Financial investigation is used as a problem-solving technique in all areas of police work, from burglary to murder and even missing person cases. A number of serious crimes, for example, have recently been solved by tracking criminals' use of cash-point machines.
Police financial investigators are usually police officers, although more police forces are beginning to employ civilians in this role.
Police financial investigators work to:
- Carry out complex financial investigations
- Recover assets acquired through criminal activity
- Disrupt criminal networks and markets
- Deter people from carrying out crime
- Improve crime detection rates
- Help fight against money laundering
The work includes:
Investigators may sometimes attend court to give evidence or obtain permission to access information, such as bank account details. They also interview suspects and search premises for financial information.
Normal working hours are usually 8.00am to 4.00pm, but these can vary depending on the police force. Investigators have to be flexible and prepared to work occasional late nights and weekends, in order to carry out searches and interviews.
The work is mainly office-based, usually in a police station or headquarters where investigators can liaise with police colleagues. Financial investigators also attend court, visit banks and other financial institutions and search premises and vehicles. Investigations may involve overseas travel.
Financial investigators who are serving police officers may wear uniforms or plain clothes. Civilian investigators working with the police do not wear uniform.
The starting salary for a police financial investigator may be around £22,000. An experienced investigator may earn up to £28,000 a year.
Police financial investigators are employed by police forces across the UK, all of which have dedicated financial investigation units.
There are more than 3,000 investigators employed in the police service and other agencies such as:
There are opportunities throughout the UK, and the sector is expanding as the need for financial investigators continues to grow.
Vacancies are advertised by local police forces, through the Civil Service website and, occasionally, directly by individual agencies.
The direct entry route to become a police financial investigator is to join the police service as a constable and complete the normal two-year training, before specialising.
There are no set educational requirements to enter the police service. Young people can apply at the age of 18. Some experience is a real advantage, preferably involving working with people in some capacity. The selection procedure includes medical, eyesight and fitness tests, as well as tests of literacy and numeracy. References and security checks are carried out, although someone who has a conviction for a minor criminal or driving offence will not necessarily be rejected.
The Diploma in public services may be relevant for this job.
For more general information about becoming a police officer, see our job guide - Police Officer.
Civilian financial investigators typically have a degree, and it is possible to enter the career straight from university. Employers look for excellent research skills and an analytical mind rather than a specific degree subject.
For a degree course, students need at least two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C), including English and maths, or equivalent qualifications. Entry requirements may vary, so candidates should check with individual colleges or universities. Those without the usual entry qualifications may take an Access course.
People with relevant qualifications and experience in civilian roles, for instance in the financial services industry, may be able to enter this type of work as civilian financial investigators.
New police officers are trained through the Initial Police Learning and Development Programme. Training takes around two years and involves a combination of classroom-based study and uniformed experience working in the community. During this period trainee officers work towards NVQ's in policing at levels 3 and 4. Following their initial training as police officers, they can they take further specialist training to become police financial investigators.
Training and accreditation of financial investigators employed by the police and other recognised agencies is the responsibility of the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA). The agency offers a range of training courses covering:
- Financial intelligence
- Financial investigation
- Proceeds of crime management
- Cash seizure
- Internet research skills for financial investigators
While studying, trainee investigators use dedicated online learning resources.
The training programme provides opportunities to achieve a BTEC Professional Certificate and Diploma in financial investigation.
After initial training, continuing professional development (CPD) helps investigators keep up to date with new methods and practices.
Some investigators may go on to take a postgraduate qualification, such as the two-year part-time Masters degree in financial investigation and financial crime offered by Teesside University Business School.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
A police financial investigator should:
Financial investigators, whether police officers or civilians, may progress to more senior roles, dealing with more complex cases or areas of operation.
A police officer may progress to a more senior rank, such as inspector.
College of Policing
Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Elm House,
10-16 Elm Street, London WC1X 0BJ
Tel: 020 7239 7272
Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA),
PO Box 8000, London SE11 5EN
Tel: 020 7238 8282
Skills for Justice, Centre Court,
Atlas Way, Sheffield S4 7QQ
Tel: 0114 261 1499
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.