Pros and Cons of Being a Detective (Plus Helpful Tips)
Updated March 10, 2023
A police detective is a law enforcement professional who gathers information to solve crimes. They have a challenging but rewarding job for those with strong deduction skills. If you're interested in becoming a detective, you may want to learn more about the benefits and disadvantages of the career. In this article, we explain what detectives do, describe the benefits of becoming one, detail the disadvantages and provide tips for deciding if you want to pursue a career in law enforcement.
What does a detective do?
Detectives are police officers who search for and identify evidence that can help them solve criminal cases. They're an important part of the investigation and conviction process. A detective reports to lieutenants and captains under the chief of police and leads sergeants and police officers. These are some duties a detective may manage in their daily work:
Inspect crime scenes for evidence
Conduct interviews with witnesses
Collaborate with emergency personnel
Issue warrants for criminal suspects
Participate in warranted searches
Take detailed case notes for court
Explain rights when arresting suspects
Question criminal suspects about crimes
Perform regular patrols within the jurisdiction
Appear in court to testify in criminal cases
Pros of being a detective
Though it can be challenging, there are many positive aspects of the detective career path. These are some benefits of being a police detective:
Job outlook and security
The first benefit of becoming a detective is the job security for the field and position. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, police and detectives can expect a 7% increase in positions between 2020 and 2030. This growth rate that's faster than average, and the law enforcement field may add 51,700 jobs during that time. This means that pursuing a detective position may offer substantial job security.
Related: How To Become a Police Detective
Earnings and benefits
Another benefit of becoming a detective is the compensation. Experience, skills, performance, education and department can all affect how much a detective earns. The average annual salary for a detective is $84,826 per year. Other factors, like location, can also affect how much a detective can earn. For example, the highest paying city for detectives is Dallas, where they can earn $136,627 per year. Police detectives may also receive benefits like professional development, parental leave, employee assistance programs, tuition reimbursement, relocation assistance and insurance.
Ability to help others
The job of a police detective allows them to use their skills and position to help others. If detectives can identify suspects and apprehend criminals, they may protect citizens from further crime. They can also solve ongoing cases to provide immediate help or cold cases to provide families with closure.
One benefit of the detective career is the intellectual stimulation and challenging nature of the work. For those who are naturally inquisitive, working as a detective can be rewarding. Problem-solving and critical thinking are vital skills for detectives, and having them allows them to quickly determine the cause of a crime or situation.
Opportunity for growth
As a detective, outstanding performance and consistency can help you ascend in the police ranks. Excellent and committed detectives can strive to become sergeants, then chief of police if they want to. The opportunity for growth is another benefit of becoming a detective.
Cons of being a detective
These are some disadvantages of being a police detective:
Training and education
Depending on your situation and career path, it can take between five and eight years to become a police detective. Though this isn't as long as it may take to earn a graduate or doctorate degree, the training time may be longer than you intend to spend. If you don't mind the education and training time or can speed up the process, you can overcome this disadvantage.
The job environment for detectives is for the physically fit and astute. When working in the field, there may be situations where you need to pay attention to hazards and protect your colleagues and civilians. The position may require many hours on your feet, exposure to weather and interaction with witnesses and suspects.
Unlike other professions, detectives rarely have set or consistent hours. They may need to travel for work, depending on the specifics of their job, or work night shifts. During high-crime periods or crises, detectives may need to work with other police officials to protect the public and mitigate risk.
Depending on where the detective works, their state or city may have a mandatory retirement age for law enforcement. For those who really enjoy their career or want to keep working, this can be a disadvantage. If you're excited about retirement, however, mandatory retirement may be beneficial for you.
Related: Detective Job Requirements
Tips for choosing your career
These are some helpful tips you can use when determining if you want to become a police detective:
Consider your skills and interests: Assessing your skills and interests is a good way to determine if you may enjoy being a police detective. For example, f you love problem solving, collaborating with others, and approaching challenging situations, becoming a detective may be for you.
Plan your ideal work schedule: Consider which hours you most want to work, and if having a consistent schedule with ample time off is important to you. If it is, consider careers outside of law enforcement that have more standard working hours.
Determine where to work: The duties and daily life of a detective can vary depending on where they work, so it's important to consider your location before pursuing a position as a detective. For example, an inner-city detective may have a different workday than a detective from a suburb or countryside.
Assess your educational plans: If you're not interested in education or training processes for your ideal career, you may want to choose a position that you can quickly join. It takes between five and eight years to become a detective, and if you're interested in the process or enjoy education, it may be right for you.
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