There are many different types of detectives, one of which is a homicide detective. If you want to learn how to become a homicide detective, a bit of research will help. This is a specialized type of police detective position.
As a homicide detective, you will investigate murders and help to apprehend suspects. There are some rather unique job duties with this position within the police department.
Those considering a career as a homicide detective should understand the job duties. Let’s look at the job duties for this career, along with the necessary steps for how to become a homicide detective.
Job Duties of a Homicide Detective
As a detective, you will investigate crimes. When you decide to specialize as a homicide detective, you will investigate the specific crime of murder. This is one of the most common types of detectives.
Your job duties will include many different things, such as:
- Assessing crime scenes
- Speaking with witnesses
- Collecting evidence
- Walking through the crime scene
- Examining the victim(s)
- Taking pictures and video of the crime scene
- Interviewing witnesses and suspects
The goal is to solve the crime committed and apprehend the criminal. Of course, you will have to follow specific steps in the process to ensure the evidence will stand up in a court of law.
How to Become a Homicide Detective in 5 Steps
Step #1 – Meet the Basic Requirements to Become a Police Office
All homicide detectives have to become police officers first. You will need to meet the minimum requirements, which include:
- Be at least 21 years old
- Be a legal U.S. citizen
- Pass a background check
- Have a valid driver’s license
- Be in good physical shape
You might have to pass an induction or aptitude test before you can enter into training. As long as you qualify, you will be able to enter a federally-approved police academy.
Step #2 – Get a College Degree (optional in some states)
You don’t have to have a college degree to become a police officer or a homicide detective in some states. Other states may require it. However, it can be very helpful. Many police officers wanting to become detectives will work towards their degree while working as an officer.
You can get an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminology, sociology, psychology, criminal justice, or a related field. A degree can help make your path to becoming a homicide detective much easier.
Step #3 – Work as a Police Officer
Every state is a bit different, but you will need some experience as a police officer to become a homicide detective. It’s necessary to prove you are a competent officer before you can earn this type of promotion.
Detectives tend to be very disciplined, curious, and detail-oriented. These traits can be groomed as you work as a police officer.
Step #4 – Pass the National Detective/Investigative Test (NDIT)
After gaining the necessary experience, you can sit for the NDIT. This test is necessary if you want to become a homicide detective and it’s used in many states. You will be tested on your preparedness to become a detective.
In some cases, you may take the Police Detective (PDET) 200 Series test or another test. It may depend on your state and location.
Step #5 – Get Promoted
You will likely have to apply for open homicide detective positions or get promoted into this position. The training and testing you will need must be completed first. Once you complete it, you can start the application process. Going into the homicide area might also require specialized training.
Common Skills of a Homicide Detective
This is a unique career that requires very specific skills. Many of the skills you will gain while you’re working as a police officer. However, some skills you will already need to have or at least be working on developing.
The most common skills you will need to become a homicide detective include:
- Problem Solving – You have to figure out who committed the crime and how. This can be easy, in some cases, but in others, you will have to solve the puzzle by using the crime scene and witness statements.
- Critical Thinking – The ability to think through the crime scene logically and look at it from all angles is necessary for detectives.
- Communication Skills – You will likely work with a team. It’s also necessary to be able to communicate with witnesses, suspects, and many others verbally. Written communication will also be a big part of your job.
- Ethical Behavior – You must be an ethical person if you want to become a detective. This is rather important as you will be helping to take criminals off the streets.
- Attention to Detail – Every little detail matters at a crime scene.
Good Understanding of Human Behavior – Developing a strong understanding of human behavior can help you when interviewing witnesses and suspects.
There are many skills that can help you find success in this career. This is the list of the most important skills you want to develop.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Homicide Detective
How much can I make as a homicide detective?
Indeed.com puts the average salary for a police detective at about $84K per year. Some employers and locations will pay a higher salary than the national average.
Detectives in New York City, Newark, and Chicago are all paid higher than the average for the entire country. Where you work and your overall experience will likely have the biggest impact on your salary.
What type of benefits do homicide detectives receive?
As a homicide detective, you will work for a police department. This means you will have the same benefits as any police officer and maybe a few more. Typically, you will have access to health insurance including vision and dental insurance. Life insurance is also a common benefit, along with a 401(k)-retirement account.
Detectives usually get parental leave, tuition reimbursement, employee assistance program benefits, paid time off, and relocation assistance, too.
What type of hours will I work as a homicide detective?
This career isn’t a typical 9-to-5 job. You cannot plan the time a murder will happen. Most homicide detectives will work at all times of the day and might be on-call regularly. Expect to work long hours including nights and weekends.
It’s common for detectives to work overtime during a big case. The job requires time in the office writing reports, as well. While you will spend many hours in the field, you will also work in an office.
Do I need a college degree to become a homicide detective?
The education requirements vary by state. In most cases, you don’t need a college degree, but it can certainly be helpful. In some cases, you will only need to meet the same minimum requirements as a police officer.
Some states require a college degree, however. This might be an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree.
Is this career dangerous?
Many people would consider a career in law enforcement as a dangerous career. Of course, you will use specific types of equipment to make it safer. However, this is still a dangerous career.
Police officers and detectives have some of the highest rates of injuries on the job. You have to be prepared to use deadly force and it’s possible you could be shot at. In addition, detectives face incredible emotional and mental strain from dealing with death and violent crime regularly.
How long will it take me to become a homicide detective?
Depending on your state, you may need to spend two or four years getting a college degree. This requirement varies from one state to another.
You will need to become a police officer. This can take up to two years, depending on your location. It typically takes around three months to go through the hiring process, but it can take longer. Then, you will need to go through testing, which can take a few months.
Once you enter the academy, training will last about six months. After completing the academy, you will need to spend about a year on probation.
Most detectives will need to gain two to five years of experience as a police officer. This will allow you to sit for the detective test.
Overall, it can take anywhere from 6 to 11 years to become a homicide detective. You can cut down the time it takes by getting your college degree while working as a police officer if it’s required. If you’re right out of high school, you can work on your degree while you wait to be old enough to apply to become a police officer.
If you’ve been dreaming of becoming a homicide detective all your life, you need to follow the steps above. It will all start with meeting the minimum requirements and becoming a police officer. Once you’re a police officer, you will need to gain experience and work towards taking the detective exam. Pass this test and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a homicide detective.