A detective researches and finds evidence to help solve criminal cases and investigate possible criminal or deviant activity. They may need to respond to emergency calls at any hour of the day and make arrests. They also gather evidence from the crime scene and process it to use in a criminal case. They communicate with a variety of people and organizations, such as law enforcement, emergency personnel, and the public.

As a detective, your duties will include gathering facts and collecting evidence for possible criminal cases or clients. You'll also determine which people and pieces of information are credible by conducting interviews, examining records, and observing suspects. Once you have your case built, you'll participate in raids and arrests, which will lead to writing detailed reports on findings and testifying in court. Essential skills include problem-solving, critical thinking, communication, ethical behavior, attention to detail, and flexibility. Most individuals can qualify for the position with a high school diploma or GED; however, a bachelor's degree in criminal studies or law may be given preference.

The average annual salary for a detective is $49,204. The career is expected to grow 5% in the near future, which will create various job opportunities across the United States.

What Does a Detective Do

Police officers protect lives and property. Detectives and criminal investigators, who are sometimes called agents or special agents, gather facts and collect evidence of possible crimes.

How To Become a Detective

Education requirements range from a high school diploma to a college degree. Most police and detectives must graduate from their agency’s training academy before completing a period of on-the-job training. Candidates must be U.S. citizens, usually at least 21 years old, and able to meet rigorous physical and personal qualification standards. A felony conviction or drug use may disqualify a candidate.

Detective Career Paths

Average Salary for a Detective

Detectives in America make an average salary of $57,984 per year or $28 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $95,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $35,000 per year.
Average Detective Salary
$57,984 Yearly
$27.88 hourly
10 %
90 %

What Am I Worth?


Detective Education

Detective Majors

Detective Degrees


54.2 %


23.6 %

High School Diploma

7.9 %

Top Colleges for Detectives

1. University of Arizona

Tucson, AZ • Private

In-State Tuition

2. California State University - Bakersfield

Bakersfield, CA • Private

In-State Tuition

3. University of Maryland - College Park

College Park, MD • Private

In-State Tuition

4. North Carolina State University

Raleigh, NC • Private

In-State Tuition

5. University of Washington

Seattle, WA • Private

In-State Tuition

6. University of Georgia

Athens, GA • Private

In-State Tuition

7. Texas State University

San Marcos, TX • Private

In-State Tuition

8. Western Carolina University

Cullowhee, NC • Private

In-State Tuition

9. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

New Brunswick, NJ • Private

In-State Tuition

10. Florida International University

Miami, FL • Private

In-State Tuition

Top Skills For a Detective

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 14.7% of detectives listed present evidence on their resume, but soft skills such as communication skills and empathy are important as well.

  • Present Evidence, 14.7%
  • Crime Scenes, 11.0%
  • Law Enforcement, 7.9%
  • Criminal Cases, 5.9%
  • Insurance Fraud, 4.6%
  • Other Skills, 55.9%

Choose From 10+ Customizable Detective Resume templates

Zippia allows you to choose from different easy-to-use Detective templates, and provides you with expert advice. Using the templates, you can rest assured that the structure and format of your Detective resume is top notch. Choose a template with the colors, fonts & text sizes that are appropriate for your industry.

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Detective Demographics

Detective Gender Distribution


After extensive research and analysis, Zippia's data science team found that:

  • Among detectives, 17.3% of them are women, while 82.7% are men.

  • The most common race/ethnicity among detectives is White, which makes up 66.2% of all detectives.

  • The most common foreign language among detectives is Spanish at 66.1%.

Online Courses For Detective That You May Like

Advertising Disclosure  The courses listed below are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the course, we may receive a commission.
Criminal Law in 120 Minutes: A Fast Track Course

A 2 hour fast track summary of Criminal Law, targeting all common law LL.B examinations!...

Introduction to International Criminal Law

About the Course - From the Nuremberg trial to the case against Saddam Hussein, from the prosecution of Al-Qaeda terrorists to the trial of Somali pirates - no area of law is as important to world peace and security as international criminal law. Taught by one of the world's leading experts in the field, this course will educate students about the fundamentals of international criminal law and policy. We will explore the contours of international crimes such as genocide, war crimes, terrorism, a...

Hot Topics in Criminal Justice

The American criminal justice system is in need of reform. We incarcerate too many people. We pay insufficient attention to scientific advances that can help separate out the most and least culpable and dangerous. We grant the police far too much power to use force and technological surveillance. As a way of thinking about dealing with these problems, this course examines two over-arching issues: What should we do with people who have committed crime, and how should we identify who they are? On...

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Top Detective Employers

Most Common Employers For Detective

Rank  Company  Average Salary  Hourly Rate  Job Openings  
1Police Department$73,543$35.368
2Polk County Sheriff's Office$62,363$29.987
3Broward Sheriff's Office$62,337$29.9711
5LAPD HQ$54,946$26.428
6Law Enforcement Labor Services$50,380$24.2212
7Kansas City Police Department$50,275$24.177
8Memphis Police Department$49,287$23.709
9City of New York$49,187$23.65192
10Arizona Department of Public Safety$47,550$22.867

Detective Videos

Becoming a Detective FAQs

What degree do you need to be a detective?

You need a two-year associate's or a four-year bachelor's degree to be a detective. Whether you need a two-year or four-year degree depends largely on the department. Specific educational requirements vary from one police department to the next.

What is the difference between a detective and a criminal investigator?

The difference between a detective and a criminal investigator is that detectives work on cases involving homicides and felonies, while criminal investigators work on a range of criminal and civil cases, such as fraud and missing persons.

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