According to a White House report on drug policy, drug-related crimes accounted for 11.6% of all arrests made at the state and local level in 2001. In that year, a total of 1,586,092 drug arrests were made by police agencies outside the federal government. The responsibility of building narcotics cases rests with narcotics detectives.
Narcotics detectives, sometimes called vice detectives, investigate crimes involving street drugs and pharmaceuticals.
A narcotics detective career can be demanding and dangerous. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, police officers and detectives have some of the highest job-related injury rates of any occupation.
Narcotics detectives typically serve as patrol officers first. Educational requirements for police officers vary depending on the agency. However, a high school diploma is generally the minimum qualification. Police officers must also have clean criminal records, meet high fitness requirements, and are often required to be at least 21.
Increasingly, police departments require new officers to have college degrees. Some agencies allow military service to be used in place of the college requirement. Even when it is not officially required, a college degree in addition to other skills such as foreign language or military experience can increase an individual's chances of law enforcement employment and advancement. Police officers typically serve first as probationary officers with direct supervision, before being allowed to operate independently. After working as a patrol officer for between one and three years, individuals can apply for narcotics detective jobs.
The BLS reports that police and detective job opportunities are expected to be good for qualified individuals in the coming years. Specifically, the bureau estimates that employment in law enforcement will expand by 10% between 2008 and 2018. Applicants with college, language, or military experience are expected to have the best job opportunities.
Job openings specifically for detectives and investigators are expected to increase as well. In 2008, there were 112,200 detective jobs in the United States. The BLS predicts that by 2018, there will be 130,900. This represents a 17% increase in job openings for detectives.
In 2008, the median salary for all detectives and criminal investigators was $60,910 per year, says the BLS. The top 10 percent of detectives earned over $97,870. The highest wages for detectives are found in the federal government, with a median wage of $73,170 annually.
The exact salary for a narcotics detective varies depending on location. According to the career website SalaryExpert, narcotics investigators make an average of $79,484 per year in Chicago. Narcotics detectives make a lower wage in Atlanta, Georgia, at $50,148 annually.