How to Become a Criminal Investigator

The job duties of a criminal investigator may vary according to the specific agency the investigator is working for and other factors.

With diverse opportunities within the field, the prospects for a lucrative career as a criminal investigator seem bright.

Criminal Investigator Overview & Responsibilities

Criminal investigators work for any number of agencies and law enforcement departments. The job title may vary somewhat but the duties between agencies and law enforcement settings are very similar. A criminal investigator investigates and collects evidence at crime scenes, identifies and labels evidence. They interview witnesses and first responders. They take notes based on witness statements and write detailed reports. Criminal investigators testify in court proceedings. They conduct on-going investigations related to drug activities, abuse and exploitation of children and adults and threats against public safety.

Investigators primarily work in local law enforcement departments and for state and federal agencies. As an example, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) works under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security and hires criminal investigators to protect the United States against terrorist and other criminal organizations who threaten national safety and security and criminal enterprises who seek to exploit the country’s legitimate trade, travel, and financial systems. ICE criminal investigators work on cases utilizing innovative methods and technology.

Although prospective criminal investigators working for federal law enforcement or justice agencies can expect to undergo a more stringent background check, all individuals exploring a career as a criminal investigator must undergo some degree of background investigation.

Criminal Investigation Degrees

Criminal investigators must have a relevant criminal justice degree, with additional courses in sciences and report writing. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a criminal justice-related field should be obtained to work as a criminal investigator. Additional degrees and experience will likely mean greater opportunities and higher salary potential.

Insurance and Fraud Investigator

Was a house or a business accidentally burnt to the ground? Was a vehicle really stolen? Why are millions of dollars missing suddenly from a organization? If these matters light up your curiosity to find answers, then you may want to consider a job as an insurance and fraud investigator.

An insurance fraud investigator is generally an insurance agency employee or private contractor trained to determine the eligibility of claims towards a company’s terms of service coverage. On a daily basis, the agent collects any evidence to back up or dismiss complaints, including customer and witnesses interviews, crime scene investigations, and review of relevant data.

Some detective skills and determination are required to succeed. Often an insurance and fraud investigator’s job resembles that of a police detective, with all its struggles but usually in a softer environment. Surveillance and collection of documented evidence are the most intensive part of the job, which can require costly equipment and a lot of time, but leading to case closure. Proper techniques can take some special training in multiple disciplines.

Becoming an insurance investigator involves taking different educative programs and can’t be boiled down to a single training direction. Some options include a certificate program in private investigation or a degree in insurance and risk management, criminal justice, accountant or computing science.

In completing a private investigation course you will acquire skills in interviewing techniques, legal systems, surveillance equipment and methods, and crime scene investigation. A degree in risk management and insurance gives you the opportunity to begin a career as an insurance agent, claims adjuster, or insurance underwriter in addition to the insurance fraud investigator field. Other degrees as in criminal justice, accounting or computing science can also provide the basic training needed to work in this domain or similarly oriented professions.