What Degree Do You Need For a Criminal Investigator?

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What Degree Do You Need For a Criminal Investigator?

What Is the Job Description of a Criminal Investigator? 

Criminal investigators are high-ranking law enforcement officers who typically work for municipal, state, or federal agencies. These investigators interview suspects, crime victims, and witnesses, search for evidence and write reports on criminal activities. They may also be subjected to monitoring or be called to testify in court. 

Working as a criminal investigator, like many other law enforcement occupations, carries some danger of personal injury. The level of risk that the investigator is exposed to is primarily determined by his or her specialty. The work can be high-adrenaline, and the investigator will almost certainly need to be armed. Some investigators work alone, while others work in groups or even as a team. The majority of criminal investigators work full-time, while night, weekend, and overtime hours are common.

What Is the Role of a Criminal Investigator?

To investigate crimes and prosecute perpetrators, a criminal investigator employs evidence, witnesses, and interviews. Their purpose is to learn the whole narrative behind a crime. Thus, they must conduct an accurate and thorough investigation. Investigators collaborate with forensic experts to test evidence in order to develop a case against an offender and either confirm or learn new information.

* Examining records
* Gathering evidence at a crime scene
* Preparing evidence for trial
* Investigating petty offenses
* Giving evidence-based testimony in court 
* Interviewing witnesses, probable suspects, and their friends or family 
* Surveillance of suspects and monitoring for suspicious conduct
* Assisting with arrests 

Criminal Investigators’ Must-Have Skills

Due to the varying demands of the job, CIs require a wide range of skills in communication, leadership, and judgment. Criminal investigators require a wide range of abilities. They must feel at ease in high-pressure circumstances. Observations, evidence gathering, and report writing are all part of their job. Investigators must be at ease interacting with people, even when they are uncomfortable.

Some of the most critical talents for a criminal investigator include:


Criminal investigators must be able to work with a wide range of modern technology. It’s critical to keep track of your investigation. In order to have proof of the results of your inquiry, you may need to make records and shoot videos. 

Individuals working in this field may need to be familiar with the following technologies:

* Report-writing software
* Typing and using a keyboard
* Maps and GPS technology
* Video and audio recording devices
* Database research tools for looking up criminal or job records
* Email software
* Cell phones 

Interpersonal and Communication Abilities 

Criminal investigators frequently need to approach persons in order to complete their duties. These discussions may be tense or unsettling. Investigators must be able to distinguish whether to act pleasant and when to seek information aggressively. Clients frequently require their investigators to testify in courtrooms and trials. Professionals must be able to confidently testify.


In a continuously changing, frequently turbulent environment, criminal investigators must utilize their best judgment.

Memory and Observation

Criminal investigators are paid to be their clients’ eyes and ears. This implies that people must pay attention. Investigators must be able to focus solely on the investigation at hand. They must also be able to recall what they have seen.

Ability to Work a Variety of Shifts

Client-requested events do not necessarily occur during work hours. Criminal investigators are frequently called upon to work under duress. They frequently work during non-business hours, including weekends. Investigators must be adaptable in order to suit the needs of their clients.

Adapting to Changing Circumstances

Criminal investigators need to be able to think quickly. When conducting an investigation, an investigator must be able to react to the facts uncovered. That could imply altering the investigation’s trajectory. The situation can swiftly change during live observation. Professionals must be able to respond and react rapidly in a variety of situations.


Criminal investigators are frequently in charge of cases. They’ll be in charge of gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and drawing findings with their team.

Physical Fitness

It is a term that refers to the state of being physically fit. Suspects may be pursued and apprehended by CIs, which necessitates a certain level of physical condition. A CI’s capacity to perform efficiently could be jeopardized by a lack of physical condition.


Criminal investigators come into contact with a large number of persons. Many of these individuals have been victims of crime or have been falsely accused of criminal conduct. CIs must be able to empathize with others and consider a variety of viewpoints.

Daily Tasks of a Criminal Investigator

CIs may do a range of jobs, depending on the situation, such as:

* Attend to emergencies
* Examine crime sites for evidence
* Gather evidence, including voice recordings and video
* Obtain arrest warrants and apprehend criminals 
* Interview witnesses
* Testify in court
* Write case reports
* Maintain detailed case records
* Apply for and get search warrants

Salary Average 

In the United States, the average compensation for a criminal investigator is $68,600 per year, with wages ranging from $14,000 to $167,000 per year.

Based on the wages of 425 criminal investigators, users, and job listings, Indeed compiled these salary statistics during the last 36 months. Criminal investigators’ pay is determined by a variety of factors, including their amount of experience and education. A criminal investigator’s salary is influenced by the location and agency where they work. The majority of these professions work full-time, including weekends, holidays, and nightshirts. Criminal investigators and detectives make an average of $83,170 per year, with the top 10% earning $109,620 per year. Salaries are greatly influenced by industry and job level. 

Typically, the federal government pays the highest salaries and requires the most experience and education. The location of a criminal investigator’s office has an impact on possible pay. Rural workers often do not earn as much as those in densely populated urban areas.

Criminal Investigators Have a Bright Future

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted a stable job market in this profession for the foreseeable future, with data indicating that the employment of detectives and criminal investigators will expand by 5% between 2016 and 2026. Demand for well-trained investigators is projected to continue high, with job competition with federal agencies expected to be particularly fierce. The highest demand is expected for bilingual individuals with a bachelor‘s or master’s degree in criminal justice and prior law enforcement and/or military experience.

