Prospective homicide investigators must be prepared to work whenever they are called. Homicides take place at all times of the day and the night, which requires a homicide investigator to be on call and prepared to leave for the crime scene at a moment’s notice.
Homicide investigators should possess strong communication skills, the ability to remain objective, and should possess the patience and the empathy necessary to work through the often long and emotional process of a homicide investigation. Family and friends of the homicide victim, the general public, and the media will expect immediate resolution, which isn’t realistic.
Aspiring homicide detectives should be prepared to attend the police academy and to gain experience as a police officer, a crime scene investigator, or a sheriff’s deputy first. Police officers are generally promoted to the position of detective.
The minimum education requirements to become a homicide detective are a high school diploma, law enforcement certification, and experience as a sworn law enforcement officer. Many agencies, however, require that homicide detectives have at least a two or a four-year degree in criminal justice, forensic science, or a related field, and experience as a sworn law enforcement officer.
Homicide detectives are employed by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. Depending on the size and geographic location of the agency, the detective’s jurisdiction may cover the entire agency’s geographical jurisdiction or a sector of the area under that agency’s scope. The nature of the work can be very dangerous and stressful, so the detective must be mentally and physically prepared for the tasks performed.
Responsibilities of a homicide detective include gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, conducting background checks on victims and possible suspects, identifying the responsible party (or parties), preparing cases for court, and assisting in the successful prosecution of offenders. Working conditions vary greatly depending on the nature of the current investigation. A homicide detective must be prepared to work under any conditions.