How Much Does a Detective Make a Year?

By Jacqueline DeMarco · April 15, 2024 · 6 minute read

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How Much Does a Detective Make a Year?

The median annual salary for detectives is $52,120 for the most recent year reviewed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This can be an exciting career for many people. Is there anything quite as satisfying as solving a big mystery? For anyone who is passionate about putting the puzzle pieces together until they discover the truth, working as a detective could be a dream job.

Read on to learn more about this career path. In addition to how much a detective makes a year, you can find out about the responsibilities and benefits involved.

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What Are Detectives?

Working as a private detective involves searching and piecing together financial, legal, and personal matters to help get to the root of an unanswered question. For example, private detectives can help find missing persons or investigate cybercrimes. Here’s a quick breakdown of some common on-the-job responsibilities that detectives tackle on a daily basis:

•   Conduct interviews to help collect information

•   Pursue evidence

•   Review civil judgments and criminal history

•   Plan and execute surveillance

•   Search records (court, public, and online).

Some private detectives work for themselves and offer their services to a variety of clients, whereas others work for businesses, like law firms.

Regardless of where one works, being a detective can involve a good number of interviews and interpersonal interaction. For this reason, it may not be a good job for antisocial people.

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How Much Do Starting Detectives Make a Year?

In the early days of their career, detectives can expect to earn less until they gain more experience and a strong reputation for their sleuthing skills. When it comes to entry-level detective work, competitive pay can be fairly low. The lowest 10% of detective earners made less than $33,710 per year.

However, there is considerable room for improvement when it comes to salary for this role. The highest 10% earn more than $92,660 annually. This indicates that it can be possible to earn $100,000 per year as a detective.

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What is the Average Salary for a Detective?

Some detectives earn an annual salary (a median of $52,120), but others earn an hourly wage. How much does a detective make an hour? The median hourly wage is $25.06.

How much someone earns on average working as a detective can vary based on where they live and the industry they work in. When it comes to working in different industries, these are the median annual wages for detectives in a few different industries for the most recent year available:

•   Government: $64,220

•   Professional, scientific, and technical services: $61,280

•   Investigation, guard, and armored car services: $47,280

•   Retail trade: $37,290

The state someone works in also plays a big role in their earning potential. The following table highlights how average detective wages can vary by state, with salaries listed from highest to lowest.

What is the Average Detective Salary by State for 2023

State Annual Salary Monthly Pay Weekly Pay Hourly Wage
Wisconsin $68,202 $5,683 $1,311 $32.79
Alaska $66,013 $5,501 $1,269 $31.74
Massachusetts $65,834 $5,486 $1,266 $31.65
Oregon $65,791 $5,482 $1,265 $31.63
New Mexico $65,593 $5,466 $1,261 $31.54
North Dakota $65,592 $5,466 $1,261 $31.53
Washington $65,380 $5,448 $1,257 $31.43
Minnesota $64,657 $5,388 $1,243 $31.09
Hawaii $64,277 $5,356 $1,236 $30.90
Ohio $63,203 $5,266 $1,215 $30.39
Colorado $62,621 $5,218 $1,204 $30.11
Nevada $62,417 $5,201 $1,200 $30.01
South Dakota $61,992 $5,166 $1,192 $29.80
New York $61,597 $5,133 $1,184 $29.61
Iowa $61,016 $5,084 $1,173 $29.33
Rhode Island $60,938 $5,078 $1,171 $29.30
Connecticut $60,392 $5,032 $1,161 $29.03
Tennessee $60,347 $5,028 $1,160 $29.01
Vermont $60,038 $5,003 $1,154 $28.86
Utah $59,824 $4,985 $1,150 $28.76
Mississippi $59,304 $4,942 $1,140 $28.51
Delaware $59,138 $4,928 $1,137 $28.43
Virginia $58,393 $4,866 $1,122 $28.07
Illinois $57,890 $4,824 $1,113 $27.83
Maryland $57,300 $4,775 $1,101 $27.55
New Jersey $56,643 $4,720 $1,089 $27.23
California $56,576 $4,714 $1,088 $27.20
Louisiana $56,450 $4,704 $1,085 $27.14
Pennsylvania $56,431 $4,702 $1,085 $27.13
Nebraska $56,157 $4,679 $1,079 $27.00
Kansas $55,812 $4,651 $1,073 $26.83
Missouri $55,599 $4,633 $1,069 $26.73
Maine $55,350 $4,612 $1,064 $26.61
South Carolina $55,077 $4,589 $1,059 $26.48
New Hampshire $54,828 $4,569 $1,054 $26.36
Oklahoma $54,383 $4,531 $1,045 $26.15
Idaho $54,051 $4,504 $1,039 $25.99
Wyoming $54,049 $4,504 $1,039 $25.99
North Carolina $53,940 $4,495 $1,037 $25.93
Texas $53,624 $4,468 $1,031 $25.78
Indiana $53,401 $4,450 $1,026 $25.67
Arizona $52,297 $4,358 $1,005 $25.14
Kentucky $52,131 $4,344 $1,002 $25.06
Michigan $51,864 $4,322 $997 $24.94
Montana $51,509 $4,292 $990 $24.76
Alabama $50,866 $4,238 $978 $24.46
Arkansas $49,398 $4,116 $949 $23.75
Georgia $47,386 $3,948 $911 $22.78
West Virginia $43,583 $3,631 $838 $20.95
Florida $41,937 $3,494 $806 $20.16

Source: ZipRecruiter

💡 Quick Tip: Income, expenses, and life circumstances can change. Consider reviewing your budget a few times a year and making any adjustments if needed.

Detective Job Considerations for Pay & Benefits

Detectives who work for businesses such as large corporations or law firms on a full-time basis often receive employer-sponsored benefits as a part of their compensation package. These benefits can include paid time off, retirement accounts with employer contribution matches, and health insurance.

However, many detectives work on a part-time basis or are self-employed and then are on the hook for supplying their own benefits which can be quite expensive.

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Pros and Cons of Detective Salary

Detectives can earn a very good salary, and the work can be very interesting.

However, the tradeoff may not be worth it for some. Working as a detective often involves long and varied hours due to the nature of their work — especially when they are conducting surveillance. Some people may find that working on weekends, nights, or holidays isn’t worth the salary. It simply may not align with their career goals and the desired work-life balance.

The Takeaway

Skilled detectives stand to earn a lot of money (close to six figures) as they work their way up in their industry. This can be a very exciting, but also extremely demanding role.

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Can you make 100k a year as a detective?

It is possible to make $100,000 a year or more as a detective. The top 10% of earners in this field make $92,660 or more per year. As a detective gains years of experience and improves their skills, they can expect to earn more competitive pay.

Do people like being a detective?

Many people pursue a career as a detective because they are passionate about the work they do and enjoy a lot of satisfaction from their job. It’s worth noting that this job can require a lot of personal interactions and may not be the best fit for anyone who is antisocial.

Is it hard to get hired as a detective?

Getting hired as a detective can be competitive, but there is currently anticipated to be 3,800 openings for private detectives each year until 2032. There is also a projected 6% growth in employment opportunities, so someone with the right qualifications should be able to find a job in this field.

Photo credit: Andrii Lysenko

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Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.


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