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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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$ 41,000 - $ 139,000
$ 83,000
7,600+
A criminal investigator takes photos at a crime scene
To a criminal investigator, even the smallest piece of evidence matters. (Credit: Hajrudin Hodzic/Shutterstock)
A Day In the Life
Image
Donald Martin, criminal investigator ambassador, with former student Santiago
A Day In the Life

Donald Martin got into police work because an officer intervened in his life when he was a teen and challenged him to do better. 

He recognizes what a difference that intervention meant to him, so now he gives back in a different way — by teaching  criminal investigators and police officers. 

He's quick to say the job isn't much like what you see on TV — "kicking in doors, search warrants, high-speed chases" — it's more about getting the details right, says Donald.

Find out what else he has to say about being a criminal investigator.

Job 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

Coordinates

Criminal Justice Certificate

Neosho County Community College
Chanute (42.2 Miles)
University of Arkansas Community College - Morrilton logo

Crime Scene Investigation Certificate Of Proficiency

University of Arkansas Community College - Morrilton
Morrilton (212.8 Miles)
University of Arkansas Community College - Morrilton logo

Crime Scene Investigation Technical Certificate

University of Arkansas Community College - Morrilton
Morrilton (212.8 Miles)
University of Arkansas Community College - Morrilton logo

Crime Scene Investigation, A.A.S.

University of Arkansas Community College - Morrilton
Morrilton (212.8 Miles)

Law Enforcement, A.A.S.

Missouri State University - West Plains
West Plains (214.6 Miles)
Mineral Area College logo

Criminal Justice – Law Enforcement, A.A.S.

Mineral Area College
Park Hills (291.6 Miles)
Mineral Area College logo

Criminal Justice

Mineral Area College
Park Hills (291.6 Miles)
Mineral Area College logo

Advanced Law Enforcement Academy

Mineral Area College
Park Hills (291.6 Miles)
Three Rivers College logo

Forensic Science, A.A.

Three Rivers College
Poplar Bluff (292.5 Miles)
Three Rivers College logo

Criminal Justice Technology Specialist, Certificate

Three Rivers College
Poplar Bluff (292.5 Miles)
Three Rivers College logo

Criminal Justice, Certificate

Three Rivers College
Poplar Bluff (292.5 Miles)
Jefferson College logo

Computer Information Systems: Criminal Justice Cyber Security Option, A.A.S.

Jefferson College
Hillsboro (293.1 Miles)

Find Criminal Investigator Jobs in Your Area

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