How Do I Become a Narcotics Investigator?

Angela Farrer

You can become a narcotics investigator by completing the required law enforcement training, developing the needed professional skills, and successfully completing a series of qualifying exams to be promoted to a police department's narcotics task force. Most narcotics investigator careers begin in a police academy, and investigator hopefuls typically spend several years as police officers before earning this promotion. Specific requirements to become a narcotics investigator frequently include knowledge of undercover procedures, firearm handling, and the common characteristics of the drug trades in different geographic areas. Regular narcotics investigator duties also require strong skills in communication and the ability to work well in high-stress situations. Both entry-level police officers and narcotics investigators are also usually given a battery of psychological tests as conditions for hiring and promoting decisions.

A narcotics investigator typically must learn about undercover procedures.
A narcotics investigator typically must learn about undercover procedures.

The first step to become a narcotics investigator is normally to gain acceptance to your local police academy. These training schools require that all recruits be high school graduates and pass a minimum physical fitness test. Some academies may also have academic entry level tests in basic reading and mathematics skills. Age requirements for police academy acceptance can vary by region, although most only accept new recruits who are 18. A police academy training program provides comprehensive study in areas such as criminal apprehension, routine arrest procedures, and the role of police officers in the community.

Narcotics investigators often collect evidence from drug related crime scenes.
Narcotics investigators often collect evidence from drug related crime scenes.

Once you have graduated from the police academy, you are eligible to work as an officer to build up the needed experience. Most law enforcement agencies favor applicants who have completed at least a two-year college degree in criminal justice, criminology, or psychology, so this post-secondary education will usually give you an advantage over other candidates. Many upper-level law enforcement job positions require a four-year degree in one of these areas before hiring managers will consider your application to become a narcotics investigator.

Narcotics investigators may need interrogation experience.
Narcotics investigators may need interrogation experience.

An additional important step to becoming a narcotics investigator is to thoroughly understand the nature of this work. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills are essential for success in conducting investigations, working with informants, and planning undercover operations. You will also need a good ability to read others' behavior and to anticipate their actions, particularly in the cases of suspected drug traffickers. Once you successfully pass through the selection process to become a narcotics investigator, you will normally spend a few years learning the job under the supervision of a more experienced narcotics officer.

Some police academies have academic entry level tests in basic reading and mathematics skills.
Some police academies have academic entry level tests in basic reading and mathematics skills.
Training to become a narcotics investigator involves examining the causes of drug use.
Training to become a narcotics investigator involves examining the causes of drug use.
Narcotics investigator may need to change their appearance to go undercover.
Narcotics investigator may need to change their appearance to go undercover.

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