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Journey to Becoming a Police Detective

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  • Journey to Becoming a Police Detective

    I am currently an elementary education major with a minor in spanish. Lately though, I have been assessing my future decisions and have found that I did not thoroughly think them through before I started college. I have come to realize that teaching is not my calling... and I'm taking action now opposed to waiting until it's too late. I am a sophomore in college and am now wanting to leave elementary education and pursue a career of police detective work. I'm in search of any information about what the job is like from someone who actually works in that environment every day... instead of trying to decipher job descriptions from googled websites. Some questions i have are..

    -What is a good college major to have with this career in mind?
    -What are the pros and cons to the job?
    -What is a typical day like?
    -What is family life like? (I understand divorce rate is very high)
    -What all needs to be done to reach the detective level?

    Thank you!!

  • #2
    First, there's no need to switch majors. Staying as an education major will give you something to fall back on should you eventually change your mind and decide law enforcement isn't for you. Getting a degree in something like criminal justice will give you nothing of the sort.

    Secondly, you can't just show up and become a detective. In my department the average officer spends nearly ten years on the street before they get promoted to detective. If you have no desire to be a street cop, police work is not for you. There are good street cops out there who don't necessarily become good detectives, but I've yet to see a decent detective who wasn't a good street cop too. You have to put in your time and succeed on patrol before you even have a chance at a detective slot.

    If you honestly have no desire to work the street, then a federal agency or state agency that just does investigations might be a better fit. Just understand that these jobs are usually more competitive and your chances of landing one right out of college are less.

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    • #3
      Everything Delta V said. Plus learn to to type, you'll be doing that a lot. The knowledge that you get while in patrol is the foundation for how you will do things in investigations. And it's not like on TV..

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      • #4
        If you only are interested in Criminal Investigations, look for federal jobs.
        What is Perseverance?
        -Perseverance is commitment, hard work, patience, endurance.
        -Perseverance is being able to bear difficulties calmly and without complaint.
        -PERSEVERANCE IS TRYING AGAIN AND AGAIN.


        BOP - BPA - ICE

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        • #5
          Add an IT or computer class to your course work. Stick with Ed as was posted above.
          Free Deke O'Mally!!!

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          • #6
            I agree with everything posted so far. As far as switching majors, it isn't necessary and education will give you a fall back. However, I am not one of those cops that is totally anti-CJ. I generally recommend people to major in something they find interesting, because you will be more engaged in school and more likely to get good grades. Also, being a CJ major will help you develop contacts in the field through internships and the like. Lastly, many of your professors will be active and retired LEOs who can be great resources for career advice and serve as good references.

            As far as being a detective, I would just recommend going for the largest department you can find. The larger departments are going to have more detective positions and more specializations, like narcotics, homicide, etc. Smaller departments may only have 1-2 detectives that handle everything. Some departments that are really small don't even have detectives and will just turn everything big over to the sheriff or the state police.

            I love being a fed and I wouldn't change the way my career turned out for anything, but sometimes I do think being a detective in a big city (NYPD, Chicago, LAPD, etc.) would have been really cool.
            Before science, it was believed that autumn was caused by Chuck Norris simultaneously roundhouse kicking every tree on the planet.

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            • #7
              -What is a good college major to have with this career in mind?
              -What are the pros and cons to the job?
              -What is a typical day like?
              -What is family life like? (I understand divorce rate is very high)
              -What all needs to be done to reach the detective level?
              I have a background in accounting and psychology. Both are uber helpful.

              Pros-very rewarding career/cons-hard on the body and the family

              Typical day? There is NO such thing in LE (one of the reasons many of us prefer this job). You must be both flexible and rigid in LE. Flexible enough to change gears at the drop of a hat, rigid enough in personal habits, attitude and paperwork to get things done.

              Family life-as a single mother, I did miss some things in my sons life. I think (on the flip side) I have been a very good example of a strong, assertive, independent woman. I think I have given him the tools he needs to become a productive member of society and the fear to know I'll kick his a55 if he doesn't

              What needs to be done-you cannot be an effective Detective (nor receive the respect of those around you) if you haven't earned it. To earn it, you start on the ground floor. No department lets you walk into a Detective spot w/o experience and the experience comes from the road. It is ESSENTIAL that you work the road. You need that to understand criminals, verbage, body language and the real world. Being a good Detective cannot be found in a book, it cannot be taught from a book...it's tried and true life lessons...and it should be that way.
              sigpic

              I don't agree with your opinion, but I respect its straightforwardness in terms of wrongness.

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              • #8
                Thanks guys.

