. You have been a good police officer with a good record. You have continued your education in a couple of different fields such as computer forensics and human relations, maybe even picked up another language as that is very useful in your multicultural city. You have cultivated skills of paying attention to detail at crime scenes and accidents. There is still a place for that ‘gut feel’ when dealing with bad guys and it is an instinct that grows with experience. While there have been stressful moments, times when you have seen things you wish you hadn’t, maybe even done things that made you feel terrible, you have been able to handle it all. Upholding the law is, at times, extremely demanding physically and mentally.
Salary and Benefits
The median salary for a detective is about $80,000 a year. You have annual leave entitlements and medical insurance and the department normally provides ongoing training opportunities with relevant courses. Depending on your position there may be a car included for work purposes. The number of hours you might have to work weekly is an unknown as not all overtime is paid. When you are hunting a murderer or a serial killer time is of the essence and you will usually stay on the job for as long as possible each day to capture the perpetrator. These days the real work starts after catching the criminal, trying to keep him / her behind bars until the court hearing, then, obtaining a successful conviction as you battle the legal system. The reports and paperwork involved in the legal system form a very time consuming aspect of the job.