There are two basic types of detectives or investigators: those who work for the police, and those who take on private cases. Police detectives, sometimes known as investigators or agents, gather facts and evidence tied to crimes. Private detectives, or private investigators as they are often called, typically take cases related to financial or personal issues, including missing persons cases or background checks.
Police Detective Salary:
The mean annual wage for police detectives and investigators was $75,720 as of May 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent in salary earned $122,290 or more, while the bottom 10 percent earned $39,660 or less. Employment in the profession is expected to grow 7 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is about half the expected growth rate for all occupations.
Police Detective Comparisons:
Most police detectives, 46,360 of the 111,930 in the BLS survey, work for local law enforcement departments. These detectives earned a mean annual wage of $62,900. That ranked fourth among all industries in terms of pay, trailing federal governments investigators, who averaged $96,680 a year; postal service investigators ($89,860); and detectives on college police forces ($66,540).
Private Detective Salary:
Private detectives earned a mean annual wage of $48,610 as of May 2011, according to the BLS. Private eyes would have to be in the top 10 percent for pay in order to earn a salary comparable to the police average, at $75,860 or more. The bottom 10 percent of private investigators earned $25,940 or less. Thanks in part to post-9/11 security concerns, this occupation should provide plenty of opportunity in coming years. The BLS expects employment to rise 21 percent from 2010 to 2020.
Private Detective Comparisons:
Nearly half of private detectives were employed in investigation and security service companies as of May 2011. These detectives earned a mean annual wage of $44,350. The best way for private detectives to make money, however, is in the consulting business. A consulting detective could earn an average salary of $92,850 per year.