The incentives for becoming a detective have helped to give many police officers a satisfying career path. It is a way for police officers who have mastered the duties of enforcing the law to specialize in a specific area and enjoy a long career with lots of room for advancement. Although the hours are long, each case provides plenty of opportunity for a diverse experience.
No two cases will be the same or lead a detective down the same path. He will have the joy of knowing that his job may always require him to call on every talent he possesses in his special job skills set. In order to get to this place of gratification, however, trained police must know how to become a detective.
1. Make sure you meet the qualifications
In order to be a detective, you must be at least 21 and a U.S. citizen with a valid driver’s license. You must also prove you are in good physical condition by passing fitness tests that include hearing and vision. The minimum education for becoming a detective is a high school diploma, but many states prefer candidates with college degrees in criminal justice, police science or a similar field.
Once you begin the qualifying process, you must pass a clean background and drug check with no felony convictions and a lie detector test. If you believe you will have a challenge with any of this preliminary screening, you may need to clear up any issues. Anyone who really wants to know how to become a detective will make sure he is clear to move forward.
2. Make sure you have the right basic personal skills
Even if you meet all the qualifications for becoming a detective, you should still do a self-check to see if you have some other basic skills. Because of the heavy work load, you must be able to effectively multitask. Sometimes detectives have to work on multiple cases at once and every open case may require equal intensity. Detectives must be good listeners, good judges of character and have a very strong sense of intuition. Not every suspect or victim tells the truth, and detectives need to be able to tell when he is hearing something false.
3. Become a police officer
Some police departments show favor to men and women who have been in the armed forces and count this heavily as experience for law enforcement. However, the is not the only method for how to become a detective. By far, the best way to become a detective is to first become a police officer. The training for this job will require classroom instruction, self-defense training, first aid and traffic control. Much of this is done through the local police academy, where professionals in law enforcement spend about 14 weeks teaching recruits how to properly work as a law enforcement officer. This kind of training can also happen through other state and federal agencies like the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.
4. Build your experience through your job
Police officers are in the best position to become detectives because they get training on the job every day. It is important to take every event of your career as an instruction for becoming a detective. Even disappointments can teach you how to do better the next time you encounter a similar situation. In order for your superiors to recognize the stellar job that you do as an officer, you will need to be willing to go beyond the call of duty. This means achieving superior scoring on exams and evaluations. It also means making sure you are keeping up with the latest technology in your field. Nothing impresses high ranking officers more than other police officers who stay ahead of the curve on information.
Some of the experience you gain on the job will come from simply meeting expectations. Passing a fitness test to enter the police academy does not weigh favorably among peers or superiors if you cannot keep it up. It will be important to stay in shape just to ensure perpetrators do not get the best of you on the street. This includes having a regular exercise regimen as well as maintain your weight and staying in good mental health. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that anything that bears your signature or can affect your reputation, from reports to analyzing data, is impressive.
5. Extend your training and stay prepared
No matter how much you have learned in the field, it never hurts to stay in a state of constant learning. Many police officers choose to take classes when they are off the clock in order to stay on top of the latest developments in law enforcement. Sometimes, this course work might be detective classes. In this program of study, you will learn about police ethics and state, civil rights and constitutional law. You will learn even more than you already know about first aid and emergency response and using firearms. With approval and a promotion, most police officers return to their local police academies to train for detective positions. One federal agency that provides this kind of training is the FBI’s National Academy.
Most law enforcement agencies require aspiring detectives to take a detective’s exam, even after training. It is a good idea to always be prepared for this test. In fact, it is best when you show the initiative and ask to take the test far ahead of time. If you are not ready when it is time to take this test, it will be disappointing to both you and those who must approve your promotion to detective. Preparedness strengthens your position and ensures you can start your new job in a positive light.
Because everyone has a different range of experience, the path for moving into a position as a detective will not be the same for everyone. This means there is no official set list of things that will teach you how to become a detective. You begin with a sincere desire to solve the crimes that riddle cities across the nation. You also understand that each case presents an opportunity for you to use your natural ability for dissecting the facts to find the truth. Every case begins as a puzzle, and every detective must consider himself a chief puzzle solver.
The number of detectives in the U.S. is expected to grow to 130,900 by the year 2018. This makes it a promising field for those who anticipate careers in law enforcement. For many, the satisfaction of the job will rest squarely in knowing they helped to deliver justice.