What are the Subjects Needed to Become a Detective in South Africa?

To become a detective in South Africa, it’s essential to start with a career in the South African Police Service (SAPS) and then specialize in detective work. While there are no specific high school subjects required to become a police officer, certain subjects can provide a good foundation for the skills needed in police work.

Recommended Grade 12 Subjects for Aspiring Detectives


Mathematics is beneficial for developing problem-solving skills and analytical thinking, which are crucial in investigative work.

Life Sciences

Life Sciences can be useful for understanding biological and forensic evidence, which is often part of criminal investigations.


Proficiency in multiple Languages, especially given South Africa’s linguistic diversity, can be a significant advantage in communicating effectively with different communities and writing reports.

Pathway to Becoming a Detective

Joining the SAPS

The first step is to join the SAPS. This requires:

  • Being a South African citizen
  • Holding at least a Matric certificate (Grade 12)
  • Passing a physical and medical examination
  • Completing a psychometric test
  • Undergoing a background check

Candidates must also complete basic training at a SAPS academy, which covers law, community service, and physical training.

Experience as a Police Officer

Before specializing as a detective, one typically needs experience as a police officer. This period allows individuals to gain practical experience in law enforcement and prove their ability to handle responsibilities.

Specialized Training

Aspiring detectives must apply to be transferred to the detective branch within the SAPS and complete additional specialized training. This training focuses on criminal law, investigative techniques, forensic methods, and handling of evidence.

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Career Opportunities as a Detective

Detectives work on a range of criminal investigations, which may include:

  • Violent crimes: Such as murder, assault, and robbery.
  • Economic crimes: Including fraud, corruption, and financial malfeasance.
  • Cybercrime: Addressing crimes related to digital and information technology.

Detectives often work closely with other law enforcement agencies and may need to testify in court regarding their investigations.

Continuous Professional Development

Detectives need to continually update their skills through further training and certifications, especially as technology and methods evolve in law enforcement.

Becoming a detective requires dedication, a keen mind for problem-solving, and a strong ethical compass. “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” — Mark Twain. This quote is particularly pertinent for those considering a career in detective work, where starting with a solid foundation in policing and consistently building skills are key to success.