If you are a person with a keen eye for detail and a passion for solving mysteries, being an investigator might be a dream career for you. While the jobs are not always as exciting as those of the investigators that you see on television, those who enjoy fields that require analysis and problem solving will find elements of excitement in the field of investigation.
Kinds of Investigator Jobs
Police departments use crime scene investigators with a wide variety of skills and training. Forensic drug analysts and chemists, firearms technicians, crime scene technicians, police evidence technicians and tool mark examiners are just a few of the types of crime scene investigating jobs available with police departments. Police, however, are not the only ones who use investigators. Companies use financial investigators to apprehend embezzlers. Insurance companies use investigators to uncover claims fraud. People hire private investigators to find out just about any information they want to uncover about someone. Investigators do everything from background checks on job applicants to solving high level crimes.
Skills needed to be an investigator vary by specialty. For instance, an arson investigator needs to know about burn patterns and accelerants. There are skills that investigators need no matter what their specialty. Investigators need writing skills to write detailed reports. They need strong interviewing skills for questioning victims and witnesses. Strong skills in logic, deduction and observation give investigators the ability to recognize clues and evidence then build chain of event possibilities. In the 21st century the investigator also has to know how to use computer technology for searching, data mining or analysis.
Private investigators usually have degrees despite having no formal requirements for one. You may need a degree to compete with educated professionals regardless of regulations. Related experience is usually necessary to get a job. Financial and corporate investigators are often required to have business or accounting degrees. Crime scene investigators are required to have degrees in forensic science fields. Ongoing training is important in all investigating jobs because of rapid advancements in technology. Not all states require an investigator to be licensed, but those that do have their own requirements based on criteria such as age, education and years of experience. Investigators with five years of experience may qualify to receive certification from the National Association of Legal Investigators.
Working Conditions and Wages
Working conditions vary depending on specialty. Most investigators work outside of their offices at least part of the time. Work is conducted wherever needed to gather evidence. Work might involve outdoor surveillance, being at a crime scene, in someone's home or sitting in a bar or car. Some work can be dangerous and may require carrying a gun. People being interviewed can be confrontational or distraught. Wages for this demanding and often stressful work are average level wages for most investigators. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2008, most salaried detectives and investigators earn between $30,870 and $59,000 per year, with the highest earners making over $76,640. Wages vary by specialty, location and employer.
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