How to Become a Criminal Investigator in New Jersey

New Jersey’s detectives are involved in solving everything from the most heinous acts of violence to cases of grand theft. Last year detectives in the state played an important role investigating over 25,000 incidents of violent crime including 388 murders and homicides. These criminal investigators work at the state and local level in New Jersey with prominent agencies such as:

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  • New Jersey State Police, Investigations Branch
  • Newark Police Department, Detective Division
  • Jersey City Police Department, Special Investigations
  • Bergen County Sheriff’s Office, Bureau of Criminal Investigation
  • Patterson Police Department, Criminal Investigation and Narcotics and Vice Bureaus

Whether it’s cold cases or more recent unsolved crimes, criminal investigators in New Jersey always have plenty to do. Since 1980 detectives have been unable to solve 3,326 crimes across the state. Although crime rates in New Jersey have been falling, the state’s population and scale of crime still necessitate a large number of detectives at both the state and local levels. Important events investigated by New Jersey detectives include:

  • 9/11 terrorist attacks, especially to find details about the plane hijacked from the Newark airport
  • Crimes in Camden, the city with the highest crime rate in the nation
  • Italian mafia activity
  • Major narcotic trafficking organizations
  • Cases of human trafficking

Steps to Becoming a Detective in New Jersey

Vacancies for criminal investigator jobs are advertised as positions available to new hires as well as current law enforcement officers.

Candidates who believe they have what it takes to become a detective in New Jersey can start by learning more about the hiring process and minimum requirements.

New Jersey’s Basic Law Enforcement Qualifications:

Prospective detectives anywhere in New Jersey must meet some basic universal requirements as set forth by the New Jersey Civil Service Commission (NJCSC) when first joining a law enforcement agency:

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • At least 18 years of age
  • Have US citizenship

College level education is recommended for applicants as a way to distinguish themselves in the hiring process. College majors designed to develop the skills necessary to be an effective criminal investigator include:

  • Law
  • Forensics
  • Police Science
  • Criminal Justice
  • Law Enforcement
  • Crime Scene Investigation

Qualifying to Work in Investigations:

To become a detective in New Jersey, applicants will need to meet requirements according to the respective law enforcement agency. Different agencies serving the various cities and counties throughout the state have unique requirements when hiring for or promoting to a position in investigations.

Initial recruitment for all municipal and county criminal investigator jobs takes place through the New Jersey Civil Service Commission (NJCSC), however, the New Jersey State Police has its own process.

Detective positions with the New Jersey State Police require a bachelor’s degree in any subject, which may be substituted with equivalent experience.

The state maintains the general job description for detectives and criminal investigators as follows:

Qualifying for Criminal Investigator Jobs with the New Jersey State Police

Becoming a detective with the New Jersey State Police is a process in itself. State Police detectives are highly educated and experienced law enforcement professionals. The requirements for joining the New Jersey State Police as a detective are met through both experience and education.


  • Four-year bachelor’s degree in any subject

Police experience may be substituted for this education requirement on a year-for-year basis.


  • Four years of sworn law enforcement investigative work:
    • Conducting investigations
    • Collecting evidence
    • Preparing investigative reports

Experience conducting follow-up criminal investigations as a police officer will also suffice to fulfill this experience requirement. Additionally, one year of the experience requirement may be substituted with either:

  • Certification as a public accountant
  • Master’s degree in any field


Criminal investigator training with the NJ State Police requires the completion of courses approved by the Police Training Commission and will include a segment on the use of firearms. The NJ State Police posts information about employment on its recruitment webpage.

The New Jersey State Police Investigations Branch is made up of three divisions:

  • Special Investigations Section
  • Intelligence Section
  • Office of Forensic Sciences

Qualifying to Become a Detective with City and County Law Enforcement Agencies

New Jersey has streamlined its hiring process for city and county law enforcement positions, including detectives. Vacancies for these criminal investigator jobs are advertised as positions for new hires and are also open to current law enforcement officers within the individual departments.

Importantly, police detective positions require applicants to have at least two years of experience conducting field investigations.

Applications are submitted upon registering for the next available NJCSC law enforcement civil service exam. When signing up to take the civil service exam Candidates may specify the city or county law enforcement agency at which they are interested in working.

Law enforcement and detective training in New Jersey for city and county positions takes place in a program approved by the New Jersey Training Commission.

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