Growth Trends for Related Jobs

How to Become a Drug Task Force Detective

Detectives and criminal investigators 2022 U.S. Salary and Gender Pay Difference State Heatmap

The makeup of a given drug task force depends on the particular area in which it operates. Usually, a task force includes detectives from local police departments, though it can also involve personnel from federal and county organizations or even branches of the military. If you wish to join a drug task force, the most reliable method entails joining the detective branch of the police. It takes many years of work, but you gain the benefit of making a difference within your community.

Attend college, with an emphasis on criminology, criminal justice, or a similar field connected to law enforcement. While you don't need a degree to join the police, it improves your chances of becoming a detective. Most departments require you to have a certain number of college credits to advance to the level of detective, and they look extremely favorably on an associate's or bachelor's degree. You might also consider taking sociology classes, chemistry classes, or any classes that focus on narcotics and their impact on society.

Sign up for the police academy with the intent of becoming a uniformed patrol officer. You can't become a detective until you serve a number of years on the force (usually from two to six, depending on the department), and you can't serve on the force until you go through the police academy. The academy provides training in law enforcement tactics, classes on the fundamentals of the law and instruction on the physical skills required to be a cop.

Stick to the highest standards when working a beat patrol. In order to be considered for detective work, you need to maintain top-rank fitness reports, show up to work on time every time, and otherwise comport yourself as an eminently reliable police officer.

Find out what you need to join the drug task force in your particular area. Many departments have training programs for drug investigators, which you should sign up for as often as you can. You may also need to develop liaisons with other law enforcement agencies in your area, and/or attain a certain rank as a patrolman. And of course, you need to demonstrate an affinity for and interest in drug enforcement cases.

Apply for a detective's position when you become eligible. The exact specifications will vary, but you'll likely need to take a series of exams in order to prove your fitness for detective work. Examinations are usually held once a year--giving you time to get ready for them well in advance.

Request being assigned to the drug task force in your area after you have become a detective. You may not be able to join right away and instead may need to accrue further experience in a different branch before you have an opportunity to work on narcotics cases. When requesting assignments, make sure you cite any knowledge, experience or skills you have that suit you to drug enforcement work.


Real life police work rarely resembles the details you see on TV. Reality can be harsh and messy, especially where drugs are concerned. Be prepared to demonstrate strength and resilience when working on a drug task force, while holding onto a firm moral compass at all times.