What is the Best Degree to Get to Become a Detective?

Though most cities and states require that police detectives go through the police academy, some also ask that those professionals have a college degree too, which will leave you wondering which is the best degree to get to become a detective. Detectives have a higher ranking than ordinary officers do and earn a higher salary too. There are a few different types of degrees that can help you become a detective.

What is a Police Detective?

Police detectives are essentially higher ranking officers. They usually need a few years of experience at the lower level before taking the exam offered by the department. Passing that exam gives them the rank of detective. While they may spend some time walking their beats and doing the same things that standard officers do, they often do more investigation work. Detectives will interview witnesses, speak with those suspected of committing crimes, uncover evidence and respond to complaints. They may also work with criminal investigators and testify to the evidence they found in a court of law.

What Type of College Degree Do You Need?

Not all police departments require that officers have a college degree. While some ask that applicants have a minimum of an associate’s degree, others will accept those who successfully pass a series of tests after completing training in a police academy. If you want to move up within the ranks though, you usually need a bachelor’s degree. While you can complete your college degree before enrolling in the police academy, you may want to take classes online and/or on nights and weekends to finish off your degree while working for the police department.

Which Degree is Best?

The best degree to get to become a detective is usually a Bachelor in Police Science. Police science, sometimes called police studies, is a unique program that looks specifically at issues relating to police officers and the duties of the job. You might take classes on the history of law enforcement in the United States, state and local laws, the laws outlined in the Constitution and the ethical dilemmas of working in law enforcement. Instead of studying police science, you might finish a pre-law program or a criminal justice program. Even if you don’t need a degree to work as a detective in your local precinct, federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Fish & Wildlife require that all detectives have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.

Detective Salary and Outlook

Whether you think that the best degree to get to become a detective is one in criminal justice, police science or another field, you may want to know more about the salary range. The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the median salary for all detectives and officers at around $60,200 a year. As this figure includes lower ranking officers who make less though, your starting salary may be much higher. The BLS expects to see the number of positions in law enforcement grow at a slower than average rate.

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Police detectives investigate crimes against people and properties, find the evidence needed to convict criminals and present that evidence to lawyers, judges and juries. The best degree to get to become a detective is one that focuses on the criminal justice system such as a degree in pre-law, criminal justice or police science.