Detective and Criminal Investigator Careers and Schools in New York

Kellie Hanna, CPRW
By Kellie Hanna, CPRW, Career Advice Expert Last Updated: March 22, 2023

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If you’re looking for a state with plenty of jobs for police detectives (also known as criminal investigators), you may not need to look any farther than New York. The Empire State’s major metro areas provide some of the largest numbers of detective jobs in the entire nation – and small counties and towns in the upstate area are also in need of detective expertise.

This page will walk you through the basics of launching your career as a detective in New York, including the basic steps of your education, and the steps for working your way up through the ranks. With these tips in hand you’ll be ready to get started on your own detective career path anywhere in New York.

Becoming a Detective in New York

To earn a detective job in New York, you’ll need to go through a series of steps, since detectives in New York are typically promoted from within the ranks of a police force or other law enforcement agency. Here are the basic steps you’ll be following:

  • The first thing you’ll need is a high school diploma.
  • You’ll also need at least 60 college credits, with a GPA of at least 2.0 – or at least two years of service in the U.S. military, with an honorable discharge.
  • Apply to any New York law enforcement training academy that’s accredited by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) – for example, a training center like the New York State Police Academy or the SUNY Canton Police Academy.
  • Pass a series of tests, including a medical investigation, a psychological exam, a Job Standardized Test (JST) that tests your physical skills, an oral interview and a character investigation. If you pass all these, you’ll also go through a few months of additional training at the police academy before you can begin work.
  • To enter public service in New York City, you’ll need to pass the Written Service Exam from the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS).
  • Plan on working for at least three years as a patrol officer before you’re offered a promotion to detective. While working on patrol, focus on building up a portfolio of cases that showcase your skills with crime scene investigation, evidence gathering and logical analysis.
  • After a few years, you’ll qualify for a promotion to an investigative unit, where you’ll gain specialized experience.
  • Once you’ve served for at least 18 months in an investigative unit, you can request a promotion to the official rank of police detective.
  • Pass an oral board, where a team of senior officers will assess your previous casework and overall readiness to handle detective work.
  • Pass a written exam, and attend a final interview with a command-level officer.

It’s a time-consuming process, but at the end of it you’ll be working in a stable position in one of the country’s top states for detective employment.

Top New York Employers for Detectives

A variety of employers in New York offer job openings for detectives, and they range all the way from the state level down to small towns. Here are some types of places where jobs are often available:

Here are some types of places in New York where detective jobs are often available…

State agencies

A large percentage of New York’s most prestigious detective positions are offered by agencies at the state level. Agencies like the New York State Attorney General’s Office and the New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) seek detectives to help gather evidence in criminal cases, as well as in certain civil cases prosecuted by the state. You’re most likely to find the majority of these postings on large job websites like and, but the employment sections of state agency websites are also worth checking out, just to make sure you don’t miss any openings. You may also want to take a look at, the official employment website of the New York state government.

Metropolitan departments

New York’s major metropolitan areas boast some of the largest city police forces in the entire nation. While you don’t have to go to a metro area to find a city-based detective job opening, metro areas do tend to offer the widest variety of detective jobs – not only with the NYPD in New York City, but also with departments like the Albany Police Department and the Rochester Police Department. In positions like these, you may be assigned to work with police officers who opened cases in the area, or to gather evidence for court cases. You can find some job openings from the City of New York’s Department of Investigation by running a search for terms like “detective” and “criminal investigator” under the “Jobs” section of, the City’s official job board website.

County sheriff’s departments

New York’s large rural population needs protection too, and some of the counties upstate offer opportunities for detectives who want to escape city life and serve in a quieter region. Jefferson and Broome Counties, for example, are on the lookout for detectives to tackle cases in small towns and villages, and anywhere crimes are committed outside city limits. These jobs may involve working closely with New York State Police officers, as well as other law enforcement officials who work the areas out of the jurisdiction of city police forces.

New York’s Top Institutions for Criminal Justice and Police Science

While it’s possible to earn a degree in criminal justice or police science from a wide variety of colleges and universities throughout the U.S., it may be simpler to focus on schools in New York if that’s the state where you’re planning to work. In reviews of criminal justice programs in New York, certain schools’ names tend to be highly recommended. Here are quick profiles of each of them.

Certain New York schools are highly recommended for their criminal justice programs…

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Surveys of criminal justice programs consistently place John Jay near the top of their rankings, and this is no coincidence – this school offers one of the largest criminal justice departments in the entire state, and it’s the only liberal arts college in the entire country that was founded with a specific focus on criminal justice. Many of the school’s faculty members have solid reputations in research, and are featured in national publications and on panels of experts – which means you’ll be getting classroom and lab instruction from people who actually work and perform research in the field. A diploma from this well-known school is likely to help open doors for you as you launch your criminal justice career in New York.

