There were 109,230 detectives and criminal investigators employed in the United States in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They investigate anything from corporate and financial fraud and drug use to murders and terrorist activity. These investigators interview crime victims and suspects, study peoples' backgrounds and help solve crimes through DNA analysis and surveillance. If you want to become a criminal investigator, you may need an associate or bachelor's degree in criminal justice. In return, you can expect to earn salaries averaging more than $6,400 monthly.
Salary and Qualifications
The average annual salary of a criminal investigator was $77,860 as of May 2012, according to the BLS, or $6,488.33 per month. The top 10 percent made more than $10,249.16 monthly. To become a criminal investigator, you need to take at least some college courses in criminal justice, law enforcement and political science, and obtain a license through your state. Most criminal investigators are trained on the job, but many employers prefer that you have experience in criminal investigation – two or more years, for example. Some employers may prefer hiring criminal investigators with associate or bachelor's degrees in criminal justice or related majors. Other essential requirements are honesty, resourcefulness, inquisitiveness, and communication and problem-solving skills.
Salary by Industry
A criminal investigator can earn more in certain industries. In 2012, they earned the highest monthly salaries of $8,357.50 working for the federal government, according to the BLS. Federal government jobs can include the Internal Revenue Service or Federal Bureau of Investigation. Those employed by the U.S. Postal Service also earned considerably higher salaries of $7,465. If you worked for a college or university, you'd make $5,606.66, and in a psychiatric or substance abuse hospital, you'd earn $5,596.66. Local and state government agencies pay their criminal investigators $5,384.16 and $4,880 monthly, respectively.
Salary by State
Criminal investigators earned the highest monthly salaries of $9,602.50 in Washington, D.C., based on 2012 BLS data. Those in Alaska, New Jersey and California also earned relatively high salaries of $8,895.83, $8,314.16 and $7,894.16. If you were employed as a criminal investigator in Arizona, you'd earn $6,542.50 per month. In Texas or Florida, you'd make $6,216.66 or $5,948.33, respectively.
The BLS predicts a 21 percent increase in jobs for private detectives and investigators from 2010 to 2020, which is faster than the 14 percent growth rate for all jobs. High security concerns and the need to protect property and confidential information among residences and businesses should produce more jobs for criminal investigators. Increases in cyber, financial and insurance fraud also may create job opportunities for you in this field.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: What Private Detectives and Investigators Do
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: How to Become a Private Detective or Investigator
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Private Detectives and Investigators: Job Outlook
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Detectives and Criminal Investigators
- Florida Tech University Online: Detective and Criminal Investigator Career and Salary Profile
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security: Become a Criminal Investigator
- Internal Revenue Service: IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images