Television shows such as Law and Order, CSI and Criminal Minds glamorize jobs that require individuals to investigate crime scenes and hunt down the criminals responsible for them. These shows sometimes inspire the average person watching them to join the law enforcement field and become a homicide detective who is responsible for solving crimes and arresting the appropriate people. The combination of power and puzzle solving makes the job appealing to many people, and television makes it seem as though anyone could become a homicide detective. However, the truth is that it takes many years of work and experience as a regular police officer and investigator before a person can become a homicide detective.
Things You Will NeedDegree
Interest in Criminology
Earn a degree. It takes approximately four years for the average person to earn their bachelor's degree when attending a college or university in the U.S. While a degree isn't necessary to enter the police force, it is often a requirement to advance to management and detective openings in the force. When getting your degree, choose to major in fields such as criminal justice, law enforcement or other related areas. These fields provide a good overview of the criminal justice system, the laws and the different career opportunities in this niche. If possible, complete an internship with a law enforcement agency or criminal justice facility while in college. This gives you experience in the field which you can use later to help secure a job once you graduate from college.
Apply for the police force. Obtain an application to join the police force in your community, and review it to learn what requirements applicants must meet to secure an open position. Fill out the application entirely, making sure to leave no question blank or unanswered. Mark N/A if a question isn't applicable, since some police departments automatically throw out any applications that don't have all questions answered as these are considered incomplete. Make sure you meet the height and weight requirements listed on the application as police departments need officers that are healthy and able to meet the weight-height ratio requirements. Interview with current officers from the department to receive a conditional offer of employment and begin training to be a police officer.
Attend the police academy. Spend several weeks at a local or state police academy learning the skills needed to serve as a police officer. During the training be prepared to learn how to arrest a person, respond to emergency situations and shoot a gun. Towards the end of the academy, gain experience riding with a current police officer in the field. Understand that the police officer you are shadowing will provide a performance review that either advocates for or opposes you being able to work in the field as a police officer. Most police departments take the comments and recommendations from this officer seriously, so failing to make a good impression can result in your conditional offer of employment being rescinded and you having to apply again. If you are approved though, graduate from the police academy to begin full-time employment working as an actual police officer in the field.
Gain experience. Work for a minimum of two to three years as a police officer patrolling the streets in a particular beat before applying for open detective positions with your organization or nearby police departments. Time spent working on patrol in specific beats gives you experience handling a variety of different situations and dealing with people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Apply for investigator or detective positions in areas other than homicide such as robbery or narcotics. These departments or areas give you experience with investigations of crimes that aren't as serious or are less important than homicide.
Attend extra training opportunities. When given the chance, participate in any additional law enforcement training or educational opportunities that exist, especially if they are in the area of homicide. Volunteer to work extra hours to help out with a major homicide case if your police department is in need of extra manpower to help catch the killer. Solve as many of your cases as possible to receive high accolades and get noticed by your superiors. This increases your chances of getting promoted to the position of homicide detective if an opening exists in your police force or additional manpower is needed in this niche.
Apply for open homicide detective positions. Keep current with the latest job opportunities available in your police force, and take notice when an open position occurs in the homicide division. Since homicide is often viewed as the top division in a police force, openings generally don't occur unless an officer retires, dies or moves away. Check periodically with police departments in your surrounding area or state to learn if any openings exist with them for homicide detectives. Submit an application to be considered for the job once you find an open position in homicide. Make sure you list references on your application that can speak to your work experience, personal character and ability to be a good homicide detective. Interview for the job, and once accepted, begin working as a homicide detective.
Tips & Warnings
If you want to work in homicide, make sure first that you have the stomach to handle crime scenes. These can be extremely disturbing since they involve blood, dead bodies and horrific crimes committed against both adults and children. As a homicide detective you should be capable of viewing these crime scenes and discussing the crimes with distraught family members and loved ones without it affecting your professional demeanor.
Make sure that as a police officer you follow official police protocol when interviewing suspects and witnesses, investigating crime scenes, obtaining evidence and making arrests. This is important since a defense attorney can have a criminal released from jail even if they are guilty if a police officer didn't follow protocol or broke the law during the course of the investigation or arrest. Police departments will overlook you for open homicide positions if you don't follow protocol since they can't afford to have convictions for murder overturned because you made a mistake.