Become a Homicide Detective: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Jul 18, 2019

Becoming a police detective usually requires education, homicide detective training, and experience. Students must also meet homicide detective qualifications, such as physical standards, age requirements, and skill sets.

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How to Become a Homicide Detective

The steps to becoming a detective in homicide can be summarized with education, job qualifications, training, and work experience. Students wondering 'how long does it take to become a homicide detective?' need to keep in mind the varying educational options for police and detectives, as well as training time.

When exploring how to become a homicide investigator, students should also consider that generally a police detective spends time working as a police officer first and then moves up into investigator roles. Those interested in investigating murders may then specialize in that area. Here we discuss how to become a murder detective in more detail.

Step 1: Obtain Required Education

Homicide detective education requirements vary greatly among states, agencies, and more. As mentioned, many detectives work as police officers before working their way up to detective, and therefore, education requirements may range from a high school diploma to a bachelor's degree.

The preferred level of schooling for homicide detectives is typically a bachelor's degree, but students may begin with police certification programs or online courses for police officers before going on to earn their associate's or bachelor's degrees.

An aspiring detective will usually want to pursue a bachelor's degree in an area like criminal justice or a related field. These degree programs are available in online formats.

Step 2: Meet Homicide Detective Qualifications

Requirements to become a homicide detective are generally the same as those for a police officer. Applicants need to meet these qualifications before they apply for a job. Requirements may include:

  • Being 21 years of age or older
  • Being a US citizen
  • Having no prior felony convictions
  • Passing a drug test
  • Meeting physical standards
  • Meeting personal standards

Step 3: Complete Homicide Detective Training

Once they have been employed, aspiring detectives and police officers must attend and pass their agency's training academy. During academy training students may learn skills like:

  • Firearm use
  • Emergency response
  • Patrol
  • First-aid
  • Self-defense

Step 4: Gain Experience

After graduating from police academy, aspiring detectives usually need to work as officers for a few years before being promoted to detective. Officers may begin working in their agency's homicide department and work closely with experienced officers to start acquiring the necessary skills for investigating homicides. Some of these skills may include:

  • Handling suspects
  • Assessing murder scenes
  • Analyzing evidence
  • Documenting case details

Other Skills

Throughout the process of becoming a homicide detective, it is also important for students to acquire and/or further develop skills like communication, leadership, problem-solving, and critical-thinking. Homicide detectives need to be detail-oriented as they work cases, must follow ethical practices, and use good judgment. Besides the physical demands of the job, these detectives also need to demonstrate empathy as they work closely with families of victims.

Homicide Investigator Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 detectives and criminal investigators made an average annual salary of $85,020. Another website,, reported that the average salary for a homicide detective was $75,541, as of May 2019. also reported that homicide detectives who were late in their career (with 20 years of experience or more) made an average of $96,500.

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