What Does A Criminal Investigator and Special Agent Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

Stan T.Career, Overview

Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz

Criminal Investigators and Special Agents

Criminal Investigators and Special Agents investigate alleged or suspected criminal violations of Federal, state, or local laws to determine if evidence is sufficient to recommend prosecution.

Salary
$89300
Becoming One
Medium
Education
No degree required
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth
Low

Personality
Interest Match





Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.Confucius

What they do

Criminal Investigators and Special Agents investigate alleged or suspected criminal violations of Federal, state, or local laws to determine if evidence is sufficient to recommend prosecution.

  • Prepare reports that detail investigation findings.
  • Obtain and verify the evidence by interviewing and observing suspects and witnesses or by analyzing records.
  • Identify case issues and evidence needed, based on analysis of charges, complaints, or allegations of law violations.
  • Investigate organized crime, public corruption, financial crime, copyright infringement, civil rights violations, bank robbery, extortion, kidnapping, and other violations of federal or state statutes.

Typical day

On a daily basis, Criminal Investigators determine the scope, timing, and direction of investigations. They identify case issues and evidence needed, based on analysis of charges, complaints, or allegations of law violations.

A typical day for a Criminal Investigator and Special Agent will also include:

  • Prepare reports that detail investigation findings.
  • Obtain and verify the evidence by interviewing and observing suspects and witnesses or by analyzing records.
  • Record evidence and documents, using equipment such as cameras and photocopy machines.
  • Collaborate with other authorities on activities, such as surveillance, transcription, and research.
  • Collect and record physical information about arrested suspects, including fingerprints, height and weight measurements, and photographs.

Other responsibilities

Besides their typical day, Criminal Investigators also obtain and use search and arrest warrants. They may also compare crime scene fingerprints with those from suspects or fingerprint files to identify perpetrators, using computers.

On a weekly to monthly basis, Criminal Investigators analyze evidence in laboratories or in the field. They might also administer counterterrorism and counternarcotics reward programs.

In addition, they serve subpoenas or other official papers.

Although specific duties may vary, many of them testify before grand juries concerning criminal activity investigations.

To some Criminal Investigators, it is also their responsibility to investigate organized crime, public corruption, financial crime, copyright infringement, civil rights violations, bank robbery, extortion, kidnapping, and other violations of federal or state statutes.

Featured Schools


What is the job like

Job satisfaction

Very High

Is this job meaningful

Very High

74% said they were satisfied with their job and 78% said they found their job meaningful.


Joseph Gutheinz
NASA's Office of Inspector General

I was a Senior Special Agent with NASA’s Office of Inspector General. A small law enforcement organization charged with investigating NASA and those individuals, companies, and nations doing business with it.

My typical day

I would typically wake up at 5:00 a.m. and run a couple of miles finally getting to work before 7:00 a.m.

For most of my career with NASA OIG, I worked in a SCIF. A SCIF is a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. Essentially a standalone vault with thick concrete walls, no window, and a combination of safe and cipher access doors throughout. I had a dedicated room for a hello line and a tape recorder for my undercover sting operation known as Operation Lunar Eclipse, where I went undercover to recover the Honduras Apollo 17 Goodwill Moon Rock.

My private office was filled with grand jury documents know as 6e documents with restricted access to those personnel only listed on the 6e list.

I led four task force investigations from that building; the Omniplan Task Force that resulted in the largest count indictment and conviction in NASA history and the closure of 7 companies; the Rockwell Space Operation Company Task Force Investigation which included its successors in interest, Boeing and United Space Alliance; Lochhead Martin Task Force Investigation and one on the Arkansas Aerospace Education Center. I investigated both the Russian Mir Space Station fire and collision and the Russian Space Program.  I investigated defective temperature transducers that are critically 1/1 items on our former Space Shuttles, an investigation that temporarily grounded the Space Shuttle Fleet; I investigation drug usage by personnel within the Orbiter Processing Facility (OPF) (Technicians that work on the Space Shuttles); I investigated and arrested the astronaut impersonator who got into NASA Mission Control and secured the schematics to the Space Shuttle Propulsion System and I investigated 33 cut wires on the Space Shuttle Endeavour. For four years while running my task force investigations, leading up to 25 agents and auditors, I went to law school at night, which meant I would stop home briefly after work to eat dinner with my wife and six kids, only to get to law school until the law library closed after midnight.

The next morning, I would again wake up at 5:00 a.m. and be at work before 7:00 a.m.

Weekends were always divided between my family, studying, and work. When you’re a Special Agent you’re a Special Agent 24/7-that is who and what you are. I once got out of my law school finals because the Department of Justice needed me. Making up those finals was tough.


Pros

Suitable for people who like to start and carry out projects.

Suitable for people who value achievements and are results-oriented.

This career is perfect for people who love to work both indoors and outdoors.

It is not too difficult to get into this career. Previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is required for this career.

Cons

Not suitable for people who like to work with designs.

Demand for this career is growing very slowly.

Long working hours (More than 40 hours per week).

How much do they make

Average salary

$89300 per year

Average hourly wage

$43 per hour

Entry-level Criminal Investigators and Special Agents with little to no experience can expect to make anywhere between $46,020 to $59,620 per year or $22 to $29 per hour.

Salary by experience Annual Hourly
Highest (Top 10%) $146,000 $70
Senior (Top 25%) $111,900 $54
Median $86,940 $42
Junior (Bottom 25%) $59,620 $29
No experience (Bottom 10%) $46,020 $22

This table shows the top 10 highest paying industries for Criminal Investigators and Special Agents based on their average annual salary.

