With programs like "CSI: New York" and "Law & Order" glamorizing the lives of detectives and criminal investigators, it's little wonder the career is attracting a lot of interest from the public. In reality, the life of a detective working for the New York Police Department involves a lot of hard work. Detectives are exposed to murder, horror and sadness on a regular basis. They don't neatly tie up the ends of the crimes they investigate in an hour wearing immaculate suits and flawless makeup. Sometimes trails go cold and the murderers are never found. How long it takes to become a detective with the NYPD varies because it's one of the few promotions that is discretionary.
Detectives begin as police officers. The NYPD has a strict set of guidelines for qualifying applicants. The department wants only the most qualified people working on its team. You will first go through a Civil Service Examination, which is comprised of a medical and character examination, written and oral psychological testing, and a job standard test that evaluates your physical fitness level. If you can pass all of these, you move into the prehire interview.
You can be 17.5 years old when you apply to the NYPD and no older than 35, but you have to be 21 before you can begin work, according to the NYPD. You must have a valid New York state driver's license within 30 days of hire and live in one of the six surrounding counties: Putland, Rockland, Westchester, Orange, Nassau and Suffolk counties. You must have a high school education and either 60 college semester credits with a 2.0 GPA or greater or two years of experience in the military. You must also be a U.S. citizen at the time of hire.
Officer to Detective
Once you clear all of these hurdles, you'll attend the NYPD's police academy and, upon completion, enter the police force as an officer. Gaining experience in the field is necessary before you can be promoted to a detective. The role of detective is a discretionary promotion in the NYPD. This means it could take a year or two to be promoted, or it may take several years, according to Vice. The average time before an officer can be evaluated for detective promotion is two to three years, says Legal Criminal Justice Schools. Promotions depend on performance and your relationships with your supervisors.
Your past can get you in a lot of trouble when applying to become a police officer. Criminal convictions, such a domestic violence and felony drug possession, can automatically keep you from entering the police force and becoming a detective, according to the NYPD. Any conviction that demonstrates a lack of good moral character or disrespect for the law can also prohibit you from qualifying. A dishonorable discharge automatically disqualifies an applicant.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: What Police and Detectives Do
- Police Department of New York City: Application Process: Overview
- Police Department of New York City: Promotional Opportunities
- Vice: The NYPD from A-Z: A Cop Guides You Through
- The News Dispatch: Detective Described Reality of Police Work to Students
- Legal Criminal Justice Schools: Read About Police Detective Job Duties and Degrees
- Thinkstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images