How Long Does It Take to Become a Detective?

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Police detectives and private investigators gather evidence and analyze their findings to solve criminal cases. Many private investigators have their own business, while some work for a private detective agency. Police detectives are employed by local, county, state and federal agencies.

1 Time Frame

An individual planning to become a police detective begins as a patrol officer and advances in the ranks. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), it typically takes at least 3 years to become a detective due to departmental experience requirements.

2 Education

Before becoming a police officer, the individual must complete 3 to 6 months of training at a police academy. Many police departments also require an Associate's or Bachelor's degree.


The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) requires special agent applicants to have a minimum of a Bachelor's degree along with at least 3 years of related work experience.

4 Private Detectives

Private detectives technically can begin their work anytime after high school, but will find it difficult to be hired or obtain clients without formal education or law enforcement experience. Additionally, most states mandate licensing, which requires a certain amount of education to pass a state exam.

5 Private Detective Education

Only 18 percent of private detectives have no education beyond high school, according to the BLS. Most have an Associate's or Bachelor's degree, and many are retired police officers.

Shelley Moore is a journalist and award-winning short-story writer. She specializes in writing about personal development, health, careers and personal finance. Moore has been published in "Family Circle" magazine and the "Milwaukee Sentinel" newspaper, along with numerous other national and regional magazines, daily and weekly newspapers and corporate publications. She has a Bachelor of Science in psychology.