Police detectives investigate crimes and gather evidence in plain clothes. They interview witnesses and suspects, examine records, observe criminal activities and make arrests. Applicants require at least a high school diploma, though federal agencies mandate a bachelor's degree and/or related work experience. In either case, the hiring department provides an additional training for 12 to 14 weeks. After gaining experience as a police officer, applicants must pass a detective exam.
The jobs of police detectives are stressful and dangerous. They have one of the highest rates of on-the-job injuries and illness because they must confront criminals. Though they are supposed to work 40 hour weeks, overtime is common, especially during investigations. Shifts may include nights, weekends and holidays. The median salary for detectives was £40,371 per year, with a range of £24,674 to £64,987, as of May 2009. This breaks down to £19.40 per hour, with a range of £11.80 to £31.20. These are the latest available facts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The largest employer of police detectives was local government, which includes metropolitan police departments. They comprised nearly 45 per cent of the available 110,380 positions and paid a median £19.10 per hour or £39,799 per year. Close behind was the federal government with 38 per cent of the jobs paying higher means at £23.5 per hour or £49,003 per year. The highest paying jobs are with the postal service at a mean £27.5 per hour or £57,310, but with only 550 positions.
States the employed large numbers of detectives are the nation's most populous. They include Texas, with mean wages of £18.03 per hour or £38,168 per year for 14,350 positions, and California, with mean salaries at £25.0 per hour or £52,091 per year for 12,800 jobs. For cities, the highest paying employers were in Oakland, California, with mean compensation at £30.07 per hour or £63,999 per year for 540 positions. Washington, D.C., which is also in the top five for pay, offered lower pay at a mean £29.10 per hour, or £60,625 per year, but far more employment -- 4,680 jobs.
The BLS predicted jobs for police detectives to grow by 17 per cent from 2008 to 2018, which is faster than average for all occupations. Much of this is due to population growth. The easiest positions to get will be in local police departments with relatively low salaries, or in urban areas with high crime rates. Competition will be strongest with federal and state law enforcement. Those with college training and bilingual skills will find the best opportunities.