Detective Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Detective, or Investigator, is responsible for seeking out information and researching the circumstances of a situation to solve crimes or uncover details about a civil matter. Their duties include examining evidence, questioning suspects of a crime and performing background checks.

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Detective Duties and Responsibilities

The duties and responsibilities of a Detective typically depend on the profile and needs of your organization. When creating a job description for a Detective, you must make sure that you precisely describe the type of Detective work that your new hire will be required to do on a day-to-day basis.  

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Detective Job Description Examples

Typical duties and responsibilities for a Detective are:

  • Working either independently or with the local authorities to investigate missing persons cases. A Detective is  usually hired by the missing person’s family after a period of time has passed and the case is no longer a priority for the local police.
  • Investigating personal conflicts, such as spousal infidelity or child custody disputes. The Detective is hired by one of the parties involved to discover facts that will be admissible in court and work in that party’s favor.
  • Uncovering fraud or embezzlement origins. Detectives are also hired when a company’s management has solid reasons to believe that the company is being defrauded but they need to discover the exact origins of the matter.
  • Background checks of potential employees. Some organizations use Detectives to investigate potential employees, to make sure they haven’t displayed improper behavior in the past.

What Does a Detective Do?

Detectives can work privately or at a law enforcement agency to resolve unclear situations, particularly solving crimes and apprehending suspects. They can investigate records, participate in undercover operations, interview witnesses and review forensic evidence to learn about the victim of a crim and possible perpetrators. Detectives can also work to find missing persons and uncover fraud.  They collaborate with other law enforcement officers to consider possible scenarios and rule out persons of interest through cross-examining suspects or reverse-engineering the events preceding a crime. Detectives respond to crime scenes, perform surveillance, issue warrants and testify in court.

Detective Skills and Qualifications

Detectives require a specific set of hard and soft skills to successfully perform their duties. There is no standard requirement for a private Detective, but job descriptions typically list previous experience in law enforcement or social sciences as a requirement. The most important skills for a Detective are:

  • Communication skills. Most Detective work requires constant interaction with other people. Knowing when people are being truthful and successfully extracting information are crucial detective skills
  • Critical thinking skills. Analyzing the available pieces of information and coming up with relevant conclusions are a major part of working as a Detective
  • Organizational skills. A Detective typically has to work on many cases at the same time. A good Detective must be well-organized and thorough enough to maintain the same standard of quality for all clients.
  • Ethics. Detectives often work with sensitive or confidential information. They need to have enough integrity, honesty and morality to handle that information properly.

Detective Salary Expectations

A Detective working in the United States can expect to earn $50,878 per year on average. Salaries depend on multiple factors, such as the person’s level of skill and experience, the hiring organization, the nature of the cases the Detective is involved in and the geographical location the Detective works on.

Detective Education and Training Requirements

Education and training requirements vary from employer to employer. To increase your odds of finding qualified applicants, your Detective job description should mention that all applicants must have at least a high school diploma, as well as a bachelor’s degree, relevant work experience or both. Some states also require Detectives to have a license.

Experience Requirements

Previous work experience is an essential part of becoming a Detective. The most common backgrounds for a Detective are law enforcement and military service.  Your Detective job description should mention that previous relevant experience is required. Previously work with such institutions will serve as proof that the applicant has the skills and knowledge of laws and regulations to successfully perform the required duties.

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Frequently asked questions about Detectives


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

Detectives work on solving crimes using all aspects of a situation, while Crime Scene Investigators specifically work to gather and examine evidence at the scene of a crime. Crime Scene Investigators, also known as CSIs, gather evidence for processing, taking photographs and making notes that Detectives can later review. CSIs prepare the crime scene and block it off safely before Detectives arrive. CSIs and Detectives can both evaluate crime scenes, but Detectives interpret evidence while CSIs mainly collect, preserve and transport it. Soem Detectives work on cases that do not have a single crime scene such as cyber crimes.


What characteristics make a good Detective?

Because Detectives can work in the vicinity of active criminals and deal with gory crime scenes, good Detectives are brave and courageous with a strong constitution. They are not easily upset and can emotionally separate themselves from witnessing the aftermath of violence and crime. At the same time, Detectives must have empathy to understand the behavior of a criminal and predict their next move. Successful Detectives are tenacious and hardworking, constantly examining the different solutions to an unsolved case. They are able to work discreetly and use professional behavior to get the cooperation of witnesses or accomplices to a crime.


What are the types of Detective?

There are two main types of Detective: Public Detectives, who are members of the police force, and Private Detectives, who can be self-employed or work for a corporation. Public Detectives work to solve crimes while Private Detective tend to settle personal matters, although some Private Detectives provide consultations to law enforcement agencies. Private Detectives often handle missing persons cases and collect evidence for civil court cases and custody disputes. They can also track down adopted people’s birth parents and use their skills to run background checks on private citizens.


What are the daily duties of a Detective?

Detectives read assignment briefs to learn more about the context of a case, then examine the current evidence to develop a strategy for identifying suspects. They collaborate with other police officers and the police chief to track down and apprehend prepetrators. Detectives may revist the scene of a crime to re-trace the steps of a criminal and look for more clues. They process intake paperwork after arresting perpatrators or develop reports on non-criminal cases to share with their clients.

Job Description Examples

Need help writing a job description for a specific role? Use these job description examples to create your next great job posting. Or if you’re ready to hire, post your job on Indeed.

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