How to Be a SVU Detective

Special Victims Unit detectives specialize in investigating crimes involving children, women and the elderly.
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Special Victims Unit (SVU) detectives within any police department are investigative professionals who specialize in crimes that involve children, women and the elderly. SVU detectives are particularly skilled at interviewing children and victims of domestic and sexual abuse. Qualifying to become a detective in this particular specialization takes many years of higher education and experience as a police officer, as well as additional training in the areas of domestic violence, child abuse incidents and sexual assault. Civil service exams may also be required in some departments [1,2,3].

College degree preferred for investigative positions

    Step 1

    Complete a college degree, preferably in criminal justice, law enforcement or any related field. A four-year degree is preferred by police departments, especially for a promotion to detective. Although some police departments may only require a high school diploma, a college degree will increase a candidate's credibility and competitiveness in gaining a police officer position [3].

    Step 2

    Apply for a police officer position with a local, state or federal law enforcement agency. The hiring process may vary by department, but it typically involves several stages, including written and physical fitness tests, a background investigation and several interviews. Some may even involve a polygraph exam [3].

    Step 3

    Attend and complete the training at the designated police academy. Most police academy training programs are several months and involve classroom instruction in federal, state and local laws, firearms training, police vehicle operation, self-defense, drug and alcohol abuse and arrest tactics, among others. Successful candidates will receive their police credentials upon graduation [3].

    Step 4

    Serve 3 to 4 years as a police officer in your chosen department before seeking a promotion to detective. Some departments may require police officers to pass a series of civil service exams in order to qualify as a detective. Once promoted to detective, the officer must request transfer and training to enter the Special Victims Unit [3].

    Step 5

    Complete the necessary training to enter the Special Victims Unit. Training may involve instruction on child development and interviewing techniques, domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse [3].


    • As police academy training is rigorous in physical training, as well as tactical and academic, it is advised to begin physical conditioning, such as running, push-ups, pull-ups, etc., prior to applying to police departments [3].


    • Read and research relevant informational materials on child development, child abuse, elder abuse and domestic violence issues independently to gain perspective to better determine your personal fitness for SVU work [3].


    • Provide only accurate and truthful information on your police application package. Any errors, inconsistencies or false statements may result in termination of the application process [1,2,3].

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