Criminal investigators are dedicated crime-fighters who may work for law enforcement agencies or who may be consultants either working alone or as part of a team. They should not be confused with private detectives, the majority of whose work does not involve law-breakers.
A police detective salary averages $79,970 annually or $6,664.16 per month. The amount varies, with larger cities paying their municipal criminal investigators better than smaller centers, and federal agencies paying the best of all.
A criminal investigator or police detective is part of an investigative team or task force that is assembled to examine the circumstances of a particular crime and gather and analyze clues. They conduct interviews with sources, suspects and witnesses, and generate reports based on the information they uncover. They may specialize in a particular type of crime, such as homicide or forensic money laundering. If they are police detectives, they may have additional administrative and managerial duties such as creating shift schedules, signing off on timesheets, and the like. Private consultants have no such burdens, but they may have to generate additional internal reports for their company and meet sales goals.
Educational requirements for criminal investigators vary with the location and law enforcement agency, with the well-paid federal agencies having the highest standards, which often include not only a bachelor's degree in criminology or a related field but also a master's degree and several years of policing experience. Some municipal police departments have no educational requirements other than a high school diploma or GED certificate. In general, the higher the education, the better the pay.
Industry and Job Growth Trend
While policing as a whole is growing, the field of criminal investigations remains stable. It fails to grow because more of the function of analysis is taken over by technology, which reduces the workforce each team needs. Many police detectives retire after 20 or fewer years, moving on to lucrative private investigation or security jobs while enjoying a full police pension. This provides a steady source of job openings, but competition for the jobs is fierce, and applicants are encouraged to take advantage of extra education if they want to make this their careers.
Years of Experience and Salary
Large urban centers tend to pay the best of all municipal police forces. The NYPD detective salary chart indicates an average of $101,658 per year or $8,471.50 per month. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median salary of a criminal investigator at $79,970 annually or $6,664.16 per month. FBI agents and the like can easily command up to $130,000 or more, plus bonuses and benefits.
For those who enjoy using their brains, contributing to their communities, and working as part of a team, and who aren't afraid of paperwork, the field of criminal investigations brings many challenges and many rewards, but limited opportunities for entry.