How Do You Go About Becoming a Criminal Investigator?

Here are some actions you can take if you want to work as a criminal investigator:

1. Get your bachelor’s degree. 
2. Get your driver’s license. 
3. Submit an application for a job.
4. Pass a background investigation. 
5. Take advantage of on-the-job training.

Get a College Diploma. 

You can pursue an Associate or Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Investigation, Criminal Justice, or other related topics such as crime scene investigation, forensics, psychology, or sociology after getting your high school diploma or an equivalent degree such as a GED. Some agencies provide internship opportunities, which allow students to obtain real-world experience while also increasing their chances of finding work once they graduate and start looking for work. Criminal investigators with the correct combination of relevant education and law enforcement experience are preferred by local, state, and federal authorities. Former law enforcement officers and military personnel frequently fit this qualification.

In some states, applicants with prior law enforcement experience such as parole, probation, or correctional officials may be eligible. Although some organizations allow applicants with only a high school diploma, others prefer applicants with an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in a related field. According to the law enforcement news website PoliceOne, relevant majors include criminal justice, psychology, a foreign language, or computer science.

For example, an online criminal justice degree from Maryville University can help graduates gain a competitive advantage. Its curriculum aims to improve students’ knowledge of criminality, the law and the legal profession, and law enforcement. Students learn about criminal law, criminal procedures, and criminal theory throughout the program, as well as how to do research, analyze data, and present conclusions. Students enrolled in Maryville’s criminal justice program who successfully complete training at chosen police academies may get up to 13 hours of credit toward their major.

Obtaining Your Driver’s License

A license for criminal investigations is known as a private investigator’s license in most states. The state is responsible for processing applications and maintaining a database of licenses. Visit your state’s informational page to learn how to submit your application. A checklist for what information you need to acquire and where you submit it for processing should be available on your state’s website. To establish your qualifications, you’ll need to submit an application form, a copy of your criminal history, and other papers. The state licensing board is in charge of processing your application and deciding whether or not to approve it.

Fill Out an Application for a Job.

It’s time to start looking for a job when you’ve finished your degree. Some applicants decide to begin their career in a related industry and work their way up to become criminal investigators. Police officers, crime scene or forensic investigators, victim advocates, fire investigators, and correctional officers are all examples of these jobs. Most agencies also require that you are at least 21 years old and have a valid driver’s license. 

A background check will be performed on you, and you must be physically and psychologically healthy. 

Pass a Background Investigation

When you apply for a job, you will be subjected to a background check. To confirm your identity and character, a background check looks into your personal and professional history. Education, career history, civil records, and criminal histories are all common subjects of background checks.

Participate in On-the-Job Training

The majority of criminal investigator positions will necessitate on-the-job training. The Federal Law Enforcement Training Accreditation currently recognizes only one Criminal Investigator Training Program. This course covers the fundamental interagency needs for being a professional and responsible criminal investigator. The training takes conducted at Glynco, Georgia, and lasts for 59 days. Trainees are enrolled in the program through a partner organization or a federal agency. The amount of training required for law enforcement occupations varies by agency and role. To become a law enforcement officer, you must normally complete an academy or other training program, and you may need further on-the-job training to qualify for a criminal investigator position.

According to PoliceOne, academic training often includes education modules on apprehension and arrests, incident reporting, traffic control, and radio operating. It also involves weapons training, negotiation methods curriculum, and criminal psychology classes. Some states require that specific physical criteria be accomplished in addition to classroom-based learning. Students may be required to perform timed physical fitness tests in sprinting, distance running, and climbing if this is the case. However, particular criteria differ by program. Many agencies need applicants to be at least 21 years old to be considered for the academy. Applicants must also show confirmation of citizenship and pass physical and psychological examinations. Typically, drug tests, background checks, and lie detector tests are administered.

Criminal Investigators’ Working Environment 

An investigator’s work environment changes from day today. They spend some of their time creating reports in front of a computer. They spend time at the office speaking with new clients and analyzing investigation results. Another usual location for an investigator is a courtroom. They may have to spend several days in the courtroom if called upon. They might also meet with officers from their station or headquarters to discuss their inquiry. Criminal investigators, on the other hand, spend a lot of time in the field. They could be stuck in a vehicle for hours or even days at a time, waiting for something to happen. They could be stuck in a vehicle for hours or even days at a time, waiting for something to happen. They may spend their days following a vehicle, viewing a scene, or conversing with persons. They may also spend a significant amount of time interviewing witnesses or communicating with others. A professional investigator’s days are diverse.

Criminal Investigation Jobs

Criminal investigators are either self-employed or work for a firm that specializes in criminal investigations. They might own a business that provides private investigation services. When a person or business requires the services of an investigator, they may hire the firm. An investigator is commonly used by attorneys to assist them in gathering evidence for their criminal clients. Criminal investigators can also be hired as workers by businesses. Investigators may be hired by insurance firms to investigate possible fraud. When an investigator works for a specific firm, they devote all of their attention to that firm’s clients. They’re frequently paid as employees.

Bringing Services Together.

 Criminal investigators who run their own businesses frequently combine criminal investigation with other services like private investigation. Attorneys may require investigators to look into both civil and criminal cases. They may also hire an investigator to assist them with tasks such as serving court documents or subpoenas. An investigator’s business could be improved by considering the demands of their clients and providing a variety of services.

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