Introduction to Careers in Investigation
Most agencies in public safety have their own unique investigators. There typically is a 3-5 year minimum before an officer or firefighter is eligible to serve as an investigator. Some agencies, such as some state investigators, may be hired with a minimum of college units for entry level investigative positions. Other agencies require at least a Bachelors degree, such as the federal agencies; Federal Bureau of Investigations, for example.

Job Descriptions
The following job descriptions have been culled from various public safety offices in California to give you an idea of what is required for various jobs.

District Attorney Investigator
Primary responsibilities are to conduct criminal and civil investigations related to District Attorney's cases; follow required procedures to prepare, obtain and serve arrest and search warrants; and assist other law enforcement agencies with criminal investigations. Performs other related duties as assigned.

Education and Experience:
Associate's degree or equivalent from a two-year college in Criminal Justice or a related field; and,
Four to five years of progressively responsible related experience; or,
Any combination of education, training and experience that provides the required knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform the essential functions of the job.

Licenses and Certifications:
Basic POST Certificate
Valid Driver's License

Police Detective
From the Los Angeles Police Department recruiting website: The first promotion available to Officers is to either become a Detective, and move into the investigative branch, or to become a Sergeant and move into field supervision. When Sergeants or Detective get promoted they become Lieutenants.

Detectives - Detectives conduct specialized or generalized follow-up investigative work. Police Officers may apply for promotion to Detective after a minimum of four years as a Police Officer. Examples of Detective assignments include undercover narcotics, juvenile crimes investigator, family violence, internal affairs, robbery, homicide and traffic accident follow-up.

Sergeants - Most Sergeants serve as field supervisors. Promotional candidates must demonstrate their qualifications in this area. There are also administrative and specialized assignments for Sergeants. A minimum of four years experience as a Police Officer and/or Detective is required to apply for promotion to Sergeant.

Arson/Fire Investigator
The Arson/Fire Investigation Unit falls within the purview of the Los Angeles County Fire Department's Fire Prevention Division in the East Region Units Section. The Unit currently consists of three (3) shift captains, two (2) staff support personnel and six (6) shift investigators (one team of 2 investigators daily) and provides the Department with expertise in the field of origin and cause of fires and related incidents. Investigations include those for arson, explosions, fatalities, critically burned victims, and any other incidents that are deemed necessary by the Department. Arson Unit personnel are granted the authority to investigate fires under the following statutes:
  • - California Health and Safety Code, Section 12000-12007
  • - California Penal Code, Section 830.37
  • - Los Angeles County Charter, Section 24 1/3
  • - Los Angeles County Fire Code, Section 104.1.1, 104.3 and 104.10
As a specialized law enforcement Unit within the Department, investigators conduct fire cause and origin work and criminal investigation follow-up to identify, locate, and arrest arson offenders. They interview witnesses, victims and suspects, collect and preserve evidence, and obtain detailed and accurate information throughout each investigation in order to write thorough reports and maintain comprehensive files on fires investigated.

Members regularly collaborate with other law enforcement organizations, including, but not limited to, the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD), as well as the local police department in the contract cities. They have the resources, expertise and credibility necessary to testify in both criminal and civil court cases, and are available to any incident commander at his/her discretion for cause and origin determination in any of the 58 cities the Department serves. This would include the responsibility for arson detective services, arrests, and follow-up responsibilities in twenty-two (22) of those cities served.

FBI Special Agent
Serving as a Special Agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation is a very demanding job with strict entry requirements.

To become an FBI Special Agent you must be a U.S. citizen or a citizen of the Northern Mariana Islands. You must be at least 23 years of age, but younger than 37 upon your appointment as a Special Agent. Age waivers may be granted to preference eligible veterans who have surpassed their 37th birthday. You must possess a four-year degree from a college or university accredited by one of the regional or national institutional associations recognized by the United States Secretary of Education. You must have at least three years of professional work experience. You must also possess a valid driver's license and be completely available for assignment anywhere in the FBI's jurisdiction.

All applicants for the Special Agent position must first qualify under one of five Special Agent Entry Programs. These programs include:
  • - Accounting
  • - Computer Science/Information Technology
  • - Language
  • - Law
  • - Diversified
You can find out more details about Special Agent Entry Programs here.

After qualifying for one of the five Entry Programs, applicants will be prioritized in the hiring process based upon certain Critical Skills for which the FBI is recruiting.

All candidates that meet the Entry Program and Critical Skill requirements must also:

NSA Investigators
If you thrive on discovering clues that uncover hidden truths, a career as an NSA Investigator may be for you. As an Investigator with the National Security Agency, you'll conduct background investigations and prepare reports on your findings. Your discoveries and recommendations will help improve NSA's ability to provide accurate intelligence and perform critical national security missions.

Prior investigative experience is not required. You will learn to use interrogative techniques through a formal investigative training period that lasts 10-12 weeks. Through formal NSA training and rotational assignments, you will be exposed to a variety of security disciplines.

Specific job duties include, but are not limited to, preparing reports of investigations that are factually accurate, grammatically correct and completed in a timely manner, and conducting interviews/interrogations.

Ideal candidates should possess poise, confidence, and a Bachelor's degree in Liberal Arts from an accredited college or university. Investigators are expected to learn the use of interrogative techniques to resolve adjudicative issues; gain knowledge of significant suitability issues, counterintelligence indicators, and NSA policies and regulations.

Investigators should present a mature, professional, businesslike appearance and possess the capability to interview people of varied backgrounds. Excellent verbal and written communication, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills are required. Ability to work well independently in a deadline driven environment is essential. Must possess a valid driver's license, responsible driving record, and the ability to qualify to carry a firearm. Some travel is required.