What is a Homicide Detective?

A homicide detective, also known as an investigator looks for clues and evidence to identify suspects in criminal and murder cases. Experience and training are necessary to obtain the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue this career. Homicide detectives typically have a minimum of a high school diploma, and they may be experienced police officers who have been promoted to detective. In other cases, agencies may require aspiring homicide detectives to have a college degree.

Education Requirements

The specific level of education for homicide detectives will depend on whether the hiring agency is local, state, or federal. Typically, municipal and state homicide detectives must be experienced police officers with a minimum of a high school diploma. Federal agencies and other jurisdictions require candidates to have some type of college education. Degree programs in forensic science, criminology, and criminal justice are often found at community universities and colleges. Aspiring homicide detectives may earn their bachelor’s degree in four years or their associate’s degree in two years. In addition, nearly all jurisdictions offer training at either a state or regional policy academy before providing detectives with their first field assignment.

Other characteristics like sound judgment, a sense of responsibility, and integrity are requirements of the job. Some agencies may require applicants to interview with a psychologist or psychiatrist or take a personality test. In addition, candidates may be required to undergo lie detector tests or drug testing prior to receiving an offer of employment.

Job Duties

When they are called upon to solve a homicide case, detectives are responsible for collecting evidence such as fingerprints and DNA at the scene of the crime. They interview witness and suspects who may be able to provide critical details about the crime, and detectives prepare investigation reports of their findings and testify in court regarding the murder investigation, if necessary. Other duties include taking witness depositions, preparing and executing search warrants, collaborating with the U.S. District Attorney or other law enforcement officials, serving felony and misdemeanor warrants, arresting suspects, and preparing court papers such as summons and subpoenas.

Career Info

A homicide detective’s work can be very dangerous and stressful. Detectives often witness horrific murder crime scenes, and the constant exposure to criminal behavior and death may take an emotional toll on a detective’s mental health and wellbeing over time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, police officers and detectives earned a mean annual salary of $61,600 in 2016. Wages depend greatly on a detective’s geographic area and employer. Employment growth for detectives and police officers was expected to grow four percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations.

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Homicide detectives investigate and try to solve murders by analyzing fingerprints and other evidence, preparing court papers and reports, and conducting interviews. Other responsibilities may include executing felony warrants, arresting suspects, and testifying in court. A homicide detective is not an entry-level position but a role earned through promotion follow many years of working as a police officer. While not always required, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can be helpful for career advancement, and a high school diploma is often sufficient education for local and state positions. An aspiring homicide detective will also be required to undergo extensive investigative training at a local or regional police academy.