Salary by industry Annual Hourly
Federal Executive Branch $111880 $53.79
Postal Service (Federal Government) $104300 $50.15
Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals $81770 $39.31
Local Government $77120 $37.08
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools $72410 $34.81
State Government $70070 $33.69

View more salary by industries here.

Where can they work

Where can Criminal Investigators and Special Agents work? Here is a table showing the top 10 largest employers of Criminal Investigators and Special Agents including the average salary in that industry.

Employers Total Employed Annual Salary Hourly Wages
Local Government 41630 $77120 $37.08
Federal Executive Branch 41270 $111880 $53.79
State Government 22120 $70070 $33.69
Postal Service (Federal Government) 480 $104300 $50.15
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools 350 $72410 $34.81
Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals 80 $81770 $39.31

What is the work day like

Working hours

Less than 40 hours
0%

40 hours
27%

More than 40 hours
73%

Working schedule

55%

45%

0%

Email

How often do you use email in this job?

Once a week
17%

Every day
80%

Telephone

How often do you have telephone conversations in this job?

Once a week
0%

Every day
100%

Group discussions

How often do you have group discussions in this job?

Once a week
22%

Every day
75%

Public speaking

How often does this job require you to do public speaking?

Never
9%

Once a year
53%

Once a month
29%

Once a week
10%

Every day
0%

Level of competition

How much competitive pressure is in this job?

Not competitive at all
16%

Slightly competitive
18%

Moderately competitive
37%

Highly competitive
21%

Extremely competitive
8%

What is the work environment like

Office-style environment

Indoors in an environmentally controlled condition

Never
19%

Once a year or more
0%

Once a month or more
6%

Once a week or more
19%

Every day
56%

Warehouse-style environment

Indoors in a non-controlled environmental condition such as a warehouse

Never
20%

Once a year or more
13%

Once a month or more
0%

Once a week or more
41%

Every day
26%

Outdoors

Outdoors exposed to all weather conditions

Never
0%

Once a year or more
12%

Once a month or more
16%

Once a week or more
30%

Every day
43%

Outdoors – Under Cover

Outdoors but under cover (e.g. structure with roof but no walls)

Never
30%

Once a year or more
35%

Once a month or more
17%

Once a week or more
6%

Every day
11%

How to become one

Difficulty to become one

Medium
You will need previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience. Most careers in this difficulty category require training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an Associate’s degree, and one or two years of on-the-job training. Similar careers include Travel Agents, Agricultural Technicians, Court Reports, and Medical Assistants.

Required level of education

What level of education do you need to perform the job?

Less than a High School Diploma
0%

High School Diploma or equivalent
42%

Post-Secondary Certificate
16%

Some College Courses
24%

Associate’s Degree or similar
15%

Bachelor’s Degree
3%

Post-Baccalaureate Certificate
0%

Master’s Degree
0%

Post-Master’s Certificate
0%

First Professional Degree
0%

Doctoral Degree
0%

Post-Doctoral Training
0%

Relevant majors

No majors found

Relevant work experience

How much related work experience do you need to get hired for the job?

None
18%

1 month
0%

1 to 3 months
0%

3 to 6 months
15%

6 months to 1 year
12%

1 to 2 years
21%

2 to 4 years
18%

4 to 6 years
10%

6 to 8 years
0%

8 to 10 years
0%

Over 10 years
7%

On The Job Training

How much on the job training do you need to perform the job?

None or short demonstration
0%

1 month
2%

1 to 3 months
22%

3 to 6 months
14%

6 months to 1 year
49%

1 to 2 years
5%

2 to 4 years
8%

4 to 10 years
2%

Over 10 years
0%

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Leader

People with this personality likes to start and work on projects. They also like leading people and making many decisions.

The Builder
52%

People with The Builder personality type likes practical and hands-on work. They prefer working with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery.


The Thinker
76%

People with The Thinker personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.


The Artist
19%

People with The Artist personality likes to work with designs and patterns. They prefer activities that require self-expression and prefer work that can be done without following a clear set of rules.


The Helper
38%

People with The Helper personality type likes to work with people and in teams. They prefer work that allows them to build relationships with others.


The Leader
95%

People with The Leader personality likes to start and work on projects. They also like leading people and making many decisions.


The Organizer
52%

People with The Organizer personality type likes to follow set procedures and routines. They prefer working with data and details more than with ideas.


You can read more about these career personality types here.

People who are suitable for this job tend to like starting up and carrying out projects. They like leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk-taking and often deal with business.

They also like working with ideas and require an extensive amount of thinking. They like searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Take this quiz to see if this is the right career for you.

Work Values

Which values are the most important to a person’s satisfaction for this job?

Achievement
76%

You are someone who is results oriented. You prefer work that allows you to utilize your skills and abilities while at the same time giving you a sense of accomplishment.

Working Conditions
74%

You are someone who values job security, steady employment, and good working conditions. You also prefer work that keeps you busy all the time with something different to do every day.

Recognition
67%

You are someone who values job advancement and leadership roles. You prefer work that receives recognition for the work you do and jobs that are looked up to by others in the company and your community.

Relationships
57%

You are someone who likes to provide a service to others. You prefer a work environment where you can work with your co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Support
67%

You are someone who values a company that stands behind their employees. You prefer a work environment where everyone is treated fairly and is being supported by the company.

Independence
67%

You are someone who likes to work on your own and make your own decisions. You prefer work that requires little supervision and are allowed to try out your own ideas.

FAQ


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