Public-Sector Investigator

There are countless agencies employing investigators at the federal, state and local levels. Positions range from local police detective to special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Investigators at the state and local levels investigate criminal cases, and usually specialize in one type of crime, such as white-collar crime or financial crime. Special agents at the federal level conduct investigations for criminal violations of federal laws and regulations. 

Benefits of the CFE Credential

The CFE credential provides public-sector investigators with the knowledge required to conduct investigations of civil or criminal fraud, or of white-collar crime. Earning the CFE credential gives you an understanding of why people commit fraud and ways to prevent it, the types of fraudulent financial transactions, and interviewing, records and transactions. Additionally, the CFE credential ensures public-sector investigators are familiar with the many legal ramifications of conducting fraud examinations. This knowledge set will place you as a leading expert in the fraud investigation field. 
The ACFE’s Global Salary Study found that CFEs earn a 17% income premium over their peers without the credential, which demonstrates the value employers place on the credential. The study also provides valuable information and comparisons helpful to all anti-fraud professionals in benchmarking their compensation levels and career growth. The training, fraud resources and continuing education provided by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) will help in any stage of your career path. Refer to the Compensation section below for more information about the compensation ranges for Public-Sector Investigators. 

Job Types 

There are countless agencies employing investigators at the federal, state and local levels. Positions range from local police detective to special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A police investigator typically starts as a patrol officer before applying for detective. Applicants for special agent positions at the federal level, such as the FBI or ATF, must undergo extensive background investigations to receive security clearance. Additionally, competition for federal special agent positions is fierce, with acceptance rates around 5%. 

Public-sector investigators fall under many different titles, some of which include: 

State and Local Investigators  

  • State and local police 
  • Police detective 
  • Crime scene investigator 
  • District attorney investigator 
  • Attorney general 
  • State bureau of investigation (SBI) (e.g., Texas Rangers) 

Federal Special Agent 

  • Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) 
  • Homeland Security 
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) 
  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA) 
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) 
  • Department of Justice 
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) 
  • Criminal Division 
  • Civil Division 
  • Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) 
  • Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) 
  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) 


State and local investigators usually have a high school education; however, many agencies require a bachelor’s degree. Most agencies require state and local police to graduate from their training academy. For federal special agents, a bachelor’s degree is usually required in any related field of study, including criminal justice, sociology, psychology, political science, finance and computer science. A degree can be substituted for three or more years of related experience in investigations or law enforcement.

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities 

It is important to plan and conduct an honest self-assessment of your knowledge, skills and abilities. In particular, employers are looking for: 

Knowledge Skills Abilities
White-collar crime Writing reports Attention to detail
Organized crime Testifying in court Ability to function in stressful situations
Financial crime Conduct surveillance Alert to surroundings
Bribery and corruption Evidence collection Understands associated risks
Money laundering Conduct interviews Honesty
Counterfeiting Record examination Sound judgement
Fraudulent documents Computer Integrity
Credit card fraud   Responsibility


Income level varies depending on education, experience and certifications. Download the 2022 Compensation Guide for Anti-Fraud Professionals, which benchmarks salary and benefits across several categories for anti-fraud professionals around the world.