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What are the Different Types of Detective Work?

By Erin Oxendine
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Detectives are investigators who perform detective work for local, state and other jurisdictional agencies. These professionals are responsible for initiating investigations, analyzing evidence and following up on leads. Some detectives specialize in different types of detective work such as auto crimes, money laundering and art theft.

Private detectives are independent contractors who do detective work for private companies and citizens. They often perform surveillance on claimants for workers’ compensation attorneys and insurance companies. Other tasks a private detective takes on are running background checks and investigating allegations of infidelity for customers. Some detectives work as part of a security team for high-profile clients such as celebrities and government officials.

A missing person detective does detective work with the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and other law enforcement agencies. This kind of detective looks into cases of missing adults and children from all states and jurisdictions. The investigator has to review the case file, interview family members and friends and make sure the media gets out the information about the missing person. Detectives who assist in missing persons cases may work on recent cases or cold cases that are 10 to 20 years old.

Local police departments usually hire narcotics detectives for detective work regarding the sale of illegal narcotics. These detectives work on undercover operations and meet with suspected drug dealers to confirm drug deals. Narcotics personnel also review cases with drug related offenses to see if there are any connections to other alleged drug dealers. In federal cases, the narcotics detective may have to provide testimony about what he witnessed during the drug buy. Some situations may require the investigator to infiltrate groups of people suspected of drug trafficking.

Violent crimes detectives conduct detective work with state and federal agencies as well as other jurisdictional departments. Some of the vicious crimes that these professionals investigate are homicides, assault and battery and sexual assaults. Most of the detectives who oversee these cases speak with victims or witnesses, request medical records from hospitals, and collect evidence from crime scenes. Assignments also include searching computer databases and conducting voice analysis tests.

Some detectives have achieved amazing success, such as Francois Vidocq. Francois Vidocq was a detective who organized the first police department in France. A Scottish American detective named Allan Pinkerton became famous for creating the Pinkerton Detective Agency, the first private detective agency in the United States. The stories about fictional master detective Sherlock Holmes, written by British writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, have sold millions of copies.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By healthnwell — On Mar 10, 2011

@lovelife--There are several agencies that will hire a detective or investigator. The best thing to do is to contact the agency you're interested in working at.

Most places need at least a Bachelor's degree, but not always. Some places will have their own certification classes that you will complete along with logging on the job training.

By lovelife — On Mar 08, 2011

Great information. I didn't realize that there are so many different types of detectives.

Does anyone know what type of schooling you need to become a detective?

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