When we hear the word detective, many of us immediately think of a man walking around with a deerstalker hat, a pipe, and a magnifying glass, similar to the fictional character of Sherlock Holmes. Detectives do exist in real life, not only in books and in movies, and many people and organizations are in need of the services they are offering.

Here are nine different types of detectives, and what they do for their clients.
  • Personal private investigators. …
  • Homicide investigators. …
  • Missing person detectives. …
  • Cyber crime detectives. …
  • Narcotics detectives. …
  • Workplace private investigators. …
  • Insurance fraud investigators. …
  • Arson investigators.

Detective Salary (2020) – Detective Jobs

Detective skills

Not only do you need to meet the educational and training requirements to become a detective, but you also need a certain set of skills that allow you to perform your job duties to the best of your ability. As with all jobs, you need a combination of hard and soft skills. Here are some of the skills you need as a detective:

Attention to detail

Detectives use their attention to detail when analyzing the evidence they gather to help them solve a crime. They also use this skill to seek out potential leads, interview suspects and to ensure an investigation isnt missing vital information that could compromise a court case.


When handling difficult suspects, detectives use their creativity to help elicit confessions. They also use their creativity skills to put together elements of the crime that their team gathered as evidence.

Photography skills

Detectives use their photography skills to analyze photographs related to a case and photograph crime scene evidence that they can use to help them solve a case.


Since most cases take a while to solve, detectives need a great deal of patience to wait for all of the evidence to surface. Having patience allows you to gather the most evidence to ensure youre solving a case with as much information as possible. It also ensures youre not missing vital information or evidence. In many cases, your patience determines how effectively you solved a case.

Supervisory skills

Detective skills use their supervisory skills to ensure strong communication and collaboration with their team and their subordinates. Effectively leading your team and supervising them to the best of your ability allows you to solve cases quicker and more efficiently.

Communication skills

Detectives use their communication skills to effectively interact with their team, their subordinates, witnesses and suspects. Having strong communication skills allows them to ask clear questions and actively listen to a persons reply to ensure they dont miss out on important information.

They also use their communication skills to evaluate body language which can help determine whether the person theyre speaking to is withholding information. When they testify in court, they use their strong communication skills to clearly present their findings to both the jury and the judge presiding over the case.

Critical thinking

As a detective, you need to analyze complex situations and problems effectively. Doing this allows you to find solutions for a variety of cases. Having critical thinking abilities allows you to find logical conclusions based on evidence youve gathered. In addition, this skill allows you to look at cases objectively and without any prejudice that could affect your perception of reality.

Computer and technology

Detectives use their technology skills when using a variety of computer databases. They also use this skill to conduct background checks on potential suspects. Knowing how to use databases relevant to the case theyre working on helps them solve it more easily.

What is a detective?

Also known as an investigator, a detective often works for a law enforcement agency where they gather information and evidence to solve a variety of crimes. Using this evidence, they determine what really occurred and identify a perpetrator. Detectives often specialize in a specific type of crime such as homicide or fraud. Theyre typically assigned one case until its dropped, an arrest has been made or until a trial has been completed.

Though a detectives specific duties vary by their specialization and the department they work for, they have some common responsibilities. Here are some of a detectives primary duties:

Types of detectives

While all detectives gather evidence to help solve a crime, their specific duties depend on their particular line of work. Within the two broad categories of public and private detectives, there are many types of detectives with various specialties. Knowing the differences between these detectives can help you make a more informed decision regarding your future career. Here are the various types of detectives to consider:

Homicide detective

Homicide detectives investigate murders and apprehend the person responsible for the crime. They assess crime scenes, examine the victim, speak with witnesses, conduct a walk-through of a crime scene and collect evidence to help solve the case. Homicide detectives also photograph or videotape the scene, interview witnesses and suspects and effectively communicate with other detectives and their criminal science investigation unit.

