Criminal IQ

It doesn’t always take a genius to catch a criminal.  One man robbed a house and stole a GPS tracking device along with other stuff.  The police soon arrested him at his apartment after simply following the GPS.  Another guy and his friends decided to rob a convenience store but one of the gang left his wallet and phone on the counter.

Other criminals are smarter.  Like the drug dealers who rented two apartments, one directly above the other.  When the police raided one, they would pass all the drugs through drilled holes in the roof or floor, depending on whichever apartment the drugs were in.

Internet Security

Cyber fraud is rampant in America and cyber criminals are tough to track down. It is interesting to note that cyber fraud almost always begins with a bogus email to your personal account. They ask for personal information. They try to scam you. You can specialize in internet security and help a number of people be more secure online.

As we look more in-depth at this field of study, here are some interesting points:

Five Facts

  1. 21% of private detectives and investigators are self-employed.
  2. New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas have the highest concentration of criminal investigators.
  3. The District of Columbia,  New Jersey, Delaware,  California, and Alaska have the highest average salaries for criminal investigators and detectives.
  4. There were over 110,000 criminal investigators and detectives employed by government agencies and other agencies in 2008.
  5. The mean hourly wage for criminal investigators and detectives is $35 an hour.

Now for the nitty gritty, so you can decide if this job is for you.

Criminal Investigation

Criminal investigators and detectives work to catch criminals of all types and sizes.  There are a multitude of different crimes committed, so there are criminal investigators for myriad categories.

Some things you might be doing:

  • Investigate burglary, assault and any other criminal activity
  • Uncover facts about legal, personal, or financial issues
  • Work for businesses, individuals, celebrities
  • Verify pre-employment
  • Computer crime investigation:  cyber harassment, illegal downloads
  • Insurance fraud and claims investigation
  • Child custody issues
  • Prove or disprove fidelity
  • Surveillance
  • Stop  and solve identity theft
  • Protect a store from theft
  • Protect a hotel


With so many different areas of criminal investigation, there are many different people and institutions looking for specific investigators. Local, state, and federal governments employ tens of thousands of detectives and criminal investigators.  There are also hundreds upon hundreds of private investigators and detectives.  Many of these people work for themselves.

While it is true that investigators go out and about to interview people and do surveillance, much of their work is on a computer.  The internet and modern speed of information gathering allows for great detective work from the comfort of an office.

Special Circumstances

But don’t plan on extended periods of isolation. You will be confronting people in this job and most of the time it will be about something more serious than stealing a candy bar.  You will need excellent self-composure and awareness.  Dangerous conditions could arise.  Dealing with pressure is a vital skill.

Sometimes investigators are armed, but that is usually at the request of the employer.  Don’t expect weekly gun battles with bad guys.  Modern detective work is quite different than this.

Know that detectives and investigators will have to work strange hours.  If we think back to movies with detectives, we know that it is hard to do anything secretly in broad daylight.  Expect long nights, weekend work, and even holiday work.


  1. You might get to use high-tech equipment to do your work.
  2. You can put criminals behind bars.
  3. You can earn a great a living.

Things to Consider

  1. Surveillance can be time consuming and not so fun.
  2. You are essentially spying on people, people that sometimes haven’t done anything wrong.
  3. You have to worry about the law, for yourself, and for future cases.  If evidence isn’t collected properly, it won’t stand up in court.
  4. Most states require you to be licensed to practice as a private detective or investigator.

Career Outlook

Job growth in this area is expected to be excellent over the next decade.  There is a rising trend of litigation to solve disputes and claim damages and this litigation often requires investigation.  In 2008 there were over 45,000 private investigators and detectives in the work force and over 100,000 criminal investigators working for government.

Internet or cyber crime has become a huge problem.  People want justice for cyber crimes committed against them but are often clueless as to how to get this justice.  Those with computer science knowledge have a great future ahead of them in criminal investigation.  Stolen identities, illegal downloads require the attention of thousands of law enforcement personnel and you could be one of them.

That said, competition for a job as an investigator will be fierce.  The best investigation jobs attract very qualified individuals.  This includes ex-military personnel who have solid experience in reconnaissance and investigation.  This is hard to compete with if all you have is a college degree and no investigating experience.  For this reason it would be smart to get computer experience or financial experience to bring to the table specific skills to back up an investigations job.

Salary Forecast

The pay really depends on who you are working for and what you are doing.  Anyone can be a security guard at a retail store but to identify and track down a criminal requires a serious set of skills that people will pay for.

The average salary for a criminal investigator fell between $40,459 and $75,408 in 2011, according to  Federal investigators often make above $90,000 a year however.

Median annual wages in 2008 for salaried private detectives and investigators were $41,760, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Know Your Options

Be aware that certain parts of the country are willing to pay a lot more for criminal investigators.  The Washington D.C. area, for example, pays an average of more than $100,000 a year to its criminal investigators.  Moving to a different area of the country might be important to be able to earn a comfortable living.

Education and Skill Requirements

A degree in criminal investigation should prepare you for the field.  Furthermore, it should open doors to other employment opportunities in the criminal justice field.  This type of degree can sometimes be a two-year degree or four–year bachelor’s degree.

Though no formal education is required to be a freelance investigator or detective, education in criminal justice and police science can add a level of credibility to assist your chances of employment.  Most detectives and investigators have degrees in these fields.  Also, you must be licensed in most states to work as a detective or investigator.

But a lot depends on the type of investigating you want to do.  If you are going to do some financial sleuthing for a large company, they are going to want you to have a degree in business or finance or something of that nature.  You can’t very well catch someone in the act of business fraud unless you know business laws and finances.

Some classes you will take in college:

  • Criminal justice
  • Criminal Law
  • Police Role and Administration
  • Constitutional Law
  • Police Science

Set your sites on the ways you would like to make the world a safer place and catch that thief!

Ready to start a career in criminal justice? Find the best online school and get started today!

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