How To Become a Homicide Detective 2023: Complete Guide

Learn how to become a homicide detective with 5 simple steps. Join us as we explore the path, skills, and rewards of this intriguing career choice in our comprehensive 2023 guide. Discover what it takes to step into the world of solving mysteries and seeking justice.

How To Become a Homicide Detective 2023: Complete Guide

Homicide detectives are essential in law enforcement. They investigate suspicious deaths, analyze crime scenes, interview witnesses, chase suspects, and assist in critical situations. These pros are a significant part of police departments, working at local, state, and federal levels. As a homicide detective, you’ll use communication skills and deductive reasoning to solve cases.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the police and detective job market is expected to grow about 5% from 2019-2029, in line with the national average. Detectives earn a median pay of around $86,940 annually as of 2020, which is above average.

Curious about becoming a homicide detective? Keep reading to discover how to enter this field: education requirements, necessary skills, on-the-job training, and potential salaries for detective roles in criminal justice.

What Is a Homicide Detective?

Detectives handle serious cases compared to police officers. Homicide detectives focus on investigating suspicious deaths. They team up with crime scene investigators and forensic experts to analyze evidence, determine the cause of death, and understand the crime’s nature.

In larger police departments, homicide detectives often work in a supervised unit led by a lieutenant.

When they’re not analyzing active crime scenes, homicide detectives pursue leads for their cases. They interview individuals connected to the case, secure warrants, and conduct searches. Contrary to TV portrayals, they spend considerable time at their desks, managing paperwork and organizing their workload.

After collecting enough evidence, a homicide detective might make arrests. They then compile a report for the prosecutor, who decides on the charges. If the case goes to trial, these detectives might need to testify in court.

What Does a Homicide Detective Do?

What Does a Homicide Detective Do

Homicide detectives start their work at the crime scene, partnering with crime scene investigators (CSIs). They examine important evidence like fingerprints provided by CSIs to find potential suspects. But they don’t just rely on forensics – they gather more info about the crime.

Homicide detectives spend a lot of time talking to suspects and people who know about the victims. They share their ideas with legal experts through detailed reports. Sometimes, they even testify in court to explain evidence and statements, adding more insight to a case.

Why Should I Become a Homicide Detective?

If you value helping others and making a positive impact on society when choosing a career, becoming a homicide detective is something worth thinking about. Homicide detectives not only get to solve crimes, but they also play a bigger role in promoting justice and reducing crime.

By working on solving homicides, detectives also contribute to aspects of society they might not realize. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime points out that homicides have broader effects beyond just the victims and their families.

How Long Does It Take To Become a Homicide Detective?

How Long Does It Take To Become a Homicide Detective

So, now your question is how many years to become a homicide detective? Right?

Becoming a homicide detective and figuring out how long it takes can be a bit tricky. It actually varies a lot based on where you are and the police department you’re looking at.

For instance, some places might want you to complete a four-year college degree, while others might just prefer it. Both homicide detectives and patrol officers might benefit from having a degree.

Also, many homicide detectives start off as patrol officers and then move up to being a detective. Some police departments offer more chances for moving up the ladder. If you’re in a big city, you might find more opportunities compared to a smaller rural or suburban area.

Related: How Long Does it Take to Become a Homicide Detective?

How to Become a Homicide Detective

How to become a homicide detective

Here are some steps you can take to become a homicide detective:

Step 1: Obtain an Undergraduate Degree

While some police departments don’t demand a college degree, having one can make it easier to become a homicide detective. Detectives often study criminal justice in college, learning about courts, policing, and corrections. You can do a two-year associate degree for law enforcement or a four-year bachelor’s degree for more in-depth learning.

You can also consider these fields for a degree:

  • Criminology
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Political science
  • Forensics

Step 2: Attend Police Academy

Many people who want to be in law enforcement start at police academies after finishing high school. Even though you don’t necessarily need a criminal justice degree, having one can help you move up in your police career.

Police academy training is a mix of classes, hands-on practice, and tough physical and mental training. You might go to a state, city, community, or institute-based police academy, depending on where you are. In the classes, you’ll learn things like first aid, how to investigate, laws for driving, how to patrol, handling emergencies, criminal law, self-defense moves, and how to use firearms.

You’ll also do “boot camp” courses that get you ready for the physical parts of the job. This training can last from 3 months to a year, depending on the academy type.

Step 3: Pass Exams to Become a Police Officer

You might be wondering how to become a homicide detective without being a cop, but practically it’s impossible. Cause if you want to become a homicide detective, it is mandatory to be a cop first.

