Criminal investigators, also called police detectives, work to solve crimes and build cases that help state prosecutors put criminals in jail. Criminal investigators begin their careers as uniformed patrol officers but in time may earn a promotion to detective. As such, detectives must prepare for their careers by training at a police academy.
Average Pay and Pay Range
As of 2012, criminal investigators employed in the U.S. earned an average of $77,860 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is a significant pay increase from work as a patrol officer, a position with an average salary of $57,770 as of 2012. The median-earning half of criminal detectives in the U.S. made between $52,320 and $98,940 per year, while the highest-paid 10 percent brought home $122,990 or more.
Federal Investigators Make the Most
Criminal investigators are employed by local, state, and federal police departments and agencies. As of 2012, criminal investigators employed by the federal government reported a far higher average salary than their peers in local and state police forces -- $100,290 per year. By comparison, local police investigators averaged $64,610 per year, and state police detectives reported the lowest average salary, at $58,460 per year.
Washington, D.C., reported the highest average pay for police detectives in 2012, $115,230 -- largely because federal investigators are so highly paid. Investigators in Alaska reported the second-highest average pay, $106,750 per year, followed by New Jersey at $99,770 and California at $94,730. The highest local pay in the nation was $117,300 per year, reported by investigators in the Nassau-Suffolk metropolitan area of New York. Detectives in the South reported the lowest salaries in the nation, with those in Arkansas earning the very least, an average of $49,530 per year.
Between 2010 and 2020, the BLS expects the number of jobs in the U.S. to increase at a rate of 14 percent on average. By comparison, jobs for police detectives will only grow at approximately 3 percent -- a net increase of approximately 3,500 jobs over 10 years. Aspiring criminal investigators will face strong competition for available detective jobs, as many patrol officers want to be promoted into detective positions.