Police car in background, crime scene tape across picture.

Top 6 Characteristics of an Effective Criminal Investigator

Would you like to be a criminal investigator? Discussions about this type of position often quickly turn to the “hard skills” a criminal investigator must possess. It is fair to say that there are other skills that are just as important.

Technical Skills

1. The ability to follow the U.S. Constitution and the Law. Yes, having a firm grasp of the legal aspects of criminal investigations is vital.  All of the powers of observation you can imagine along with the best evidence collection techniques in the world won’t matter if your case doesn’t hold up to the scrutiny of a court.
2. Report writing. There is an old law enforcement saying: “If it’s not in your report, it didn’t happen.” Because, if it did happen, you would be sure to put it in your report!  Not only is that true, but how effectively you document your investigation, in writing, will directly affect how successful you are. 

Soft Skills

3. Critical thinking. Sorry to disappoint, but action-packed and thrilling does not really describe a career as a criminal investigator. Criminal investigations should be very detail-oriented. You will need to be an out-of-the-box thinker when it comes to more difficult cases. Becoming a criminal investigator may seem exciting on T.V. However, it is relatively low on the excitement scale, but out-thinking those involved in criminal activity is in high demand. 
4. Communication skills. The list of people with whom you will need to communicate with as a criminal investigator is lengthy. You will need to communicate with: fellow investigators, patrol officers, supervisors, community members, witnesses, lab personnel, court personnel, and suspects, just to name a few. 

Personal Skills (attitudes)

5. Ethics. Some people struggle with knowing the right thing to do.  Other people know what the right thing is, but struggle to follow through and actually do it. At CCU Online you will learn how to know what is right, why you can be confident it is right, and receive the tools to help you follow through and do the right thing.
6. Collaborative attitude/teamwork. In some of the old detective dramas, you might have noticed that investigations were often portrayed as a one-person show.  Usually a no-nonsense detective, seemingly, was able to process the crime scene, analyze the evidence, interview every witness, and round up the suspect(s) all by him or herself. Today, criminal investigations are an intensely multi-disciplinary undertaking.

Criminal Justice with CCU Online

Certainly, this list of characteristics could be longer; however, these six items will give you a running head-start toward a career in criminal investigations, should you choose. The criminal justice courses at CCU also just happen to be designed to foster and further these important skills.


Colorado Christian University does not guarantee any job placement as a result of earning this or any other degrees offered by the university.

Find out what options you have for continuing your education and learning more about a future career in Criminal Justice.

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