How To Become A Detective Without Being A Cop

howto become a detectiveThe work of a detective is attractive to any young man (or woman) looking for a promising, exciting and challenging career.

Detectives are too familiar nowadays in many movies and novels. They are often lead characters that we envy and want to be.

But how can you become a detective without becoming a police officer first? It’s simple: You become a Private Detective or Private Investigator.



Private Investigator

By its literal name, a private detective is a self-employed individual who is hired by private clients. And while solving big time crimes like homicide and robbery is the work of law enforcement, being a private detective uses the same investigation skills to help private clients.

One of the most common specializations of a Private Investigator is doing a background check on people. They also do corporate investigation of fraud and embezzlement, looking for missing people, gathering evidence for insurance fraud and marital infidelity for divorce cases and  computer forensics.  There are even those who engage in bodyguard services.

These detectives sometimes go undercover to obtain information and observe their subjects. Surveillance is also a part of the job when investigating a case. This is the exciting part when the detective uses gadgets like hidden cameras, binoculars, and GPS tracking devices to gather relevant information on the person of interest.

Since detectives have the same authority as a private citizen and do not have police powers, they should be knowledgeable and mindful of the federal, state and local law when doing investigative work.  Otherwise, evidence gathered may be thrown out in court.

For Private Investigators, there will be tough competition since there are a lot of young retirees from the military and police who also go into detective work after retirement. So for those non-cop detectives, it is always important to know how to become a detective-a competitive and competent one.




Most states require private detectives to have a license. Requirements to get this license vary, depending on the state. The general requirements are:

1. Must be at least 18 years old.

2. Must have experience in investigative work for 3 years and totaling 6,000 hours in private investigation agencies.

3. A degree in criminal law or police science can be used in lieu of the work experience.

4. Passing mark in a written exam.

5. Undergo Criminal History review.

For those who want to work as bodyguards, they are permitted to carry a gun while on duty provided they have a concealed weapons permit issued by the local law enforcement agency and a BSIS exposed firearms permit.



To become a detective, education requirements vary depending on the job, though the minimum is usually a high school diploma.

Although work experience in the related field is the most important factor, a bachelor’s degree in criminal law or political science is an advantage. For those who want to engage in Financial Investigation or Insurance, a degree in Accounting is usually required.

On the other hand, Corporate Investigators need a degree in a business related course. Computer Forensic Investigators need a degree in Computer Science.

There are various government and private organizations that have been created to provide students with grants for studies. Those interested in the field of Criminal Justice, Law, Private Investigation and corrections can also apply for grants in their field of study. These grants have conditions and criteria that have to be met by the student.




The most important is obviously the investigative skill. This is usually gained through years of education and training. The ability to be attentive to details and be a keen observer is invaluable.

Communication skills come next because in this job, it is crucial to listen carefully and ask the appropriate questions. An investigator must also be resourceful and persistent; he must be able to work with whatever lead he has.

Lastly, one must have patience, because an investigation may take a long time before you get the desired result.



Other Relevant Information

According to the US Department of labor, the May 2012 median pay for a private investigator is $45,470 per year or $21.99 per hour.

The top 4 paying industries for private investigators are:

1. Finance and Insurance

2. Legal Services

3. Government

4. Investigation, Guard, and Armored Car Services.

In the same report, there were 30,000 private investigator jobs in the United States. This figure is projected to increase 11% from 2012-2022, which is an increase of 3,300 in numbers. Increase in demand will be because of an expected increase in cyber crimes, internet scams, financial and insurance fraud.

Now we know how to become a detective and that a detective is more of a researcher than a hero. He is more on rounding up facts and not felons. But hey, isn’t this just as exciting and fun job to do- just without the handcuffs and the reading of the Miranda rights?

Yeah, and remember that Sherlock Holmes was a private detective.


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