Skills Needed to Become a Detective

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Police detectives spend time in the office and in the field.
Police detectives spend time in the office and in the field. (Image: Darrin Klimek/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Detectives are investigative professionals in the law enforcement field who attempt to solve crimes based on the available evidence. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for detectives is expected to grow by about 10 percent from 2008 to 2018. The reported median pay for detectives and criminal investigators was $62,110 per year as of May 2009.

Investigative Skills

The most important set of skills needed by a detective are the investigative skills that they gain along the way throughout the course of their education and training. Many law enforcement officials are required to have an associate's degree or higher, according to the BLS, and the research skills gained along the way can prove invaluable for detective work. Detectives who have a degree in police science, criminal justice or criminology will gain many of the necessary skills utilized by law enforcement officials. Other skills, such as those used in crime scene investigation, are learned as part of police academy training and as part of hands-on experience from working in the field.

Communications Skills

Communications skills are essential to detective work and go hand in hand with investigative skills. Detectives must be outgoing and comfortable speaking to strangers. They must have the ability to use interrogative skills to gain the information they need in order to effectively conduct investigations. Detectives need to have active listening abilities which entail the acquired skill of asking the right questions to elicit a response that gives them the information they are looking for. Ongoing communication with police and other law enforcement officials is also necessary.

Problem-Solving Skills

Detectives must be able to put their investigative and communications skills together to solve problems. Problem-solving skills involve the ability to piece together seemingly disparate strands of information and solve a crime, much like piecing together the various parts of a jigsaw puzzle. Problem-solving skills include critical-thinking skills, or the ability to solve problems through the use of logic and reasoning. Reading comprehension skills are also a necessary component of the problem-solving skill set that the detective must have.

Computer Skills

Computer skills are also necessary for investigative work performed by detectives. In today's world of hi-tech crime, detectives must have a strong knowledge of computer encryption and security in order to beat the criminal at his own game. Computer skills are also necessary for communications purposes and for other clerical skills needed to work as a detective. Detectives must be detail-oriented and keep extensive written records of their investigations. Much of this information is recorded using various computer database, word-processing and spreadsheet computer software.

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