Career Guide


Ben Maples  · Nov 30th 2021

In the world of policing, the fact that so many criminals often go unnoticed means that there is a greater push for more and more police officers and people capable of stopping crimes.

Police Officer at a Crime Scene with the Do Not Cross tape covering the scene.

The world of a Detective is something that may be an option for you. Now, you won’t necessarily act out a career similar to that of Brad Pitt in Se7en, but you’ll certainly have a very interesting career ahead of you, and you’ll be safe in the knowledge that you are making a difference.

So what is a Detective and what do they do and how do you become one? Well, we have a career guide to help you out and see if this is the career for you!

Detective Career Guide

What is a detective?

The detective job description explains detectives are, essentially, police officers who work on specialist, severe or complex investigations. Detectives and criminal investigators have accreditations and are responsible for managing an array of investigations, including but not limited to; drugs, child protection, robbery, homicide, cyber-crime, fraud, domestic violence and counter-terrorism.

The criminal investigation department or a CID job will see officers investigate these serious crimes, work with police officers, victims and forensic investigators. A detective investigator is not a rank but more of a title which demonstrates the role, skills, training, knowledge and experience within the field. Detectives work alongside their uniformed colleagues, usually at the same pay and rank.

What does a detective do?

Detective jobs - also known as a crime investigator or police investigator - can work across several specialist departments. Detective constable jobs are commonly known to be part of the criminal investigations department (CID), which handles suspicious deaths, robbery, serious assaults, domestic or racial abuse and burglary. However, detective careers may lead you to the drugs squad (dealing with drug trafficking) or the fraud squad (investigating a company or business and financial fraud).

As a superintendent, you can see a wage between £64,478 to £77340, or £81,156 to £85,614 as a chief superintendent.

But, a crime investigator may be found amongst the firearms squad, responsible for investigating and responding to offences involving firearms - which could include potential hostage situations or live incidents. Any of these units can see you working in undercover police jobs or solving complex cases. Lastly, a police investigator can work within the child protection department or the Special Branch for national security and international terrorism.

Individuals will need to complete further professional training to start in any of these specialist units, and it’s possible to transfer across them throughout your career. Each police force in the UK will have various departments, and some may be larger than others, and you may find strong competition.

A detective needs to gather, verify and assess information on the investigation, develop and evaluate strategies, work closely and communicate with other staff and make decisions. They may analyse and interpret data, prepare case papers and evidence files, handle exhibits and deal with forensic material.

The detective career extends to assessing and recruiting informants, participating with raids, searches and arrests - where appropriate - obtaining statements from witnesses and conducting interviews and interrogations. Detective police will liaise with internal and external agencies, like courts, social workers and schools, and work efficiently with all members of their team, as well as keep up to date with current legislation and procedures.

Detective Career

How to become a police detective in the UK?

Now, how to become a detective, and what qualifications do you need to be a detective in the UK? Many may think that they need to work as a police officer beforehand, but it isn’t the case. There are detective qualifications available, where individuals can learn detective skills required for the job.

What GCSE’s do you need to be a detective? There are not any set requirements but Maths and English at a decent grade will be beneficial. However, there are other skills that are highly sought after, such as; excellent communication skills, planning and organisation, problem-solving skills and the ability to keep calm in challenging situations.

Candidates should be good at decision making and have the ability to analyse and evaluate evidence, as well as conduct an investigation effectively. Detectives will need to have high ethical standards, a sense of personal responsibility, respect for diversity and effective leadership skills, with a good level of physical fitness and standard eyesight.

How to be a police detective if you already have a degree? There is now the detective graduate scheme where you can take alternative training through the Police Now National Detective Programme, which lasts two years and allows you to obtain detective skills for the role.

Detectives work alongside their uniformed colleagues, usually at the same pay and rank.

To qualify for the graduate detective scheme, candidates need to hold a 2:2 undergraduate degree and have at least two years’ post-graduate work experience - one example could be working as a Special Police Constable at your local police station. Once successful, you will start at the Detective Academy for an intensive 12-week residential training course which offers a mix of field and classroom learning. To move to the next step, you also need to pass the National Investigators Exam (NIE). Then individuals will complete in-force training, immersion training - where you work at a force in uniform for core policing skills - and work across various departments in accelerated training to learn how to investigate complex and serious crimes.

How to be a detective without a degree? If you’re searching for another route or an alternative to a detective degree, you can also choose the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship which is also available. You can also contact your local police force or search for their current vacancies to enquire what courses are available.

How do I become a detective if I’m already a police constable? Here it will depend on the force, but you can speak to your sergeant and chief constable for guidance on how to progress through the CID ranks. You may be able to study the detective qualifications or train while working or on a part-time basis.


What skills are useful for a detective?

A detective needs excellent communication, planning and observational skills as well as being great problem-solvers who can make decisions quickly. They’ll need to be able to communicate instructions clearly, analyse and evaluate evidence and have a logical approach to the work. Also, they need to be able to keep calm under pressure and confident during challenging situations. Detectives can work within a multidisciplinary team and independently, and be able to keep their emotions under check, even in the most harrowing of cases. One of the key skills is to be committed to the values and standards of the police force, the law and judiciary system. Diversity and treating all people with respect is essential to the role. Detectives also need strong leadership skills who can inspire staff, as well as physical fitness and standard eyesight.

Can you work as a detective remotely?

This role cannot be done from home, as you’ll need to visit crime scenes, various staff in their department (i.e. forensics) and the office. You may also attend inquests and other court hearings as part of a case.

How much do detectives make?

Now you know the journey for becoming a detective, the next step is researching British police detective ranks and their earnings. The UK police detective salary ranges and the following guides include England, Northern Ireland and Wales, with the starting salary for a newly qualified constable beginning at around £23,123. Those starting can expect an annual rise with experience and could see the UK detective salary being as high as £38,382 at the very top of the constable pay scale.

There are detective qualifications available, where individuals can learn detective skills required for the job.

Experienced individuals can expect a detective wage between £39,693 and £43134 as a sergeant, £49,176 and £55,512 as a detective inspector salary, followed by £54,432 and £56,670 for the DCI salary (detective chief inspector). Then, as a superintendent, you can see a wage between £64,478 to £77340, or £81,156 to £85,614 as a chief superintendent. Furthermore, assistant chief constables to chief constables can receive between £98,538 and £111,249, depending on the police force.

The CID police salary, for detectives starting in Scotland, is £28,392 and the detective constable salary can be as high as £40,877 after ten years. Within a sergeant role, you can expect £40,878, increasing over time, and £86,433 for chief superintendents.

In addition to salary, officers can receive regional allowances for working in London, which is equal up to £6,735 per year. Additionally, detectives receive a range of benefits, such as flexible work schedule, paid sick leave, a pension, part-time options, childcare schemes, and occupational health support. You’ll typically be offered a minimum of 22 days of annual leave - 28 in Scotland - parental leave, trade unions and access to sports facilities.

What are the career prospects for a detective?

Detectives working for the police force have access to a promotion structure and have the opportunity to work up the ranks, which are; detective constable, detective sergeant, detective inspector, detective chief inspector, detective superintendent, detective chief superintendent, assistant chief constable, deputy chief constable, chief constable.

undergraduate Uni's

Get your questions answered by sending them an enquiry now.