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Earnings Potential

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual earnings of detectives and criminal investigators were $53,990. The middle 50 percent earned between $40,690 and $72,280. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,180, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $86,010. Median annual earnings were $75,700 in Federal Government, $46,670 in State government, and $49,650 in local government. Salaries for private detectives vary significantly depending on geographic area and specialty. The average salary for private detectives is $32,110 annually.

Facts at a glance

  • Work hours are often irregular, and the work can be dangerous.
  • About 1 in 4 detectives are self-employed.
  • Applicants typically have related experience in areas such as law enforcement, insurance, the military, or government investigative or intelligence jobs.
  • Despite faster-than-average employment growth, keen competition is expected because of the large number of qualified people who are attracted to this occupation; the most opportunities will be found in entry-level jobs with detective agencies or in stores that hire detectives on a part-time basis.

Summary of what this career entails

Detectives are plainclothes investigators who gather facts and collect evidence for criminal cases. Some are assigned to interagency task forces to combat specific types of crime. They conduct interviews, examine records, observe the activities of suspects, and participate in raids or arrests. Detectives and State and Federal agents and inspectors usually specialize in investigating one of a wide variety of violations, such as homicide or fraud. They are assigned cases on a rotating basis and work on them until an arrest and conviction occurs or until the case is dropped.

Examples and or details of work

If an individual wants to be a private detective, no formal education is required. Although, individuals are required to have 3 years experience, criminal background, and receive a qualifying score on the State required exam.

Degrees that lead to this career

To be considered for a position as a F.B.I. detective, individuals must have a four year degree in related fields. Some of the degrees individuals may attain include:

  • B.S. in Criminal Justice
  • B.S. in Criminal Law
  • B.S. in Police Science
  • B.S. in Accounting
  • B.S. in Information Technology
  • B.S. in Electrical Engineering

Specific Career openings in this field

Some of the positions possibly available for individuals that want a career as a detective include private detective or investigator, legal investigator, corporate investigator, and a financial investigator.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition, Private Detectives and Investigators, on the Internet at

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition, Police and Detectives, on the Internet at