Detective Salary

Police Detective Salary

As with any job, salaries in the law enforcement industry depend on many different variables. Some of the different variables include experience, education, location and qualification. As stated on the police officer salary page of this sight, police officers make an average of around $50,000 a year. Once you obtain the promotion to Detective or Sergeant Level there is a pay increase that comes with the higher ranking. The average salary across the country is around $74,000 a year. As this is an average it means that there are detectives across the country that may make substantially more or less than the average. However, this indicates that no matter what your starting pay as a police officer may be, there is a substantial pay increase for making Detective.




Rising in rank can be done by police officers by working hard and having a good clean record over three to five years of police work. It is important to apply yourself over these three to five years in order to be eligible. Work hard, stay honest, be thorough in all reports and all you do. If you are eligible for a promotion to Detective or Sergeant you will need to pass a test as well in order to attain the higher ranking. As you can see, the payoff is rising in rank, status, as well as receiving a substantial pay increase for working hard as an officer of the law. This is great motivation for officers to do the job, and do it to the best of their ability. For other professions it could take years upon years to obtain a pay increase as substantial as the percentage that an officer can jump in pay from being a patrol officer to a Sergeant or Detective. However, it is a great incentive for our law enforcement officers to do their job in a way that fulfills their duty to protect and serve the people. Officers of the law deserve to be rewarded for being devoted to being the best police agents they can be. Everyone, in a sense, benefits from this system of reward.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, half of all police detectives in our country make between $51,000 and $94,620 a year. The detectives in the top 10% of the pay scale make more than $100,000 a year. These officers are most likely detectives in large cities with high crime rates (such as Los Angeles, New York or Chicago). As states before, one of the variable factors that has a lot to do with level of pay is location. Smaller, rural towns, cannot afford to pay officers as much as large cities. Also, the job stress and work load is a lot less in smaller towns vs. urban areas.




Another factor in the amount that a Detective level law enforcement officer makes is for whom they work for. Detectives who work for local government make more than Detectives who work for state government agencies (local government Detectives make an average of $62,900, whereas state government detectives make an average of $59,300). Federal government detectives make on average $96,680 a year which is higher than the average detective salary. The U.S. postal service (which is also considered a branch of law enforcement) detectives make an average of $89,860 a year.

Homicide Detective Salary

You may be surprised to hear that Homicide Detectives make an average of slightly less annually than just a regular Detective. The average amount that homicide detectives make is approximately $60,000 a year. The reason it is less that the average detective is that the detective average includes detectives that work for all levels of the government. Homicide Detectives almost exclusively work for local government police departments, and local government has a lower average than federal government detectives. When averaging the pay for detectives across the country this included more variables as to job types. There are detectives that work for many different types of agencies. Homicide detective is a much narrower job description than simply detective.

Just as with regular police detective salary variables, there are also variables when it comes to homicide detectives. Many of them are the same, with again, one of the largest variables being location. As one can imagine, smaller towns in rural areas may not even need a specific detective simply for homicide. The regular police detective in a small town may investigate any crime from petty theft all the way to a homicide depending on what is needed. Whereas larger cities may need one person (or more) to focus only on homicides. Large cities with high crime may have an entire homicide department. The larger the need, the larger the budget for such. Therefore homicide detectives that work in large cities with high crime may be some of the highest paid homicide detectives in the country. The pay is higher, yet so is the responsibility and job stresses and dangers. All of these factors weigh in to figuring salary rates.

Private Detective Salary

Private detectives or investigators across the country make a lower average salary than either police detectives or homicide detectives. The average salary for PI’s is approximately $45,740 a year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end of Private detective salaries is an average of $27,670 (being the bottom 10% of private detectives). The high 10% of private detectives make an average of $79,790. Part of the reason for this is private investigators often are self-employed. They do not have their pay coming from an established local, state or even federal government. This means they are starting from scratch, building their own business and paying themselves. It can take years or even decades to form a successful business, and some are never able to make it work at all. The benefit of attempting, however, is that if one is able to build a successful PI business, than they are forever working for themselves, they don’t have anyone to answer to but themselves and their clients. Some individuals thrive best in this type of self-paced environment and therefore it is worth it to them to attempt to build a business on their own.

One positive for private investigators, or private detectives, is job outlook. According the Bureau of labor statistics the outlook for private investigator jobs over the next decade is an increase of approximately 11%, which is higher than the job outlook for even police officers. This means that there will be job openings for private investigators (in established firms) available over the next several years. In order to be eligible for a position as private investigator many firms expect an applicant to have years of experience in law enforcement or some type of related field (insurance, accounting, paralegal, civil law, etc.). Some will hire people who have gotten education in civil justice or criminal justice as well (which is an increasingly popular educational track in today’s culture). Once a person has obtained one of these degrees or experience in one of these venues, he or she may be able to apply to work as a private detective. Keep in mind that some states do require private detectives to have a license in order to perform detective work. It is important to check into local laws in order to discover what is needed. As with weapons, it is always necessary to have proper licensure and paperwork on any weapon carried. Many private detectives and investigators find it necessary to carry and concealed hand-gun for protection.

FBI Detective Salary

FBI agents are paid on a completely different pay scale than most. It is based on steps (starting at 7-15). Employees typically start of at pay scale 7 making roughly between $33,000 and $44,000 a year. FBI agents can quickly be promoted based on their success to higher steps which means more pay. Step 15 is the highest level a person can achieve, and the pay scale is between roughly $99,000 and $129,000 a year. FBI special agents (similar to detectives) start out on pay scale 10 making roughly between $45,000 a year and $59,000 a year. Again, it is not uncommon to move quickly up the pay scale within the FBI. Another perk for special agents of the FBI is that they have the opportunity to retire between 20 and 25 years of service to the bureau rather than having to wait to the typical 30 year mark.