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Career Profile: Detectives and Criminal Investigators

Conduct investigations related to suspected violations of federal, state, or local laws to prevent or solve crimes.

Salary and Outlook

According to the US Department of Labor, there are 112,500 people employed as detectives and criminal investigators in the United States. The median annual salary is $86,900. Entry level employees earn approximately $46,020 per year and senior employees earn approximately $146,000 per year.

Estimates do not include other potential benefits such as health insurance, overtime pay, or retirement benefits that may be offered by employers.

Job Duties

  • Check victims for signs of life, such as breathing and pulse.
  • Obtain facts or statements from complainants, witnesses, and accused persons and record interviews, using recording device.
  • Secure deceased body and obtain evidence from it, preventing bystanders from tampering with it prior to medical examiner's arrival.
  • Record progress of investigation, maintain informational files on suspects, and submit reports to commanding officer or magistrate to authorize warrants.
  • Prepare charges or responses to charges, or information for court cases, according to formalized procedures.
  • Preserve, process, and analyze items of evidence obtained from crime scenes and suspects, placing them in proper containers and destroying evidence no longer needed.
  • Obtain summary of incident from officer in charge at crime scene, taking care to avoid disturbing evidence.
  • Note, mark, and photograph location of objects found, such as footprints, tire tracks, bullets and bloodstains, and take measurements of the scene.
  • Prepare reports that detail investigation findings.
  • Block or rope off scene and check perimeter to ensure that entire scene is secured.
  • Notify, or request notification of, medical examiner or district attorney representative.
  • Search for and collect evidence, such as fingerprints, using investigative equipment.
  • Determine scope, timing, and direction of investigations.
  • Maintain surveillance of establishments to obtain identifying information on suspects.
  • Collaborate with other offices and agencies to exchange information and coordinate activities.
  • Perform undercover assignments and maintain surveillance, including monitoring authorized wiretaps.
  • Examine records to locate links in chains of evidence or information.
  • Examine records and governmental agency files to find identifying data about suspects.
  • Secure persons at scene, keeping witnesses from conversing or leaving the scene before investigators arrive.
  • Provide information to lab personnel concerning the source of an item of evidence and tests to be performed.
  • Analyze completed police reports to determine what additional information and investigative work is needed.
  • Obtain and verify evidence by interviewing and observing suspects and witnesses or by analyzing records.
  • Prepare and serve search and arrest warrants.
  • Question individuals or observe persons and establishments to confirm information given to patrol officers.
  • Identify case issues and evidence needed, based on analysis of charges, complaints, or allegations of law violations.
  • Participate or assist in raids and arrests.
  • Organize scene search, assigning specific tasks and areas of search to individual officers and obtaining adequate lighting as necessary.
  • Summon medical help for injured individuals and alert medical personnel to take statements from them.
  • Notify command of situation and request assistance.
  • Testify before grand juries concerning criminal activity investigations.

Career List

Job Outlook


Total Current Jobs:
112,500
Annual Openings:
8,400
Increase in Openings by 2030:
3%
Annual Salary Range:
$46,020 - $146,000
Education Requirements:
High school diploma