How to Become a Criminal Investigator

The popularity of TV detective shows such as "CSI" has led to an explosion of people wanting to learn how to become a criminal investigator. Although the reality of the profession is markedly different from what is seen on TV, a criminal investigator's job is still a fascinating and challenging one. If you're interested in pursuing this career, here are some tips on becoming a criminal investigator.


You will have to make certain requirements even to be considered for a criminal investigator job. A background with no major criminal violations is a must. If you have a jail stay in your past or have been found guilty of a felony, you might as well forget being a real criminal investigator. A good credit score is also necessary. There will be a thorough check of your background, so it is best to be completely honest when asked about your past.

You should also be in a relatively good state of physical fitness to be a criminal investigator. This doesn't mean you need to have Bruce Willis or Sylvester Stallone levels of conditioning, but you should be able to get around easily and perform physical tasks without tiring quickly.

Education and Training

This can vary significantly, but a high school diploma or GED is generally considered a must. If you are interested in the more scientific aspects of criminal investigation, a college degree is strongly encouraged, and a master's degree is often preferred. Many vocational and two-year colleges now offer specialized criminal investigation classes in addition to the traditional four-year college path. You can prepare yourself for a criminal investigation career by excelling in subjects such as English, psychology, chemistry and computer science. Taking courses in handling firearms can also help.

Very few criminal investigators start off as actual investigators. Most will work their way up to that level by gaining experience at other jobs. A background in jobs such as security officer, collection agent, loss prevention manager or police officer provides a terrific base for you to build a criminal investigation career on.

When you do become a criminal investigator, you will be paired with a more experienced worker. This period of "apprenticeship" will last about one to three years and provides invaluable real life experience in "learning the ropes."

Certification and Licensing

Certification can be a definite asset for a criminal investigator. The most recognized certification is the Certified Criminal Defense Investigator (CCDI), which is offered by the Criminal Defense Investigation Training Council. The designation requires forty hours of training as well as two letters of recommendation and two years of work experience. Investigators are re-tested every two years to make sure their knowledge is current.

Each state has its own licensing requirements for criminal investigators. It is best to visit the specific state's website to find out what the requirements are. If you are certified, there is very little trouble acquiring a license from the state.

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