Homicide detectives help communities to become safer and more secure by finding the evidence to apprehend murderers. A college degree is not required to enter this profession, but some college or an associate's or bachelor's degree is highly preferred, and high school students can take certain courses that will better prepare them to be detectives. Keep in mind that in order to become a police detective, you must first pass an academic test to enter the police academy, and then you must be promoted from the rank of police officer.
English and Social Science
Homicide detectives have to communicate with lawyers, judges, reporters, community leaders, crime witnesses from many different backgrounds, criminal suspects, and the families of homicide victims on a regular basis. This requires excellent communication skills. Additionally, detectives must regularly write detailed reports that are used as evidence in court and must often testify in courtroom trials, some of which are televised. For this reason, the entrance exam to be a police officer has a heavy emphasis on writing. To be prepared, aspiring detectives should take eight semesters or more of English, including a course focused solely on writing and a course focused solely on speech.
Many social factors, such as family dysfunction, social and political conflicts, and economics can influence homicide, so aspiring detectives should take as many social science courses as they can in order to understand the forces that surround murder. Psychology, which is the study of the mind, and sociology, the study of social groups, will be especially useful, as will history courses.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the ability to speak a foreign language is highly desired in police officer candidates, because the United States has a diverse ethnic demographic and many witnesses may not speak English. Spanish is spoken five times more often than any other foreign language in the United States and is most desired as a second language. Other key languages are Chinese, Portuguese, and Russian, but these are far less needed than Spanish. Typically, it takes about eight semesters of study to achieve basic conversational ability in a foreign language.
Math and Science
It’s advisable to take four years of math in high school, plus an extra elective in math if possible. Mathematical courses like algebra and calculus help police officers to understand the relationship between unknown variables and a system, and how unknown variables change over time. These courses can help detectives develop the kind of sharp reasoning that can be helpful in gauging the situation surrounding a murder. Statistics helps detectives assess and make predictions about large volumes of data, such as facts about likely crime victims. Geometry can help future detectives better understand the spaces and tools involved in a homicide, while accounting helps detectives make sense of a suspect’s or a victim’s financial files.
Future homicide detectives should also take six to eight semesters of science. They will be regularly working with forensic scientists to examine and understand evidence from murder scenes. Homicides usually involve much biological and chemical evidence from the suspect, the weapon, and the victim, so detectives should study biology and chemistry. Physics is the study of the interaction between energy and matter and helps detectives understand the motions involved in a murder, such as the breaking of a window or the direction of a bullet.
Physical Education and Electives
In addition to working with forensic scientists, homicide detectives often work with cyber security specialists to view the electronic data stored on a suspect or victim’s computer or phone. Therefore, future detectives should take two to three semesters of computer science.
Finally, working as a homicide detective occasionally requires you to run, tackle, and have physical confrontations with potentially dangerous individuals. You will be required to pass a physical fitness test in order enter the police academy. Therefore, while a high school student, participate in physical education classes, take health when it is available, and if possible, play in extracurricular sports.
- Southern State Community College: What Is Calculus?
- American Statistical Association: What Is Statistics?
- Physics.org: What Is Physics?
- University College of Cork: What Is Chemistry?
- BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook: Police and Detectives
- Weber State Law Enforcement Academy: “Do I qualify to get in the academy?” Admission Requirements
- St. Louis County Missouri Law and Public Safety: Police Basic Training Admissions Information