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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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Median Salary $
83,000
Jobs Available
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)
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

Coordinates

Administration of Justice, A.S.

Antelope Valley College
Lancaster (0.0 Miles)

Administration of Justice Certificate of Achievement

Lassen Community College
Susanville (0.0 Miles)

Criminal Justice/OPOTA, A.A.S.

Sinclair Community College
Dayton (0.0 Miles)

Criminal Justice Letter of Recognition

College of Southern Maryland
La Plata (0.0 Miles)

Legal Studies Certificate

Estrella Mountain Community College
Avondale (0.0 Miles)

Administration of Justice, A.A.S.

Delaware County Community College
Media (0.0 Miles)

Fingerprinting Skills Certificate

Los Angeles Southwest College
Los Angeles (0.0 Miles)

Administration of Justice, A.A.

West Los Angeles College
Culver City (0.0 Miles)
FLORIDA STATE COLLEGE AT JACKSONVILLE

Digital Forensics Technical Certificate

Florida State College at Jacksonville
Jacksonville (0.0 Miles)

BLET Preparation Certificate

Mitchell Community College
Statesville (0.0 Miles)

Criminal Justice Technology, A.A.S.

Vance-Granville Community College
Henderson (0.0 Miles)

Forensic Science Technician Certificate

Harper College
Palatine (0.0 Miles)

Find Criminal Investigator Jobs in Your Area

Coordinates

Criminal investigator

Department Of Homeland Security
Indianapolis ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 week 2 days ago

Criminal investigator

Department Of Homeland Security
Wilmington ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 week 2 days ago

Criminal investigator

Department Of Homeland Security
Montgomery ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 week 2 days ago

Investigator

Department Of Homeland Security
Seattle ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 week 2 days ago

Investigator

Department Of Homeland Security
Greenville ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 week 2 days ago

Investigator

Department Of Homeland Security
White Plains ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 week 2 days ago

Investigator

Department Of Homeland Security
Greensboro ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 week 2 days ago

Investigator

Department Of Homeland Security
Indianapolis ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 week 2 days ago