Becoming a police officer involves a few important steps. You need to clear a thorough background check and a tough physical fitness test. You’ll also take a written exam that checks what you know about the job, how you communicate, and your thinking skills.

On top of that, you might have to pass a polygraph test, which checks if you’re telling the truth, a psychological exam to make sure you’re mentally fit, and a medical exam to ensure you’re physically ready for the job.

Step 4: Gain experience as a police officer

If you want to become a homicide detective in a police department, you usually need to start as a police officer. Working as a patrol officer helps you learn how to handle different crimes quickly, talk to suspects and victims, and work well with other officers.

Being a police officer is like getting trained while you’re doing the job. It helps you handle tough situations and prepares you to become a homicide detective.

Step 5: Apply for homicide detective roles

After you’ve worked as a police officer for a while, you could have the chance to become a homicide detective. The way police departments pick officers for this job can differ. Sometimes, they promote officers who are already there.

Other times, officers can apply for the detective job when it’s open. You can talk to your boss to learn how your department chooses homicide detectives. You might tell them you want to move up or ask them to tell you when a spot is open so you can try for it.

Related: How to Become a Homicide Detective Without Being a Cop

What Does It Take To Become a Homicide Detective?

A homicide detective is a special kind of cop who focuses on solving cases where someone was killed. They work closely with other officers and experts to find out what happened. They can work for city, county, state, or federal police, and they use their skills to bring justice for the victims and their families.

Basically, a homicide detective’s main job is to investigate deaths that seem suspicious.

There are different types of detectives, like those who look into arson, crimes involving young people, or sexual assaults. Homicide detectives mainly deal with four kinds of killings:

  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Justifiable homicide
  • Excusable homicide

Important Skills for Homicide Detectives

Homicide detectives need to be good at investigating different kinds of killings, like ones from a lot of people getting hurt or from fires. It’s also important for them to know about the law and how to make sure they don’t accuse the wrong person.

To make sure justice is done right, homicide investigators should be really good at getting ready to prove their case in court. This means they need to know how to do things like getting permission to search places, arresting people, and keeping good records of the case.

Knowing about digital evidence is getting more important too. Homicide detectives should know how to find and understand evidence from things like smartphones. This can really help solve cases.

When you’re studying criminal justice, you learn skills that help you become a homicide detective. Some of these skills are:

  • Figuring out problems
  • Thinking really carefully
  • Writing well
  • Talking effectively
  • Being fair
  • Paying close attention to details
  • Understanding how people act and think

Homicide Detective Salary and Job Outlook

Homicide Detective Average Salary

Being a detective is tough, but they get paid quite well. The middle wage for detectives and investigators was around $83,640 in May 2021, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For all jobs, the middle wage was only about $45,760. Detectives who work for the government, especially the federal government, make even more, with a middle yearly wage of around $93,970.

Since they work for the government, people in law enforcement usually get some nice extras. They often have good benefits, a pension plan, and even a chance to retire early.

Projected Career Growth

The need for police officers and detectives is expected to go up by 3% from 2021 to 2031, says the BLS. But that’s not as fast as the 5% growth expected for all jobs.

How much they’re needed can change based on how much money each state and town has, and it’s different in different places. For instance, big cities like Los Angeles need more detectives compared to small towns.

Homicide Detective Job Outlook

The BLS thinks there will be a 7% increase in police and detective jobs between 2020 and 2030. Even though you don’t need a degree to be a police officer, having one can really help, especially if you want to become a detective. If you’ve been in the military, especially doing investigations, or if you can speak more than one language, you might have better chances of getting the job.

It’s important to know that police departments are having a hard time finding new people. In a survey, almost 80% of law enforcement agencies said it’s tough to find qualified candidates for police jobs. So, if you want to be a homicide detective and you’ve got what it takes, you might be in demand.

  1. What do detectives do on a daily basis?

    If there is an active crime scene, detectives respond quickly and search for evidence. Afterward, they conduct interviews, write reports, prepare and carry out warrants and arrest any suspects. They may also be asked to testify in court.

  2. What are some of the primary duties of a homicide detective?

    The specific duties of a homicide detective may vary depending on where they work and the types of cases they manage. Some general responsibilities for this role include:

    Examining evidence
    Interviewing witnesses
    Serving warrants
    Arresting suspects
    Collaborating with first responders and other law enforcement employees
    Preparing court documentation
    Testifying in court

  3. Is it safe to work as a homicide detective?

    Like many career paths, working as a homicide detective involves some potential risks. Although crime scenes and individuals who participate in crimes can present risks, detectives undergo specialized training as law enforcement officers so they know how to protect themselves and others from threats. They also learn methods for communicating with relevant individuals to prevent potential safety issues and resolve conflicts efficiently.

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