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How to Become a Police Detective: Career Roadmap and Education

Majors Overview January 8, 2013

Police detectives conduct interviews about possible criminal activities, gather facts, and collect evidence. A prospective police detective is required to possess a high school diploma or complete a training academy program; however, many candidates seek to undergo postsecondary training to improve their career prospects, in some police departments such training is mandatory. Passing a written test and having sufficient prior experience is required of police officers seeking to become detectives. Most prospective detectives ordinarily possess associate degrees in criminal justice; apart from this, they would need at least four years of experience as police officers. They are required to have strong organization, leadership, and communication skills, in addition to good judgment. Importantly, they must have exceptional physical fitness (sources: JoinLAPD.com, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In this article, we will outline a stage-wise schedule for prospective police detectives to adhere to in order to pursue their career.

Stage One: Earning an Associate Degree

An associate degree is not a mandatory requirement for all police departments; however, many prospective police officers rely on an associate degree program to prepare them for their career by giving them the necessary skills and knowledge needed to perform law enforcement duties. Coursework typically includes relevant areas such as law enforcement training, juvenile justice, police services, criminal procedures and criminal investigation. Candidates may also get hands on training opportunities through participation in internship programs with local law enforcement agencies. Prospective police detectives are likely to benefit from participation in programs that focus on law enforcement training. Alternatively, they could target a criminal justice program that is devised to prepare students for a police career. For instance, Wisconsin has community colleges that offer programs where students can seek certification as law enforcement officers after they graduate.

Stage Two: Enrolling in a Police Academy Training Program

Police academy training is devised to help aspiring police officers to fulfill their dream. Such training calls for participation in class-work relating to law enforcement apart from passing a number of physical examinations. Coursework includes subjects such as civil rights, community policing, police ethics, and local and state laws. Recruits also learn about collision investigation, firearms, self-defense, and traffic control, in field training. Additionally, they are required to pass physical examinations that involve sit-ups, push-ups and running. Training before enrolling for an academy program will prove beneficial; prospective recruits can involve themselves in physical fitness routines that include strength training and cardiovascular exercise.

Stage Three: Working as a Police Officer

Police officers need several years of experience before they are promoted to become police detectives. Police officers are required to enforce laws and respond to emergencies. The experiences needed to get promoted to a police detective can vary depending on the department or state in which they work. Experience garnered while working in an investigative unit will prove beneficial to a prospective police detective. Such work will involve working closely with detectives and help solve crimes through the collection of evidence in crime scene settings.

Stage Four: Passing the Detective Exam

Some states or departments may require that prospective detectives seeking employment in some states or departments are required to pass a comprehensive examination that typically focuses on subject areas such as state laws, investigative techniques, forensic science, criminal law and procedures, decision making and conflict management.

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