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What Does a Criminal Investigator Do?

Criminal investigators play an integral role in the justice system. They gather facts and collect evidence to help solve cases.

Criminal investigators may work for a city or county police department, the state, the FBI or another federal law enforcement agency. Their roles vary depending on federal, state or local laws. They may also be specialists, focusing on forensic science or a specific type of crime.

Some investigators track down information on computers, while others spend more time in the field. Criminal investigators use the information they gain through their daily work to prepare criminal complaints and testify in court.

Criminal investigative work often involves nights and weekends. This career is rewarding and satisfying, but it can also be stressful because of the situations investigators encounter at crime scenes. 

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A criminal investigator takes photos at a crime scene
To a criminal investigator, even the smallest piece of evidence matters. (Credit: Hajrudin Hodzic/Shutterstock)
Duties + Responsibilities
  • Collect evidence at crime scenes
  • Interview witnesses
  • Analyze evidence and do further research
  • Observe suspects
  • Write detailed case reports, and file and maintain records
  • Obtain warrants and participate in the arrest of suspects
  • Testify in court
Education + Training

Most criminal investigators and detectives earn an associate degree in criminal justice or law enforcement, and some earn a bachelor’s degree. Most graduate from a police training academy and work as police officers to gain law enforcement experience. A promotion is often required to become a criminal investigator.

There are many different age and training requirements for city, state and federal jobs.  Most require candidates to be 21 years old and a U.S. citizen with a valid driver’s license and no felony convictions.

You May Be a Good Fit for This Position If You
  • Have excellent communication skills
  • Have strong critical thinking skills
  • Have good decision-making skills
  • Have empathy and the ability to understand the perspectives of many types of people
  • Are trustworthy and have high ethical standards

Criminal Investigator training in your area


Criminal Justice Technology, A.A.S.

Pitt Community College
Winterville (0.0 Miles)

Legal Studies Certificate

South Mountain Community College
Phoenix (0.0 Miles)

Associate of Applied Science Degree in Forensic Science and Technology

Louisiana Delta Community College
Monroe (0.0 Miles)

Criminal Justice Science/Corrections, A.A.S.

Sinclair Community College
Dayton (0.0 Miles)

Administration of Justice Certificate

Estrella Mountain Community College
Avondale (0.0 Miles)

Professional Private Investigator Certificate

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
Green Bay (0.0 Miles)

Criminology and Criminal Justice, A.S.

Northern Virginia Community College
Annandale (0.0 Miles)

Criminal Justice, A.A.S.

Casper College
Casper (0.0 Miles)

Criminal Justice, A.A.S.

Columbus State Community College
Columbus (0.0 Miles)

Criminal Justice, A.A.S.

Bellevue College
Bellevue (0.0 Miles)
Paradise Valley Community College

Legal Studies Certificate

Paradise Valley Community College
Phoenix (0.0 Miles)

Crime Scene Processing Certificate

Kishwaukee College
Malta (0.0 Miles)

Find Criminal Investigator Jobs in Your Area


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Amerihealth Caritas Health Plan
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Field Investigator

Paragon Systems
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Field Investigator

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Investigator 1 (T)

State of West Virginia
Charleston ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 month 1 week ago

Crime Analyst/planner

City of Greenville, TX
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Posted 3 weeks 5 days ago