                I am going to change my major because I have realized I'm not into elementary education or education in general as i thought i was. So I was thinking about taking a math major and still minoring in spanish. And thanks for the advice on typing. I'm pretty good, but I will definitely grab me a typing class.

                As for having to be a police officer for ten or some years before getting considered as a detective, I think I would like working the streets... but on the other hand, investigation is my main focus. So now I suppose I just have to decide if a fed or state agency is more what I want opposed to being a police officer.

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                • #9
                  If you're interested in math, I'd go for something like accounting instead, and still minor in Spanish. Fed agencies love accountants and people who are bilingual, so it'd be a great course of study for you.

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                  • #10
                    w/o street experience, you're just another applicant with a four year degree (with regards to state and federal agencies).
                    sigpic

                    I don't agree with your opinion, but I respect its straightforwardness in terms of wrongness.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by MethBuster View Post
                      If you're interested in math, I'd go for something like accounting instead, and still minor in Spanish. Fed agencies love accountants and people who are bilingual, so it'd be a great course of study for you.
                      ahhh very good idea

                      Originally posted by Smurfette_76 View Post
                      w/o street experience, you're just another applicant with a four year degree (with regards to state and federal agencies).
                      okk, so you would suggest I do street work no matter what I decide?

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                      • #12
                        Well, I told you what it takes to be a Detective...which would be why agencies require the road to be a Detective. It only makes sense to have experience, otherwise how do you intend on doing the job?
                        sigpic

                        I don't agree with your opinion, but I respect its straightforwardness in terms of wrongness.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Smurfette_76 View Post
                          Well, I told you what it takes to be a Detective...which would be why agencies require the road to be a Detective. It only makes sense to have experience, otherwise how do you intend on doing the job?
                          ok, i just wasn't sure if you were advising I be a street cop if I decide to go either a fed/state agency or police officer

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                          • #14
                            Let me clarify: You stated you wanted to be a Police Detective, that's not a State or Federal job. With regards to a state or federal job, without road experience, you're just another college graduate (unless you have uber military experience) and nothing to really offer, especially with only a four year degree.

                            It sounds a bit like you've seen Detectives on television and thought "Oh, I want to do that" which is all well and good, but you don't walk into that. You cannot find it in a book. I would even venture to say most of it cannot be taught to you; its a job you must experience to be any good at it. Therefore, if you want to be a POLICE Detective you are going to have to put your time in and learn something about something before that will EVER happen. If you want to be an AGENT, you better have more than a four year degree (string pulling, multiple languages, etc) to even get your foot in the door. Therefore, if you want to be anything in LE, you're going to have to start at the bottom. You write a bit like a female and while that would help a bit on the minority end of it, you're up against fierce competition from women that got their hands dirty to get where they are.
                            sigpic

                            I don't agree with your opinion, but I respect its straightforwardness in terms of wrongness.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Smurfette_76 View Post
                              Let me clarify: You stated you wanted to be a Police Detective, that's not a State or Federal job. With regards to a state or federal job, without road experience, you're just another college graduate (unless you have uber military experience) and nothing to really offer, especially with only a four year degree.

                              It sounds a bit like you've seen Detectives on television and thought "Oh, I want to do that" which is all well and good, but you don't walk into that. You cannot find it in a book. I would even venture to say most of it cannot be taught to you; its a job you must experience to be any good at it. Therefore, if you want to be a POLICE Detective you are going to have to put your time in and learn something about something before that will EVER happen. If you want to be an AGENT, you better have more than a four year degree (string pulling, multiple languages, etc) to even get your foot in the door. Therefore, if you want to be anything in LE, you're going to have to start at the bottom. You write a bit like a female and while that would help a bit on the minority end of it, you're up against fierce competition from women that got their hands dirty to get where they are.
                              Ahh I see. Alright well I guess I'm not sure which road I want to take at this point, but I have had a passion for detective/investigation work for a good 4 or 5 years. Of course it started out by seeing detectives on television and wanting to do what they do, but I understand there's a lot more to it than what the wonderful tv portrays. And I know I can work my A** off to get to where I need to be because I am finally happy with making the decision to go after what I truly want to do in my life. Now it's just the matter of deciding whether to aim for being an agent or a police detective... and I think so far being an actual agent has appealed to me the most.

                              I am in contact with one of our local police officers who was previously a detective and I am supposed to have a meeting with him some time this week because I asked him to discuss his job, how he got there and etc with me. So maybe once I speak to him I will have a better understanding on what it is all about.

                              Thank you for all your advice!!

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