How Do I Become a Homicide Detective?

If you pay attention to details, are good at solving puzzles and stay calm under pressure, you might wonder how to become a homicide detective. Each year, tens of thousands of homicides occur across the United States. Homicide detectives investigate crime scenes, gather evidence and determine who committed these crimes. Without homicide detectives, murderers would be free to continue harming others and victims’ families would never get the closure of knowing that justice was served.

Homicide detectives are experienced law enforcement officers whose primary responsibility is to uncover who is at fault for killings and collect the necessary evidence to prove guilt in a court of law. This evidence often includes fingerprints, DNA samples and any bullets, firearms or other weapons found at the scene. Sometimes video surveillance or photographs can constitute evidence as well, especially if the crime occurred in a public place. To piece together a logical story of how the murder occurred, homicide detectives often talk to witnesses, suspects, and victims’ family members. When they become certain that they know who committed the murder and have acquired ample evidence to illustrate the alleged killer’s guilt, homicide detectives arrest them. As with other law enforcement officers, homicide detectives must be prepared to document information in official reports and appear in court trials.

Aspiring homicide detectives should begin preparing for their careers by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or law enforcement. Then they must pursue an entry-level position with a law enforcement agency. Attaining employment as a police officer may require multiple steps, such as physical fitness testing, written examinations, background checks, and finally training at a police academy. Aspiring homicide detectives should understand that achieving the role of detective is a long-term goal and expect to spend years developing their skills as police officers before earning the promotion to detective.

Personal characteristics may influence success as a homicide detective as well. Candidates must notice conditions on a crime scene that seem out of place or unusual. They must be able to develop logical scenarios for how a murder may have occurred. In crime drama television shows, homicide detectives often follow hunches, but real-live professionals must be willing and able to use reason to determine what really happened in a case, even if it takes months or years. Additionally, real murder scenes can be more gruesome than they appear in television and movie representations, and constant exposure to these environments can be emotionally and psychologically difficult. The ideal candidate for a career as a homicide detective can handle this stress calmly.

Police detectives of all types earn a median annual salary of $53,911, according to Many homicide detectives find the opportunity to make murders pay for their crimes and get justice on behalf of their victims rewarding. If you have the reasoning skills to solve mysteries and the patience to carefully collect evidence, knowing how to become a homicide detective could be the start of an exciting new career.

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