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Do you have an eye for detail? Are you drawn to science and investigation? Would you like to make a difference with your work? If your answers are yes, then a career in criminal investigation may be worth considering. An associate degree in criminal investigation can be your first step toward beginning a meaningful career in the field.

Criminal investigation careers

A criminal investigation degree can prepare you for a range of careers within the criminal justice field.

  • Police officer: Most police officers are employed by local governments and must also attend a police training program. They patrol certain geographical areas and respond to calls for service. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a median salary for a police patrol officers of $56,810, as of May 2014, with the highest 10 percent earning $92,450.
  • Detective: Within police departments, detectives are charged with collecting evidence for criminal cases. The BLS reports that salaries for detectives were higher than average police salaries, with the median detective earning $79,870 as of May 2014. The highest earning 10 percent of detectives earned $127,400 during the same time.
  • Private detective or investigator: Most private investigators investigate a range of private, financial and legal matters. Some specialize in areas like computer crime investigation. Job growth is expected to be as fast as the national average over the next decade, reports the BLS, but competition will still be keen. According to BLS data, the median wage for private detectives in May 2014 was $44,570, with the highest paid private detectives earning more than $85,560.

Online associate degree in criminal investigation

So what goes into earning a degree in criminal investigation? Some associate degree in criminal investigation programs can be completed in as little as 18 months, and online programs can make it easier for you to work and earn your degree at the same time. Some of the courses you might expect to take during a criminal investigation degree program include:

  • Introduction to courts and the criminal justice system
  • Principles of crime scene investigation
  • Psychology
  • Criminal evidence and legal issues
  • Foundational courses in math, science and communications
  • Computer assisted data analysis
  • Forensic science
  • Ethics

Courses in a criminal investigation degree program may be similar to those in broader online criminal justice degree programs or to those in crime scene and forensics degree programs. For police and detective work, in addition to your criminal investigation degree, you will typically have to spend 12-to-14 weeks in the agency's academy before qualifying for employment. For private detectives and investigators, all but seven states have licensing requirements, which vary, but typically involve an examination and education and experience requirements.

Jobs in criminal investigation give you the chance to put your analytical skills to use to further the pursuit of justice. With an online associate degree in criminal investigation, you can start down the path to a career that excites and challenges you while also making an important contribution to society. Begin your investigation into your career in criminal investigation today.


"Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers," Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014, June 24, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333051.htm

"Police and Detectives," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 24, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm

"Detectives and Criminal Investigators," Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014, June 24, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333021.htm

"Private Detectives and Investigators," Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014, June 24, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes339021.htm

"Private Detectives and Investigators," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 24, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/private-detectives-and-investigators.htm

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