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Details for 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.


  • Obtain and verify evidence by interviewing and observing suspects and witnesses, or by analyzing records.
  • Record evidence and documents, using equipment such as cameras and photocopy machines.
  • Examine records in order to locate links in chains of evidence or information.
  • Prepare reports that detail investigation findings.
  • Collaborate with other offices and agencies in order to exchange information and coordinate activities.
  • Determine scope, timing, and direction of investigations.
  • Testify before grand juries concerning criminal activity investigations.
  • Analyze evidence in laboratories, or in the field.
  • Investigate organized crime, public corruption, financial crime, copyright infringement, civil rights violations, bank robbery, extortion, kidnapping, and other violations of federal or state statutes.
  • Identify case issues and evidence needed, based on analysis of charges, complaints, or allegations of law violations.
  • Obtain and use search and arrest warrants.
  • Serve subpoenas or other official papers.
  • Collaborate with other authorities on activities such as surveillance, transcription and research.
  • Develop relationships with informants in order to obtain information related to cases.
  • Search for and collect evidence such as fingerprints, using investigative equipment.
  • Collect and record physical information about arrested suspects, including fingerprints, height and weight measurements, and photographs.
  • Compare crime scene fingerprints with those from suspects or fingerprint files to identify perpetrators, using computers.
  • Administer counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics reward programs.
  • Provide protection for individuals such as government leaders, political candidates and visiting foreign dignitaries.
  • Perform undercover assignments and maintain surveillance, including monitoring authorized wiretaps.
  • Manage security programs designed to protect personnel, facilities, and information.
  • Issue security clearances.


  • Realistic - Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.
  • Investigative - Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.
  • Enterprising - Enterprising occupations frequently involve starting up and carrying out projects. These occupations can involve leading people and making many decisions. Sometimes they require risk taking and often deal with business.
  • Conventional - Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines. These occupations can include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually there is a clear line of authority to follow.

Education, Training, Experience

  • Education - Most occupations in this zone require training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate's degree.
  • Training - Employees in these occupations usually need one or two years of training involving both on-the-job experience and informal training with experienced workers. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with these occupations.
  • Experience - Previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is required for these occupations. For example, an electrician must have completed three or four years of apprenticeship or several years of vocational training, and often must have passed a licensing exam, in order to perform the job.


  • Personnel and Human Resources - Knowledge of principles and procedures for personnel recruitment, selection, training, compensation and benefits, labor relations and negotiation, and personnel information systems.
  • Mathematics - Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
  • Sociology and Anthropology - Knowledge of group behavior and dynamics, societal trends and influences, human migrations, ethnicity, cultures and their history and origins.
  • Administration and Management - Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
  • Clerical - Knowledge of administrative and clerical procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and other office procedures and terminology.
  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Computers and Electronics - Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
  • 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.
  • Law and Government - Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, and the democratic political process.
  • Psychology - Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
  • 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.


  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • 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.
  • Writing - Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
  • Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Active Learning - Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Social Perceptiveness - Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
  • Persuasion - Persuading others to change their minds or behavior.
  • Negotiation - Bringing others together and trying to reconcile differences.
  • Complex Problem Solving - Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Judgment and Decision Making - Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.

Related Careers

  • Fire Inspectors
  • Fire Investigators
  • Government Property Inspectors and Investigators
  • Immigration and Customs Inspectors
  • Insurance Adjusters, Examiners, and Investigators
  • Licensing Examiners and Inspectors
  • Police Detectives
  • Private Detectives and Investigators
  • Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs
  • Transit and Railroad Police
Wages for this career
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