Homicide detectives are law enforcement officials who are tasked with investigating homicides. When a murder is reported, the CSI unit and the homicide detectives are called in to gather evidence and figure out how that murder took place.

The job of a homicide detective is grim and harrowing. It involves dealing with some cases which are absolutely horrific. No two days are the same on the job and homicide detectives must be able to effectively handle situations which are unprecedented. Hours are erratic and homicide detectives are expected to put in a lot of time.

If this is a career that you are interested in pursuing, read on to learn more about how you can become a homicide detective.

What does a homicide detective do?

Homicide detectives are integral to solving homicide cases. Any time a murder takes place, homicide detective reach the scene to survey what has happened, gather evidence, etc.

Some of the job duties of a homicide detective include:

  • Gathering all evidence from the scene where the body was found
  • Interviewing any witnesses
  • Carrying out background checks on the victim and anyone else involved in the case
  • Filing detailed reports
  • Assisting in the prosecution of offenders

Steps to becoming a Homicide Detective

In order to become a homicide detective you need to first be a police officer. The requirements for that vary by state.

The general requirements for becoming a homicide detective are as follows:

  • Hold a minimum of a high school diploma (although many police departments require applicants to hold an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field)
  • Possess a law enforcement certification
  • Have a certain amount of experience as a law enforcement officer or have served time in the armed forces
  • Have a clean track record
  • Go through additional training

In addition to meeting these basic requirements, candidates interested in becoming homicide detectives must have the following qualities:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • The ability to write thorough reports
  • Multi-tasking
  • Patience
  • Empathy
  • Resilience
  • Objectivity

Becoming a homicide detective is grueling work. In order to even get to the stage where you are considered for promotion up to the rank of detective you need to put in a tremendous amount of time building your reputation as a police officer. If you’re eligible for promotion, you’ll have to give a competitive exam and you may be required to go through additional training. Once you’re sworn in as a homicide detective, the first few years on the job will require a lot of your time. You’ll need to learn how to network with other professionals such as entomologists, medical examiners, ballistics experts, forensics anthropologists and more, whose help is required to solve crimes.

Job Prospects and Salary

According to statistics from O*Net Online, detectives and criminal investigators earned an annual median salary of $77,210 in 2015. Between 2014 and 2024, there isn’t projected to be any serious employment growth in the field. During that period it is estimated that there will be 28,300 job openings in this field. If you are seriously considering pursuing this career it is highly advisable that you do everything you can to make yourself stand out from other applicants. This could include having further education credentials or building a solid reputation for yourself prior to applying for a promotion.

Furthermore, statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that the following states employ the most homicide detectives:

City/Police Division

Annual Mean Wage

New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division $84,730
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division $117,230
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan Division $112,190
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA $90,190
Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, IL Metropolitan Division $97,670