Police detective

Also known as criminal investigators, police detectives investigate crimes including robberies, arson, homicides and property crimes. As a police detective, you can specialize in one of these specific types of crime. Police detectives gather evidence, follow leads, interview witnesses and the victims of the crime, write reports and take notes, interrogate suspects and make arrests. Police detectives also prepare arrest warrants and warrants needed to search certain premises. Also, they testify in court as needed to help a jury reach a verdict.

Forensic detective

Also known as forensic investigators, forensic detectives use their knowledge of biology, physics and chemistry to investigate and analyze crime scene evidence. They solve crimes by determining when and how the crime occurred. Not only do forensic detectives collect physical evidence from a crime scene, but they also analyze evidence and samples by running a variety of scientific tests. In addition, forensic detectives write detailed reports and use scientific evidence to prove what really occurred. In many cases, they testify in court and present their findings to a judge and jury.

Computer crime detective

Also known as a computer crime investigator, a computer crime detective investigates a crime that involves a computer and a computer network. They solve a variety of cases such as computer hacking and copyright infringement cases. Some computer crime detectives also help recover computer data to use as evidence in prosecuting crimes. Because of this, they often testify in court. Other computer crime detective duties include inspecting software applications for flaws, analyzing computer systems, collecting computer system information, recovering encrypted files and improving the performance of a computer system.

Narcotics detectives

Working at the local, state and federal level, narcotics detectives investigate the illegal sale and purchase of illegal narcotics by working on cases that involve drug-related offenses. They aim to identify, arrest and eliminate illicit drug organizations and the drug dealers working in these kinds of operations and organizations. To apprehend these drug dealers, narcotic detectives work undercover in an effort to hide their true identity without raising suspicions.

Cold case detectives

Cold case detectives work on unsolved or “cold” cases. They often work on homicide cases that originally had a detective whos since retired. Cold case detectives review original case files containing initial statements, interview the cases first detectives and speak with the people originally related to the case.

Undercover detective

Undercover detectives perform covert investigations in an attempt to collect evidence for a suspected or confirmed crime. They assume another identity while working on the case. This essentially means they pose as a different person in order to purchase an illegal good or service without raising the suspicions of the true criminal. Undercover detectives often use hidden cameras and recorders, with their work lasting months to years in length.

FAQs about detectives

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about detectives:

What is the job outlook for a detective?

How much do detectives make?

How can you start your career as a detective?

To pursue a career as a detective, you first need to become a police officer in order to build your knowledge of the criminal justice system and law enforcement. Keep in mind that in order to become a police officer, you need to meet a variety of requirements set by a specific police department. Most police departments require you to be at least 21 years of age. Youll also likely need a valid and current drivers license and U.S. citizenship. In addition, you need to complete the police training academy to become a police officer. Police academy training typically lasts six months or longer.

What are the educational requirements for a detective?

While many police or sheriff departments require a high school diploma or a GED at a minimum, some require postsecondary education or a postsecondary degree such as a bachelors degree or associates degree. Common fields of study for detectives include criminology, criminal justice and forensic psychology.

What are the two types of detective?

What are the various types of detectives?
  • Police Detective. Police detectives, also called criminal investigators, investigate crimes such as arson, homicide, robbery, vandalism, fraud, burglary, and assault. …
  • Forensic Detective. …
  • Computer Crime Detective (or Computer Crime Investigator)

What is the highest paid detective?

High Paying Investigator Jobs
  • Principal Investigator. Salary range: $94,000-$210,000 per year. …
  • Polygraph Examiner. Salary range: $50,500-$130,500 per year. …
  • Forensic Engineer. Salary range: $77,500-$126,500 per year. …
  • Forensic Analyst. …
  • Director of Investigations. …
  • Investigations Manager. …
  • Corporate Investigator. …
  • Criminalist.

Which study is best for detective?

It’s typically necessary to have a high school diploma and in most cases a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or in a field related to criminal justice. Advanced degrees and certificates aren’t always mandatory, but they can help aspiring detectives compete for the best jobs.

How many detective are there?

It’s typically necessary to have a high school diploma and in most cases a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or in a field related to criminal justice. Advanced degrees and certificates aren’t always mandatory, but they can help aspiring detectives compete for the best jobs.

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