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Criminal Investigators and Special Agents Career

Career Description

Investigate alleged or suspected criminal violations of Federal, state, or local laws to determine if evidence is sufficient to recommend prosecution.

What Job Titles Criminal Investigators and Special Agents Might Have

  • Criminal Investigator
  • Detective
  • Investigator
  • Special Agent

What Criminal Investigators and Special Agents Do

  • Prepare reports that detail investigation findings.
  • Obtain and verify evidence by interviewing and observing suspects and witnesses or by analyzing records.
  • Identify case issues and evidence needed, based on analysis of charges, complaints, or allegations of law violations.
  • Investigate organized crime, public corruption, financial crime, copyright infringement, civil rights violations, bank robbery, extortion, kidnapping, and other violations of federal or state statutes.
  • Record evidence and documents, using equipment such as cameras and photocopy machines.
  • Obtain and use search and arrest warrants.
  • Testify before grand juries concerning criminal activity investigations.
  • Search for and collect evidence, such as fingerprints, using investigative equipment.
  • Determine scope, timing, and direction of investigations.
  • Collect and record physical information about arrested suspects, including fingerprints, height and weight measurements, and photographs.
  • Analyze evidence in laboratories or in the field.
  • Collaborate with other offices and agencies to exchange information and coordinate activities.
  • Develop relationships with informants to obtain information related to cases.
  • Perform undercover assignments and maintain surveillance, including monitoring authorized wiretaps.
  • Collaborate with other authorities on activities, such as surveillance, transcription, and research.
  • Examine records to locate links in chains of evidence or information.
  • Serve subpoenas or other official papers.
  • Compare crime scene fingerprints with those from suspects or fingerprint files to identify perpetrators, using computers.
  • Manage security programs designed to protect personnel, facilities, and information.
  • Provide protection for individuals, such as government leaders, political candidates, and visiting foreign dignitaries.
  • Administer counterterrorism and counternarcotics reward programs.
  • Issue security clearances.

What Criminal Investigators and Special Agents Should Be Good At

  • Deductive Reasoning - The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • Inductive Reasoning - The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  • Oral Comprehension - The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Written Comprehension - The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Oral Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Problem Sensitivity - The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.
  • Speech Clarity - The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
  • Near Vision - The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
  • Written Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
  • Information Ordering - The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
  • Category Flexibility - The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
  • Fluency of Ideas - The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity).

What Criminal Investigators and Special Agents Should Be Interested In

  • Investigative - Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

What Criminal Investigators and Special Agents Need to Learn

  • Public Safety and Security - Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
  • Law and Government - Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.
  • Customer and Personal Service - Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Education and Training - Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
  • Psychology - Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
  • Clerical - Knowledge of administrative and clerical procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and other office procedures and terminology.
  • Computers and Electronics - Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
  • Personnel and Human Resources - Knowledge of principles and procedures for personnel recruitment, selection, training, compensation and benefits, labor relations and negotiation, and personnel information systems.
  • Administration and Management - Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
  • Telecommunications - Knowledge of transmission, broadcasting, switching, control, and operation of telecommunications systems.
  • Sociology and Anthropology - Knowledge of group behavior and dynamics, societal trends and influences, human migrations, ethnicity, cultures and their history and origins.
Median Salary: $78,120

This page includes information from O*NET OnLine by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license.