A detective is an amazing job full of interesting twists and can be rewarding. However, it is not the same type of job portrayed on television shows. There are many hidden parts of the job not traditionally shown to the public.
When entering into law enforcement, it is important to know the qualifications for the detective role you are striving to achieve. Some police departments require college degrees for promotion and they usually need to be in areas related to law enforcement. Nearly all departments require a preset amount of time with the department before applying for transfer or promotion to the detective division.
Detectives are typically assigned to one expertise and their case work will rarely venture outside their prescribed area. Common detective bureaus include Robbery, Homicide, Vice and Domestic Violence. Transfers among bureaus will also vary from agency to agency.
Unlike television, detectives spend the majority of their time tied to their desks. This is due to the amount of paperwork required to create, manage and work a criminal investigation. For every investigative action such as an interview, evidence collection or a crime scene search, there must be paperwork documenting the encounter. Additional paperwork precedes many actions such as production of search warrant affidavits. These take time to produce and must be signed by a judge prior to the execution. The details of the paperwork are very important to the case because it will be available to the defense during a criminal trial.
One of the biggest myths of television police shows is the time spent retrieving information. Detectives on these shows routinely obtain information from tax records to drivers license requests almost instantly and on their computers. The reality is much different. Tax information is closely guarded by the Internal Revenue Service and not available to the average detective without filing a lot of legal paperwork to support the request. Drivers license and criminal histories are easier to obtain, but those can also take time to process. Credit card information, bank accounts and even gym membership are not generally given by companies without a warrant.
Detectives need to be detail oriented, able to handle stress and flexible. The demands of the job are great, but so are the rewards for setting things right for a victim.