How To Jumpstart Your Detective Career

Don’t you think detectives look so cool in movies and fiction? They are always so brilliant and calm, finding little give-away details that everyone misses. Their life is thrilling and fascinating. Isn’t it why many of us look up to them as a kid? Have you ever thought of becoming a detective yourself? How much do detectives make?

Why You Should Consider A Detective Career

Those with a strong passion for solving puzzles and exploring the unknown might find most traditional careers like watching grass grow. Are you looking for a job that can invigorate your creative and curious nature? Then a career as a detective might be the one.

By definition, detectives are heroes who commit to uncover the truth and bring people to justice. They do their job by investigating matters handed to them. What and how a detective investigates depends on their position in the field. For example, there are two primary jobs: private detectives and public detectives.

  • Public detectives (police detectives) work in governmental law enforcement agencies and solve crimes within the police.
  • Private investigators handle cases their clients require. It is often about collecting information about certain institutions or individuals. A big difference is private investigators are not authorized to arrest or apprehend their suspects.

Of course, to serve the community is a reason to become a detective. However, everyone needs money to pay their bills. You must be wondering: “How much do detectives make?”

How Much Do Detectives Make?

In the United States, an average detective makes about $83,170 per year. That is roughly $20.000 higher than the median wage (According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), making detective one of the high-paid jobs in the United States. On the contrary, an average private investigator receives an annual salary of only $57.100. This amount is $6.000 higher than the median wage. It can mainly attribute to their varying clients and irregular flow of works. However, it is still possible for a private investigator to make $90.000 or higher if they are well-established.

The answer to “How much does a detective make?” also depends on their seniority.

SeniorityAverage annual payment
Top-level detective$139,180
Senior-level detective$107,050
Mid-level detective$83,170
Junior-level detective$58,890

Detectives’ pay based on seniority – Source: careerexplorer

One more selling point to become a detective is that they don’t have to wear uniforms, though wearing concealed firearms is obligated. So “what do detectives wear?” you may ask. The answer is detectives can wear anything that they find fit for their task, perhaps something to help them blend in or gain trust. Most detectives wear suits and casual clothes depending on the weather.

How Can You Become A Detective?

There are certain things to prepare before one embarking on this path of investigation.

How Much Do Detectives Make

There are certain things to prepare – Source: Marcus Winkler


In every state, the minimum requirement to be a detective is a high-school diploma or GED. However, for some high positions, governmental agencies will require a college degree.  The degree can be in criminology, sociology, criminal justice, or a discipline related to the job.

Below is the list of the top 10 colleges for criminal justice in the United States:

RankingNameSAT range
1University of Pennsylvania1450 – 1560
2University of California – Irvine1170 – 1420
3CUNY John Jay College of Criminal justice980 – 1130
4Florida State University1200 – 1340
5Northeastern University1390 – 1540
6University of Miami 1270 – 1440
7University of Florida1310 – 2470
8Texas Christian University1150 – 1350
9Liberty University 1040 – 1260
10Monroe College – Bronx/New Rochelle960 – 1100

Top 10 colleges for criminal justice in the US – Source:

To be a police detective, applicants must be U.S citizens and be 21 years or older at the time of application. They also need to pass a blood test and toxic screening to prove that they are negative from drugs and similar substances. After that, recruits will take part in a training course held by their agency or department. These courses usually take from six to eight months. Recruits will train in firearm use, self-defense, patrol procedures, traffic control, report-writing, ethics, CPR, first aid, and emergency response.

Qualification - How Much Do Detectives Make

Shooting Range training for future detectives – Source: STNGR Industries

Skills & Personality Traits

Because detectives often find themselves in volatile situations, they must have a sharp mind and a calm attitude. Successful detectives usually have virtues like curiosity, attentivity to detail, and perseverance. Moreover, detectives have to equip some skills such as: 

  • Communication skills: Detectives collect clues by talking to witnesses, victims, and suspects. A detective has to pay attention to both verbal and nonverbal details to detect any sign of dishonesty.
  • Decision-making skills: Detectives must be decisive because just a bit of hesitation can cost them an important clue or make time for the criminal to hide.
  • Resourcefulness: A detective must always follow strict procedures. However, suppose detectives know how to use the resources they have at hand. In that case, it gives an advantage to the investigating process.
Skills & Personality Traits - How Much Do Detectives Make

Detective job requires meticulousness – Sources: Agence Olloweb


In most cases, a detective or even an agent started working as a police officer before becoming a detective. That is because police detectives applicants often have to take a few years to get promoted to the position. To qualify for licensure, they must have had a law degree and 4,000 hours of experience or an associate degree plus 5,000 hours of experience. Having 6,000 hours of paid investigative work experience also grant people a chance to become a detective, according to California’s Bureau of Security and Investigate Service report 2020.

Experience - How Much Do Detectives Make

Most detectives start working as police officers – Source: Erick Mclean

Where To Find Jobs

The easiest way to become a police detective, as mentioned, is through promotion in a standard National police agency. Ideally, start as a police officer in your area, and express your interest in becoming a detective to the superiors.

As for those who want to be a private detective, many open positions are hiring online at all times since this career is high in demand. In particular, some of the most popular private investigators agencies in the United States are:

  • BCI Business Compliance & Investigators 
  • Gold Shield Security & Investigation 
  • New York Intelligence Agency 
  • Sherlock Investigations 
  • John Cutter InvestigationsCPI Investigations 
  • New York City Private Investigator 
  • Global Threat Solutions 
  • Spy Store


All in all, working as a detective could be challenging and rewarding as well. At the end of each case, there will be a deep satisfaction and motivation for you to keep on the work of proving what’s right and protecting others.

If being a detective is your dream, then fear not to work hard to follow that path. Hopefully, all the hard work will pay off.

If you are not so sure, check out our articles in Job overview and find your dream job right now.

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Emmanuel Davies

Most of Emmanuel Davies's professional life has been spent in education. Early in the year 2020, he teamed up with JobandEdu, getting a career counselor writer role and contributing such as career overview, employment counseling, and workplace culture. Davies has deep expertise in the academic and career advisor position gained via past roles at diverse establishments and foundations. Consequently, he plans to use writing to disseminate his knowledge and counsel to the masses.