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Progression routes in investigation

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In today’s ever-changing climate, investigators have come to realise the increasing importance of continuing their own professional development, understanding that academic study must play a part in ensuring they can carry out their roles safely and effectively. Standards, laws, and technology change frequently, so it’s vital that investigators remain knowledgeable about the latest advancements and changes in legislation to stay legally compliant, as well as keep themselves informed of the contemporary issues relevant to them.

There’s also a growing expectation that professional investigators need to take ownership and responsibility for their own progression, whether that’s changing departments or moving into a more senior role. Continuing professional development (CPD) allows investigators to do this, as they can build on their training within their force or organisation, while enhancing their skills and knowledge academically.

What investigation progression routes does the University of Sunderland offer?

Our investigation provision is aimed at a wide range of professionals who conduct investigations on a daily basis. While we get many students joining us from a policing background – or the military, navy, air force, and army – we also accept applicants from other investigative organisations such as credit card companies, Trading Standards, and HMRC.

The typical progression pathways we can offer to investigators are:

Online learning

We can deliver various online learning sessions whereby investigators can get involved in discussions around contemporary issues facing policing across a wide range of disciplines and roles.

Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas

The Diplomas we provide for further study are delivered by experienced practitioners and are relevant for those in their initial investigation stage of development.

We also offer several Advanced Diplomas, aimed at those from specialist units with experience that enhances their previous training. The Advanced Diplomas in investigation we currently offer are:

Both the Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas provide investigators with academic recognition, as they all carry a certain number of credits.

Undergraduate degree

The BA (Hons) Applied Investigation course attracts investigators from all over the UK, helping them develop their own approach to investigations and produce quality pieces of research which have significantly impacted investigations within their own areas. The degree is suitable for those who want academic recognition for their workplace achievements, those who want to enhance their promotion prospects, those who want to develop their investigative understanding, and those who are specialists seeking CPD.

Postgraduate degree

The MA Investigative Management is our postgraduate investigation degree, which is suitable for those looking to advance their careers by studying leadership and management in the context of work-based investigative practice. Those who’ve successfully completed our BA degree are automatically eligible to enrol on the master’s course.

The skills taught on both the Applied Investigation and Investigative Management courses are relevant to employees or organisations that use any element of investigative practice, and people from all professions are welcome to apply.

"The MA Investigative Management course is set up for critical thinking, and the modules around decision-making and leadership have really helped me at work as these are two key skills required within investigative management. The degree provides you with the academic knowledge you need to improve as both an investigator and a manager. My main aim for the future is to become a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO), so the skills I’ve acquired haven't only helped me succeed academically but prepared me professionally."

Steven Gill
MA Investigative Management

What is the Professionalising Investigations Programme?

The Professionalising Investigations Programme (PIP) is a set of accreditation standards in place which all police training follows. PIP provides a structured development programme, delivering the capability to conduct professional investigations at all levels within the police and other sectors of law enforcement. It’s split into levels according to the complexity of the investigation and the skills required:

  • PIP level 1: Priority and Volume Crime investigations. Our online learning, Diplomas, and first year of the undergraduate degree (with recognition of prior learning) are aimed at those with a PIP 1 qualification.
  • PIP level 2: Serious and Complex investigations. Those with a PIP 2 qualification are automatically eligible to enrol on the undergraduate degree without having to go through the Diploma route. Applicants would join the course at the final stage entry point (18 months).
  • PIP level 3: Major Crime and Serious Organised Crime investigations. Those with a PIP 3 qualification are automatically eligible (even without an undergraduate degree) to enrol on the postgraduate degree.

What are the benefits of continuing my professional development in investigation at Sunderland?

Gary Shaw, Professor of Professional Practice, says “The main benefit of our courses is that they allow investigators to continue to develop themselves personally and become better at what they do, whilst achieving transferable academic qualifications that acknowledge the hard work they’ve put in throughout their careers. It’s the University’s intention to continue to accredit prior learning for those specialists who’ve previously been trained and have proved their competence through experience within their roles.”

Other benefits to investigative professionals who wish to continue their professional development with us include:

  • The availability of different funding streams, working in collaboration with forces
  • Exploring topics that are selected by our students, supported by ex-practitioners who understand work-based learning. Our courses have been designed around this.
  • Flexibility. Our courses are studied over minimal contact days, and we deliver our investigation provision at both our Sunderland and London campuses, so you can study wherever is most convenient for you.
  • Extra learning on top of what’s included in your course. We can come and deliver bespoke input on an organisation’s specialist training courses.


Want to find out more? Explore our Crime, Policing, and Investigation subject area for all our undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, or browse our range of short courses and CPD.

Published: 20 March 2024