How Much Does A Detective Make?

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People often say that money can’t buy happiness. But it does give you clothes to wear, roof to sleep under and food to eat. Thus, the salary of any career is one of the driving factors for people to choose it. Being a detective is a very demanding job and it does paint a target on your back. But, if you understand the risks and want to live a life of thrill and unpredictability, then this career is for you. Read this article and find out how much a detective earns and how to increase this value.

law inforcement incomeThe base salary of a detective first depends on his or her employer. In most circumstances, a state employed investigator earns more than a private one. This is mostly due to steady work that they receive compared to the intermittent work of a private detective. The national average for a state-employed detective is $76,000. Whereas the average salary for a private detective can be around $45,000. We shall discuss factors affecting a PI’s salary later. For now, let us look at the factors that affect the salary of state employed investigators.

What Affects A Detective Salary?

Size of population

Like police officers, the population of a city decides the income of a detective. If the city is more populated, then the number of cases that need to be handled also rises. Thus, the increase in salary. Similarly, crime rate also plays a major factor in deciding the salary of an investigator. For example, the average salary for someone in the LA police department ranges from $44,000 to $88,000. In contrast, for someone in Miami Police department, the average salary tends to be around $86,000 to $107,000.

Location of job

The location is closely related to the population of the place and the crime rate. However, another factor comes into play in such conditions – cost of living. Higher the cost of living in a certain location, higher the detective is paid. This logic agrees with the case of private investigators too. District of Columbia, Alaska, and New Jersey all pay 6-figure salaries with District of Columbia paying as much as $116,000.

Educational degree

For any police job (except at the federal level), a high school degree is sufficient. Though this rules sometimes varies with state, most states do not require higher education certificates. However, some states and departments have started to realize the importance of higher education and thus are paying officers and detectives a percentage higher above the base pay if they have a degree after high school. This may be an associate’s, bachelor’s or even a master’s degree. Depending on your degree, you might be paid more.


Like any other job, you will get earn as an investigator if you stay in the field long enough. Usually, people see an increase of up to $15,000 with 20 years of experience if they do not get promoted. However, with promotions, if you reach the post of Police Chief, you can earn about $180,000 annually.

Private Investigatorsprivate detective average wage

A private investigator’s salary depends on the number of cases he or she takes and solves. As mentioned before, the location can affect the price along with the many other factors such as the amount of discretion needed, the amount of danger involved, extra equipment required and many other things. Clients usually present their problem to the investigator and then it is up to them to quote a price for the job.

As you can see, the income of a state-employed detective is steady and can be increased by various means. On the hand, the salary of a private investigator is quite unpredictable and can only be increased by fame (or rather being more discrete). Now that you have the financial facts, you can decide which path to choose.