Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
CAREER PATHS / DEC. 29, 2016
version 5, draft 5

How to Become a Homicide Detective

crime scene investigator

Homicide detectives work in tandem with other law enforcement officers to resolve and ensure justice for murder or homicide cases. The first step to entering this field is to ask yourself if you are up to the task. The process of convicting a killer can come with risks of confrontations, injury, traumatising threats or death. Homicide detectives work for federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in the United States.

See Also: How to Become a Detective and Criminal Investigator

1. Research the Role of a Homicide Detective

  • Gather evidence to establish the cause of death
  • Conduct investigations on murder and homicide cases to initiate a trial
  • Interview witnesses
  • Find and arrest suspects
  • Interrogate suspects
  • Compile evidence and solve murder or homicide cases
  • Follow crucial leads to gather more information or make more arrests

Something that is worth noting is that being a homicide detective is an extremely stressful and emotionally taxing profession. You will have to deal with the darkest elements in society, grieving relatives and the highest form of human drama; death. According to the website policeone many homicide investigators or detectives suffer from post dramatic stress disorder (PTSD) which is evident from the unbelievably high suicide rates among law enforcement. Much of this is due to the frustration of ongoing investigations and not finding or convicting murderers.

2. Salary

People that serve the public good don’t usually do it for money. Educators, nurses, firemen and women and of course law enforcement officers are dedicated to the well-being of society, and their rewards are often non-tangible. People in these types of professions are well-regarded members of society, usually the recipients of admiration and lauded as heroes.

Luckily detectives can make a relatively good amount of money while also enjoying the love of the public. The salary of a homicide detective can be between thirty-five to ninety-five thousand dollars per annum. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the nationwide average is a respectable seventy-nine thousand dollars. Of course, as with other goal-oriented jobs, you can receive performance-based bonuses and other types of compensations:

Bonuses and Allowances

$0.00 - $5,034

Average Hourly Rate

$14.53 - $37.65


$25.79 - $63.26

3. Paths to Become a Homicide Detective

Become a Police Officer

U.S. law requires that you hold a high school diploma or equivalent, be at least 21 years of age and a legal citizen. You must also have a driving license, pass a criminal background check and be in good physical health. The police department will run a credit check on you, and impose a penalty if your score is low. It is, therefore, advisable to maintain a good credit score if you plan to pursue a career as a homicide detective. Beyond these requirements, you might also be asked to take an aptitude or induction test.

Upon qualification, your department will require you to complete training at a federal-approved academy. Your work as a police officer will include apprehending criminal suspects, preparing incident reports, writing traffic tickets, among other law enforcement procedures.

Federal Requirements

Most federal agencies will require you to complete an associate or bachelor’s degree in law enforcement or criminal justice. These programs are intended to help you understand the principles of the field and prepare you for further academy training. Subjects include legal procedures, investigative techniques, criminal law, forensics and how to handle evidence.

4. Career Progression and Opportunities

The most important step towards becoming a homicide detective is promotion. After gaining sufficient experience as a normal law enforcement officer, you can apply for a promotion. Some agencies will require you to pass a promotion exam while some will consider your level of experience. Your job performance also affects your chances of success.

Homicide detectives are required to participate in ongoing training and periodically undertake re-certification exams. Participating in seminars, training, and other education classes help you advance in your seniority level and rank as a homicide detective. A higher rank could mean you oversee regular officers and detectives of a lower rank.


Becoming a homicide detective takes patience, commitment and determination. The career involves a lot of risks such as visiting dangerous neighbourhoods and sometimes working long hours. With proper preparation and attitude, serving one’s nation and community can be a fulfilling task. The job comes with great societal respect but also a high level of obligation and personal sacrifice.

But, if you feel that you have what it takes to work towards the common good, then a career in law enforcement and homicide investigation might be the perfect fit for you! In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a five percent employment growth for police and detectives between 2012 and 2022.

Is this your dream job? Let us know in the comments section below…

See Also: How to Become an Airline Sommelier

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