There is a growing need for criminal investigators in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of detectives and criminal investigators will grow about 5 percent (or, 5,000 job openings) by the year 2026. Private investigator jobs will also increase 11 percent (with approximately 4,400 openings) in the coming years. If you dream of an exciting career on-the-scenes, know that now is the time to get involved.
To become a criminal investigator today, it is recommended you have a college degree, combined with specialized training in the field. While specific requirements vary by state and by employer, most federal agencies require crime scene investigators to have a degree in a related field, such as criminal justice. You can learn more about the requirements in Connecticut here.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most criminal investigators start out as police officers, before getting promoted to a detective position. This ensures they have the chops and skills needed to handle frontline investigations, before taking on this role. However, it is possible to land a criminal investigator position through alternative routes, including a college-level training program. This will help you stand out to employers and demonstrate your level of commitment to the field.
The Value of a Criminal Investigator Degree
A criminal investigator degree program can offer a lot to aspiring detectives, including a foundational knowledge of the U.S. criminal justice system (including its structure, functions, and challenges), as well as hands-on experience in the field. As part of Goodwin’s criminal justice curriculum, for example, students are required to complete an in-field internship at a local department, where they get to work alongside seasoned and active investigators. This goes alongside their regular coursework.
Students walk away with a broader understanding of:
- The U.S. Criminal Justice System and all its components, including the Juvenile Justice System, Corrections System, Court System, and Probation/Parole supervision
- The basic issues and problems in policing, courts, and corrections currently in America
- The ethical and legal considerations that go into the role of a criminal investigator
- The sociology and psychology behind criminal behavior and delinquency (and further use this knowledge to better assess crime scenes)
Core Criminal Investigator Classes
Before pursuing a criminal justice or criminal investigator degree, you may want to know more about what that will entail. Which specific courses can you expect to take while in this program? Which courses will be most advantageous for a career in criminal investigation? To give you an idea, below are some of the most favorited criminal investigator classes available at Goodwin College.
- Principles of Criminal Investigation — This foundational course examines the entire investigative process, which is key knowledge for any investigative professional. Students get an in-depth education of crime scene procedures like recognition, protection, documentation, collection of physical evidence, scene documentation, scene search procedures, scene patterns, and reconstructions from evidence.
- Investigative Report Writing – Writing reports is a key component of a criminal investigator’s role. This course prepares students to write clear and detailed reports in investigative positions, including crime and arrest reports, descriptions of persons and property, as well as search warrants. It also teaches students how to take notes effectively while on the scene.
- Criminology – Criminal investigators often need to put themselves in the shoes – or get in the minds of – a criminal. Criminology courses (or, the study of criminals) can help. In this course, students learn about the biological and genetic theories of criminal behavior, as well as topics such as violence in the media, family assault, murder, school shootings, hate crimes, and more.
- Forensic Science – Forensic science is the backbone of criminal investigation. It is the application of the sciences (chemistry, biology, computer science, etc.) to solve a crime. In a forensic science course, students are given hands-on exposure to crime scene investigation and evidence preparation using the sciences. This includes fingerprinting, document evidence, blood splatter, firearm evidence, and arson evidence, among other topics.
- Basics of Interview and Interrogation Techniques – Investigators often observe the activity of suspects, and sometimes are part of the interview process. This course provides an overview of the specific knowledge needed to handle crime scenes, interviews, evidence, surveillance, follow-up, technical resources and case preparation.
- Computer Crime Forensics and Investigative Procedures – Today, cyber-attacks and breaches are among the most prevalent crimes affecting organizations. According to sources, the global cost of online crime is expected to reach $6 trillion by 2021. With this, it is important for criminal investigators to be well-versed in cybercrime and detecting breaches effectively. This course serves as an introduction to modern criminalistics and investigative techniques to solve online crimes.
The Career Outcomes of a Criminal Justice Degree
Sure, you may know you want to become a criminal investigator. However, if you are still exploring career possibilities, you may find comfort in knowing that a criminal justice degree carries a lot of potential. With this highly-specialized degree in hand, you can pursue an investigative (or other) career in a variety of different settings, such as:
- Law Enforcement
- Private and Personal Security Agencies
- Drug Enforcement Agency
- Customs and Border Protection
- Transportation Security Administration
And more. No matter the career choice, criminal justice professionals require substantial training to build (and uphold) trust within their communities. As a prospective criminal investigator, you must also uphold a certain level of trust with those you work with every day – police officers, forensic technicians, cybercrime investigators, court legislators, and more. That said, having the right training, experience, and knowledge of the entire system under your belt will help to bolster your success.
For more information about the criminal justice school at Goodwin College, please do not hesitate to reach out. Call 800-889-3282 to learn more about becoming a criminal investigator in Connecticut.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.