What is a Homicide Detective?

Crime dramas have become a top form of entertainment, often influencing people to consider a career in law enforcement – particularly homicide. For those with a strong sense of justice and desire to solve heinous crimes, a homicide detective career may be of interest.

What Does a Homicide Detective Do?

What does a homicide detective do? Where do homicide detectives work? These are great questions to ask before diving into a career with a pretty set direction; This career experience doesn’t translate to many other career fields such as finance or medicine.

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What homicide detectives do is work for the local police, or state or federal agencies, to solve crimes centered around an unexplained death. 

They typically begin by investigating a crime scene to determine what is to be considered evidence as well as set the parameter of the crime scene so that it may be cordoned off from the general public to protect the evidence and the scene. 

In addition to inspecting the scene, a homicide detective will reach out to known witnesses and search for prospective witnesses near the scene. They also re-inspect the crime scene to see if any evidence may have been overlooked during the initial crime scene investigation.

What do homicide detectives do? They work diligently to ensure that a guilty killer does not walk on a technicality and that an innocent person doesn’t get the blame. Duties that this can include are:

  • Collaborating with other law enforcement agencies or the U.S. District Attorney office;
  • Arresting suspects;
  • Preparing, serving, and executing misdemeanor and felony warrants;
  • Taking witness depositions; and
  • Preparing court papers, including reports, subpoenas, and summons.

What Education is Needed to Become a Homicide Detective?

What education is needed to become a homicide detective can vary from jurisdiction and level of government (local, state, or federal). Homicide investigator education requirements in a small county may be limited to a high school diploma as they tend to focus more on on-the-job experience and a reduced population density can make murder easier to solve. Meanwhile, homicide investigator education requirements of metropolitan cities, or higher-ranking governments (state or federal), are more likely to require a four-year degree.

In any and all cases, This position requires a high school diploma as well as experience as a police officer. Though there are many types of detectives -sex, narcotics, fraud, etc. – it isn’t unheard of for a detective of one department to transfer to another department to broaden knowledge (or prevent burnout). Often, a background in drugs and narcotics, domestic violence, or burglary can be very useful in investigating homicides as murders are usually committed related to another area of crime.

What Degree Does a Homicide Detective Need?

What degree does a homicide detective need, if required? The most common degrees among detectives are criminal justice, criminology, and forensic science, which are also commonly found at colleges and universities, both private and public. There is not a specific degree for homicide detective due to it being such a specific job. 

Nearly all jurisdictions require that investigators be trained at a local, regional, or state academy before they are given their first assignment. 

What does it take to be a homicide detective?

Aside from education and working as a police officer, just what does it take to be a homicide detective? Qualifications for homicide detective work go beyond on-paper homicide detective job requirements such as “work independently” and “willing to do long hours”, though those are a part of the basics. Necessary qualifications for homicide detective include attention to detail, strong organization, excellent communication, systematic reasoning, practicality, patience, and an ability to detach. 

Due to the gruesome nature of the work, a great homicide detective must be passionate about justice, but have a thick enough skin to endure the toxic nature of this work environment. Homicide detectives are exposed to violence, drugs, sex, broken families, and some of the saddest stories that officers are told.

How Much Do Homicide Detectives Make?

A homicide detective career isn’t necessarily a lucrative one, but they typically have a higher salary than other detectives due to the specialized skills necessary to perform their duties. While wages vary greatly based on the jurisdiction and government level, the mean salary of 2018 was $85,020. As these are government positions, the benefits of homicide detectives are often extraordinary and include excellent group health insurance, life insurance, education assistance, vacation time, and a pension plan upon retirement. 

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