Criminal Investigator Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Criminal Investigator, or Detective, is responsible for working with other law enforcement professionals to solve various crimes. Their duties include analyzing evidence to make inferences about suspects and motives, interviewing witnesses and potential suspects and writing reports throughout the process to add to the case files.

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Criminal Investigator Duties and Responsibilities

A Criminal Investigator will usually perform the following duties:

  • Collect, analyze and preserve evidence.
  • Investigate complex criminal activities or local, federal or state law violations.
  • Direct crime-scene investigators or other law enforcement personnel at crimes scenes.
  • Gather evidence and make informed decisions and conclusions by employing deductive reasoning and analysis that leads to prosecution.
  • Write detailed reports, file and maintain all records while maintaining strict confidentiality.
  • Coordinate search and arrest warrants, arresting suspects as necessary.
  • Testify in court about findings and evidence.
  • Undergo continuous training as needed.

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Criminal Investigator Job Description Examples

What Does a Criminal Investigator Do?

Criminal Investigators typically work for law enforcement agencies to help solve crimes and reduce illegal activity by apprehending suspects. They work closely with other Criminal Investigators, Police Officers and Forensic Scientists to solve thefts, homicides, vandalism or assaults. Their job is to research criminal activity to find patterns with current crimes and obtain credible evidence that allows them to get arrest warrants for suspects. They may also be responsible for conducting surveillance in a particular area to track their suspect’s movements or monitor criminal activity.

Criminal Investigator Skills and Qualifications

A good Criminal Investigator needs a variety of skills and qualifications that include the following:

  • Good communication and interview skills. Good interview skills are vital to any investigation. A Criminal Investigator must ask clear questions to find out as much detail from the interview as possible and recognize any gaps in a story. The Criminal Investigator must also be a good listener and have the ability to read body language.
  • Ability to use various forms of equipment or technology. Criminal Investigators often use technology to help in their investigations. The equipment varies according to the type of investigation. 
  • Thorough knowledge of the law. A Criminal Investigator needs to know the laws surrounding a case. He or she must also know what they are legally allowed to do during the research, otherwise, the evidence may be thrown out of court.
  • Honesty and good ethics. A Criminal Investigator must be ethical, honest and law abiding. If a Criminal Investigator is caught lying or using unethical methods, he or she will lose credibility, perhaps lose their job or even be convicted of a crime themselves.
  • Critical thinking, deductive reasoning, social perceptiveness and problem-solving skills. Piecing things together requires good problem-solving skills, especially to find out the truth about what really happened. Critical thinking allows the Criminal Investigator to look past the obvious solutions and to objectively analyze evidence.

Criminal Investigator Salary Expectations

The average salary for a Criminal Investigator with 4 to 6 years of experience is $66,508 per year. This salary estimate is based on 383 salaries anonymously submitted to Indeed by Criminal Investigator employees, users and job posts over the past 36 months. 

Criminal Investigator Education and Training Requirements

Applicants for a Criminal Investigator position must have a degree in Criminal Justice or Police Science. Additionally, they need to have taken some courses in psychology, computers, English and advanced science. At a forensic crime lab, a Criminal Investigator candidate will need a major in biological sciences. Applicants for a federal-level job, usually have a master’s degree to improve their credentials.

Criminal Investigator Experience Requirements

A Criminal Investigator position calls for proven work experience. This experience may vary depending on the position offered. Experience may be varied in different investigator fields such as analyzing crime scenes or managing evidence. Make sure to include the experience requirements that are best suited to your field.

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Frequently asked questions about Criminal Investigators


What is the difference between a Criminal Investigator and a Crime Scene Investigator?

The difference between Criminal Investigators and Crime Scene Investigators is that Criminal Investigators have more seniority, and therefore a broader scope of job responsibilities. For example. Crime Scene Investigators work under the guidance of Criminal Investigators at a crime scene to identify evidence, take photos and bag up evidence to send to the crime lab. 

Further, as their name suggests, Crime Scene Investigators specialize in completing investigative work at the crime scene. In contrast, Criminal Investigators oversee crime scene operations and use evidence to research leads, contact witnesses and apprehend suspects based on evidence.


What are the daily duties of a Criminal Investigator?

On a typical day, a Criminal Investigator starts by checking their email and voicemail to receive lab results, answer questions from law enforcement and communicate with victims about the progress of their cases. They participate in meetings with their team to review new leads or case developments. Throughout the day, Criminal Investigators review lab results, examine physical evidence, type reports and talk with other Criminal Investigators to make evidence-based assumptions about a case. They hold interviews with witnesses, victims or persons of interest to help cultivate their understanding of a case.

Criminal Investigators also remain on call to attend crime scenes and provide leadership to a team of law enforcement and forensic professionals at the scene.


What qualities make a good Criminal Investigator?

A good Criminal Investigator is someone who has a dedication to helping others through their detective work. They have excellent attention to detail, enabling them to identify significant evidence, establish inconsistencies in suspect statements and discover connections between suspects and victims. This quality ultimately contributes to the successful apprehension of suspects for a crime. Criminal Investigators also need to have superb written and verbal communication that allows them to write reports and testify in a court of law.


Who does a Criminal Investigator report to?

A Criminal Investigator typically reports to a Senior Criminal Investigator or a Supervisory Criminal Investigator. These professionals provide a team of Criminal Investigators with case assignments and assist in solving their cases.

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