How Do I Become a Homicide Investigator?

Research what it takes to become a homicide investigator. Learn about training, responsibilities and education requirements to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Law Enforcement degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Homicide Investigator?

A homicide investigator is a highly trained and experienced police officer who has advanced to the role of detective. Homicide investigators investigate murders. When someone has been murdered, homicide investigators will review the crime scene, ensure evidence is collected, interview witnesses, confirm alibis, review the findings once evidence from the crime scene is processed and identify suspects. They will interview suspects and compile evidence until they believe they have apprehended the correct suspect. They may complete a bachelor's degree and will also need to attend police academy training and pass any exams required for advancement in the police department to become a detective.

Education Required High school diploma; police academy; bachelor's degree
Training Required On-the-job: start as uniformed officer and work up
Education Field of Study Criminal law; science of forensics; psychology
Key Responsibilities Gather evidence; perform interrogations; testify in court
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

What Is My Role as a Homicide Investigator?

As a detective specializing in homicide, you work closely with uniformed officers, forensic scientists and other law enforcement personnel. Be prepared to work irregular hours when tracking a case or observing a suspect. From crime scene to closed case, you are expected to keep meticulous records that may be used as information in a court of law. You may also obtain evidence, conduct interrogations and provide court testimony as you attempt to bring murderers to justice.

Gain Experience as a Uniformed Officer

As an aspiring homicide investigator, you typically start as a uniformed police officer and work your way up to the detective level. This first step involves attending a police academy basic training program to develop foundational skills. As a cadet, you may receive training in defensive techniques, firearm procedures, emergency vehicle operations, non-lethal weapons use, emergency response, evidence collection and courtroom etiquette.

After developing your street sense and your procedural abilities as a regular officer, you may be eligible for promotion to plainclothes investigator or detective status. Depending on your department and your job performance, this process may take anywhere from six months to three years. You may also need to pass physical and personality tests as well as written examinations.

What Are My Education Requirements?

You need at least a high school diploma to work with most law enforcement agencies, but many officers and aspiring detectives have some college-level experience. You may help your chances of career advancement by completing a 4-year bachelor's degree program in criminal justice, police science or forensics. As a student, you may take courses in criminal law, forensic science, anthropology, criminal psychology and crisis management as well as courses specific to your program of study.

Part of being a successful homicide investigator involves keeping your detective skills sharp and staying current. You may do this through specialty courses offered by police academies or by attending conferences and presentations for homicide investigators. These endeavors can give you networking opportunities with more seasoned investigators as you're exposed to past case histories, forensic methodologies and investigative trends.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Private detectives and investigators work for clients who hire them to investigate a matter of personal or professional significance. They are often former law enforcement professionals. Like homicide detectives, they will review crime scenes, collect evidence when possible, interview witnesses and compile evidence to solve their case. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists need a bachelor's degree. Like homicide detectives, they work with criminals. The key difference is that they are involved with criminals after they're released from jail and they monitor them to try to ensure that they will not commit further crimes.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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