Criminal Investigators and Special Agents

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About the Job

Investigate alleged or suspected criminal violations of Federal, state, or local laws to determine if evidence is sufficient to recommend prosecution.

It is also Called

  • Violent Crimes Detective
  • United States Marshal (US Marshal)
  • Unemployment Insurance Fraud Investigator
  • Unemployment Inspector
  • Unemployment Examiner
  • Undercover Cop
  • State Trooper
  • Spy
  • Special Inspector
  • Special Crimes Investigator
View All

What They Do

  • Issue security clearances.
  • Administer counterterrorism and counternarcotics reward programs.
  • Provide protection for individuals, such as government leaders, political candidates, and visiting foreign dignitaries.
  • Manage security programs designed to protect personnel, facilities, and information.
  • Compare crime scene fingerprints with those from suspects or fingerprint files to identify perpetrators, using computers.
  • Serve subpoenas or other official papers.
  • Examine records to locate links in chains of evidence or information.
  • Collaborate with other authorities on activities, such as surveillance, transcription, and research.
  • Perform undercover assignments and maintain surveillance, including monitoring authorized wiretaps.
  • Develop relationships with informants to obtain information related to cases.


People who work in this occupation generally have the interest code: EI.

This means people who work in this occupation generally have Enterprising interests, but also prefer Investigative environments.

Work Values

People who work in this occupation generally prize Achievement, but also value Working Conditions and Recognition in their jobs.

Things They Need to Know

  • Law and Government - Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.
  • Public Safety and Security - Knowledge of relevant equipment, policies, procedures, and strategies to promote effective local, state, or national security operations for the protection of people, data, property, and institutions.
  • Customer and Personal Service - Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Education and Training - Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.

Things They Need to Be Able to Do

  • Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Complex Problem Solving - Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Social Perceptiveness - Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
  • Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Writing - Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.

Preparation Required

Most occupations in this zone require training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate's degree.


In 2016, the average annual wage in California was $100,360 with most people making between $71,260 and $139,610


avg. annual growth

During 2014, this occupation employed approximately 12,700 people in California. It is projected that there will be 13,200 employed in 2024.

This occupation will have about 50 openings due to growth and about 300 replacement openings for approximately 350 total annual openings.

Industries that Employ this Occupation

Industry breakdown is not available for this occupation