Careers in Criminal Investigation

One job in the field of criminal justice that offers a great deal of variety is that of criminal investigator. The nature of the work of a criminal investigator depends on education, experience, and the area of concentration chosen. Although the work of criminal investigators has been glamorized on television and in the movies, it is a difficult job; on television shows, the crime is always solved, but that is not the case in real life. At any rate, the job of the criminal investigator is to attempt to solve each case that comes his or her way.

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Criminal investigators may begin their career doing entry-level type tasks. These include examining written records, helping to prepare evidence for trial, investigating both felony and misdemeanor crimes, and offering testimony in court about the evidence that was obtained. Specifically, one of the main contexts in which a criminal investigator works is crime scenes. The investigator is charged with studying the scene and determining what may have occurred based on the evidence observed and collected at the scene. A criminal investigator then turns evidence over to a forensic specialist for evaluation. An investigator often interviews people who are related to the case in order to gain more information. This might include witnesses and family and friends of the suspect. As an investigator gains experience, his/her responsibilities in areas such as these will increase, even to a supervisory capacity.

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How to Become a Criminal Investigator

To become a criminal investigator, it is best to obtain a degree in criminal investigations, or in some other area of criminal justice. It may be helpful to pursue courses in crime scene investigation, forensics, psychology, and sociology. Although a college is not an absolute requirement in every situation, it provides the best path into this job.

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In addition to education, there are many skills or traits that a criminal investigator must possess. One of these is the ability to pay careful attention to even the smallest of details. Another is the ability to conduct independent research. He or she needs to be able to carefully examine and evaluate every piece of evidence (including physical evidence and information gained from interviews) to determine a possible motive for the crime. Therefore, an investigator must have strong interpersonal skills and well-developed reasoning and critical-thinking skills.

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Criminal Investigator Salary

The annual salary for criminal investigators depends on education, experience, and geographic location. In 2008, the annual salary range was $40,000 to $75,000. Future jobs in the area of criminal investigations include fraud investigator (due to the online nature of society today), police detective, and supervisor of police and detectives.

Criminal Investigator Degrees from Accredited Criminal Justice Schools

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American InterContinental University Online
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • Bachelor's of Science in Criminal Justice - Law Enforcement

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Grand Canyon University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • M.S. in Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
  • B.S. in Justice Studies

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Penn Foster Schools
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • Private Investigator

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Walden University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • M.S. in Criminal Justice Leadership & Executive Management - General Program
  • B.S. in Human Services - Criminal Justice 
  • Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration - Criminal Justice

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Capella University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • MS - Criminal Justice
  • PhD - Criminal Justice
  • BS - Criminal Justice

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Keiser University
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • Criminal Justice, BA
  • Criminal Justice, AA

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Colorado Technical University Online
Campuses: 1Online
Popular Degrees:

  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice: Human Services
  • Master of Science in Criminal Justice


Page Edited by Charles Sipe.