A homicide investigator is not an entry-level position, but a role earned through a promotion after many years of experience working as a police officer. While a bachelor's degree is usually a requirement for working as a homicide investigator at the federal level, a high school diploma is often sufficient education for state and local positions.
A homicide investigator, also known as a detective, searches for evidence and clues used to identify suspects in murder cases. Training and experience are required to obtain the skills necessary to become a homicide investigator. Homicide investigators usually have at least a high school diploma; they are experienced police officers who have earned promotion to this job title. Some agencies require a college degree.
|Required Education||Minimum of high school diploma or equivalent; some jobs require a bachelor's degree|
|Other Requirements||Several years experience as a police officer|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||-1% for detectives and criminal investigators|
|Average Annual Salary (2015)*||$79,620 for detectives and criminal investigators|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Education requirements for homicide investigators vary depending upon whether the hiring agency is federal, state or local. Generally, state and municipal homicide investigators must have at least a high school education and must also be experienced police officers. Some jurisdictions, and notably federal agencies, also require potential candidates to have some postsecondary education.
Degree programs in criminal justice, criminology and forensic science are commonly found at community colleges and universities, and aspiring homicide investigators may earn an associate degree in two years or a bachelor's degree in four years. In addition, nearly all jurisdictions train investigators at either a regional or state police academy before giving them their first investigative assignment.
Other characteristics like integrity, sense of responsibility and sound judgment are requirements of the job. Some agencies require candidates to take a personality test or interview with a psychiatrist or psychologist. In addition, job applicants may also be required to undergo drug testing or lie detector tests.
In the course of solving a murder case, homicide investigators collect evidence such as DNA and fingerprints at the crime scene. They interview suspects and witnesses who may have information about the crime. They prepare reports of investigation findings and, if necessary, testify in court regarding the investigation.
Other duties that may fall to a homicide investigator during a typical work day might include:
- Collaborating with other law enforcement officials or the U.S. District Attorney
- Serving misdemeanor and felony warrants and arresting suspects
- Preparing and executing search warrants
- Taking witness depositions
- Preparing court papers, including subpoenas and summons
The work of a homicide investigator can be very stressful and dangerous. Investigators often witness murder crime scenes, and the constant exposure to death and criminal behavior may take an emotional toll over time.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated in 2015 that detectives and criminal investigators earned a mean annual salary of $79,620. Wages varied greatly by employer and geographic area. Employment growth for detectives and criminal investigators was expected to decline by 1% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov).
Homicide investigators investigate and attempt to solve murders; during this process, they may have to conduct interviews, analyze fingerprints and other evidence, and prepare reports and court papers. Other responsibilities might include testifying in court, arresting suspects, and executing felony warrants. While not always required, an undergraduate degree in criminal justice can be helpful for career advancement, and investigative at a police academy is mandatory.