Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How to become a detective

Detectives are plainclothes investigators who collect evidence and gather facts for criminal investigations. They examine records, conduct interviews, observe suspects and sometimes participate in raids and arrests. Detectives usually specialize in investigating one type of crime, such as murder or fraud. You must be a very meticulous person to become a detective. Detectives must maintain precise and accurate notes and records. Read on to find out how to become a detective.

  • Get a college degree. Most police forces require their detectives to have earned at least a bachelor's degree in law enforcement or criminal justice. Knowledge of computers is a tremendous asset, as is fluency in a second language.
  • Complete police training. Police training courses generally run for about 14 weeks. They include physical training, firearms training and classroom study of state, local and civil rights laws. At the end of the course, you must pass a written and physical test.
  • Get experience. Most police agencies require between three and five years work experience as a police officer before considering promoting you to detective. If you're an aspiring detective, taking some additional college courses in the evenings will give you an edge over the other applicants.
  • Prepare for additional tests. The application process to become a detective includes being tested on your knowledge of local laws and police procedures. You will most likely have to pass a physical test, as well.
  • Maintain your physical and mental health. It's very important for a detective to be in top physical shape. Stay fit by doing lots of exercise and physical training. Exercise will also help you maintain your mental health.
  • Continue to learn about new computer technology and police techniques. It's very important for a detective to stay abreast of new police techniques. Having good computer skills is also an important part of being a good detective.