How to Become a Homicide Detective

Homicide detectives are law enforcement officers whose sole purpose is to investigate and solve murder cases. To this end, they will gather and analyze evidence until enough evidence is gathered to identify, arrest, and convict the killer.

Homicide detectives rise out of the rank of police officers. As such, the path to becoming one begins with the process of becoming a police officer. This means going through the same hiring process that police officers do. What do I mean? Well, individuals pursuing a career in law enforcement must first meet the standards set by the police department they’re applying to, pass a series of examinations, and submit themselves to training at a police academy before they can enter the police force.

Police departments have a list of qualities and qualifications that make a candidate eligible for the job. One of those qualities is age. Depending on which state you live in, the age requirement may vary. Some states or police departments require candidates to be at least 18 years old while others have an age restriction of 21 years and older. Other requirements include a clean criminal record, U.S. citizenship, and ownership of a high school diploma. However, some departments may require that prospective homicide detectives possess at least a degree.

Candidates who the police department expresses interest in begin the hiring process. During this time, candidates are interviewed and subjected to a series of tests, as well as, a background check. Because it is job law enforcement they are vying for, candidates must take and pass a lie detector test, a psychological evaluation, a drug test, a fitness test, a polygraph test, and a civil service test.

If candidates pass the background check and the tests, they will be sent to a police academy to receive training. But before a candidate enters the police academy, they must take and pass the law enforcement entrance exam. The contents of this exam will vary from one police academy to another police academy and from one jurisdiction to another jurisdiction. But once a candidate has passed the exam he will be admitted into the police academy where he will receive training essential for the job. Training will last between 19 weeks to six months. During that time, candidates will learn about self-defense techniques, state and local law, constitutional law, civil rights, police ethics, and how to properly handle a firearm. Candidates will also be whipped into peak physical condition through physical training.

Candidates who graduate from the police academy enter the police force as trainees. They will spend the next eight weeks accompanying a training officer on his routine patrols in different areas of the jurisdiction. After gaining three years of experience as a patrol officer, an officer may apply for a promotion to the rank homicide detective. Police departments will consider a candidate’s work performance and seniority before awarding a promotion. Some department may even require officers to write an exam before they can be considered for promotion and the results of this exam are taken into consideration.

From start to finish, becoming a homicide detective takes a number of years. How many depends on the path one takes and the requirements of the police department. Associate degrees take 2 years to complete and a bachelor’s degree takes 4 years to complete. Some police departments do not require candidates to possess a degree to become a homicide detective. So at those departments, it may take 2-4 years less time to rise to become a homicide detective. Taking into consideration the time spent gaining experience as a patrol officer, individuals may spend 4-8 years becoming a homicide detective.