By David Helfand
Q: I am currently a paralegal at a small firm. I have an associates degree in Business Science concentrating in paralegal studies. My career goal is to become a criminal investigator eventually. I've been trying to find sort of a path that I can follow to get where I want to be. My question: Is there any tips or specific routes that you can tell me to get to where I would like to be?
A: One can do criminal investigations as a private investigator, detective with municipal or state police or working for one of the numerous federal agencies.
Most private investigators have previous experience that can range from insurance or collection companies to private security industry to law enforcement, military, government agency and related investigative positions. The majority of States require private detectives and investigators to be licensed and additional requirements vary widely. No formal education is required for most private detective and investigative jobs although a college degree is becoming more common. The primary traits employers are looking for are experience in related fields and an appropriate temperament. Most private investigators are employed by small, local firms look in your area for agencies to contact to gather further information. Additional resources are the World Association of Detectives and the National Association of Investigative Specialists.
Civil service regulations govern the appointment of police and detectives in almost all States and large cities. To reach the level of detective/criminal investigator one must work up through the ranks. Probationary periods can range from 6 months to 3 years before one is eligible for promotion. Contact your local agencies for further information.
For federal government positions one must be at least 21-37 years of age, take physical and written exams and typically have a college degree. Contact the following federal agencies for their specific requirements with regard to criminal investigative positions.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- United States Secret Service
- Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
- Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms (ATF)
- Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS)
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- U.S. Customs Service, Office of Investigations
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General
M.P. Lees book, 100 Best Careers in Crime Fighting, Law Enforcement, Criminal Justice, Private Security and Cyberspace Crime Detection (IDG Book Worldwide), seems comprehensive and thus worth taking a look at for further information.