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Technically you do not need a college degree to become a criminal investigator. However, many criminal investigators have at least a bachelor's degree in one of the following specialties: computer science, chemistry, biology, sociology, psychology, forensics, crime scene investigation, criminal justice or police science. While a high school degree is adequate to begin a career in criminal investigation, an associate degree or a bachelor's degree will greatly enhance your job prospects.
Depending on the type of criminal investigator you want to be, you may need to follow a different educational path. If you want to be a federal criminal investigator, you will likely need an undergraduate and a post-graduate degree with a concentration in law enforcement.
Additionally, relevant experience goes a long way toward getting your desired position in criminal investigation. Military experience is regarded as highly valuable for criminal investigators and may even be a prerequisite for some federal positions. Experience as a private security guard is also considered relevant in most circumstances.
Types of Degrees
Although there are several degrees specializing in criminal investigation, you most likely do not need one of these degrees for your desired position. However, some more technical criminal investigation job openings will require specialized degrees. For example, a technical crime scene analyst might have a background in forensics.
One way to become a criminal investigator is by joining the police force, moving through the ranks and eventually making detective. Although there are tests and specialized training involved, most jurisdictions only require a high school diploma to become a police officer. Check job listings in your area for more specific requirements.
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Louis Kroeck started writing professionally under the direction of Andrew Samtoy from the "Cleveland Sandwich Board" in 2006. Kroeck is an attorney out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania specializing in civil litigation, intellectual property law and entertainment law. He has a B.S from the Pennsylvania State University in information science technology and a J.D. from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.