How to Become a Police Detective

To become a police detective, you need to be motivated highly committed, and prepared to deal with a very tough, sometimes dangerous, unpredictable work routine.

Training and education

The police detective career starts with the basic educational requirements of entry to the police force. This is usually high school diploma level or higher. (You'll need to check with your state recruitment office to get specific details.)  Standard civil service entry requirements apply to police positions, involving verified citizenship status, physical health checks, and personal background checks.

There are multiple levels in police training and detective training. Post secondary education is a common feature of police training, either through college courses in law enforcement criminal justice, police science, administration of justice, or public administration. Police academy training is fundamental professional police training, required at all levels of service.

Detective training is based on internal and external training sources. This training should be considered ongoing education, in career terms. Detective work has a very demanding set of standards, legal and technical, which are essential requirements even at entry levels. Training in these areas is intensive, and requires frequent upgrades. Law enforcement is not a static profession, and currency of operational procedures and information is essential.

These areas include:

Evidence requirements:
What constitutes admissible evidence to a court is a fundamental issue in detective work. Prosecutions stand or fall on the nature of evidence provided.

Forensics:
This is one of the primary areas of evidence collection and evaluation. A good understanding of forensic issues and their role in information gathering within the investigation process is essential to detectives.

The specialist knowledge required in the various forms of police detective role:
Detectives may work in various areas, like organized crime, fraud, money laundering, homicide, robbery, etc. Each field requires special knowledge of the area of law being enforced and the operational methods and techniques of enforcement.

Law enforcement practices:
Detectives must comply with strict standards of law enforcement procedures. This includes documenting their work and actions, filing reports, and compliance with statutory requirements.

Training and careers


Police departments have facilities for training and career development which can greatly assist career advancement. If you want to specialize in a particular area of detective work, you can do it. You need to be very clear, however, about what your career goal is, and define in practical terms the role you want.

To work in the field you prefer, you'll need to get advice from police HR services and guidance from senior detectives and academics regarding courses, degrees, and areas of employment. You will need to map the qualifications and career track thoroughly. In many cases there are prerequisites and training which can provide useful entry points on to the right career paths.

It's advisable to take a long term, strategic view of your career. The police environment can be a particularly complex professional area. It involves a promotional career track at all stages, meaning an appropriate resume is necessary for career advancement to senior positions.  Advanced training and management skills are also essential. High levels of professional achievement are required for these roles.