St. John’s University – Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice

One of the largest criminal justice schools in the New York area is also one of the best-staffed: The faculty at St. John’s come from a variety of other programs, and the University’s Criminal Justice Advisory Council consists of experts in police service, law, corrections and public safety administration. The undergraduate program covers all areas of law enforcement, from juvenile delinquency to global terrorism, while the NYPD Cadet Corps actively trains students for careers with the New York Police Department. Many St. John’s graduates go directly into jobs with New York police forces, so enrolling here can be an effective first step for getting your foot in the door.

University at Albany, SUNY – School of Criminal Justice

With a faculty composed of active researchers and law enforcement experts, the University at Albany offers a strong criminal justice program. The prestigious U.S. News and World Report education survey ranks the University as one of the nation’s top schools for criminology, and the school also hosts a wide range of other law enforcement-related programs, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to expand your expertise. The University’s Hindelang Criminal Justice Research Center supports research on a variety of criminal justice topics, and provides seminars and research projects to help students gain a working knowledge of criminal theory.

Rochester Institute of Technology – Department of Criminal Justice

This school often earns one of the highest spots in rankings of New York criminal justice programs. As you might expect from a school with the word “technology” in its name, the Institute’s program focuses heavily on technological aspects of law enforcement, especially for gathering and analyzing evidence. Still, the school offers classes and labs on many areas of criminal justice, from correctional facilities to organized crime to domestic violence. Some of the school’s faculty actively serve on city and state boards related to law enforcement, which means you’ll have access to firsthand insights about finding jobs and moving up your career ladder.

New York Associations for Law Enforcement Professionals

When you join a professional association for New York law enforcement officers, you gain access to a wide range of benefits, many of which aren’t available within your own department. Aside from the legislative representation that’s standard for almost all associations, groups like these can connect you with special training to improve your skills and prepare you for exams; set you up with an excellent lawyer if you ever need one; alert you to opportunities for jobs, scholarships and business discounts; and even provide you with affordable life insurance. So as you start your career as a detective in New York, consider joining one or more of the associations listed below.

Professional associations provide a variety of benefits for New York detectives…

Police Conference of New York (PCNY)

Founded in 1925, the PCNY his grown into one of the most powerful police organizat ons in New York, and represents 25,000 police officers throughout the state. One of the most immediate benefits of the Association’s size is its ability to help you network. At regular events, you’ll have opportunities to meet hundreds or even thousands of officers from all across the state, which will enable you to pick up leads on jobs, on new technology and on cutting-edge field techniques. The Association’s training seminars can also connect you with knowledge for your recertification exams, and with new skills you can put to use in your fieldwork. The PCNY’s lobbying specialists, meanwhile, will constantly fight for your salary, your vacation time, and your benefits, at both the local and state levels.

New York State Association of Chiefs of Police (NY Chiefs)

Although this association’s name includes the word “Chiefs,” it’s actually an organization for a variety of higher-ranking police officers throughout New York state. Organized back in 1901, the Association has since grown to include thousands of members on active-duty police forces all across the state of New York. This organization provides ongoing training and professional development courses for officers at all levels, which can help you learn new skills for use in the field, or even advance your rank. You’ll also have the ability to network with other officers at the police Expo, where officers gather to discuss the latest news and career opportunities. On top of all this, the Association’s legislative experts will work to preserve your salary, benefits and other rights in New York’s state and local legislatures.

New York State Sheriffs’ Association (NYSSA)

Dating back to 1934, the NYSSA now serves thousands of sheriffs all across the state of New York. This organization exists to serve a wide variety of needs for its members. For example, it provides an extensive calendar of training courses and special seminars for various specialities and certifications; it’ll connect you with a top lawyer if you ever need one; it’ll set you up with exclusive discounts and offers from businesses throughout the state; and it’ll allow you to network with other sheriffs, which can lead to job opportunities or chances for advancement that you’d never get within your own department. You’ll also get to participate in charity drives and other community programs, which will help foster citizens’ goodwill for you and your agency.

New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association (NYSTBA)

If you’re serving as a New York state trooper, it’s worth your while to consider joining this association. The NYSTBA supports state troopers in a wide variety of ways, including fighting for better equipment and working conditions in local and state legislatures, and keeping its members up to date on the latest news that affects their work. The Association also organizes large networking events, where you can meet some of the thousands of other state troopers who belong to this organization, trade news and ideas from the field, and perhaps even hear about opportunities for new jobs or rank advancement. And since this organization is staffed by state troopers like you, you can be sure they’ll fight for troopers’ rights and benefits.

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