In order to become a homicide detective, you'll first need to train in the police academy and will most likely spend some time as a police officer before being promoted to detective rank. While not all police departments require post-high school education, some do -- New York City and Arlington County, Virginia, are two police departments requiring at least 60 college credits in lieu of military or prior police service. No specific degree requirements are called for, but certain types of courses will be beneficial to you in your career as a homicide detective.
Courses in criminal justice will give you a good grounding in police work as well as introducing you to the other branches of the criminal justice system such as the court and corrections systems. The courses you'll take in criminal law will serve you well as a homicide detective, as you'll need to be sure that the evidence you so painstakingly piece together will stand up in court. Coursework in applied research and statistics will help you sharpen those analytic skills that every good detective needs.
Psychology and Social Sciences
Classes in social sciences and psychology may be covered in a criminal justice program, but additional coursework in such areas as behavioral sciences, deviant personality disorders and abnormal psychology may be beneficial since these subjects can help you understand what types of people are driven to commit murder, and what circumstances may lead to this type of activity. An understanding of the way people think and act in society will also help you determine effective ways to interview witnesses and interrogate homicide suspects.
As a homicide detective, you'll need to gather information from a wide variety of people, and some of these people may not speak English as a first language -- or at all. While many police departments have translators on staff, police personnel consider foreign language skills a valuable asset. The language you should study depends on the area in which you plan to work. Spanish is a top choice in many metropolitan areas, but other areas have more specialized needs: St. Paul, Minnesota, has a large population of Hmong speakers; the Chicago Police Department has need of Polish speakers, and the NYPD has a list of "critical languages," which includes Hindi, Indonesian, Dutch, Yiddish and Turkish.
A high degree of physical fitness is expected of all police officers, including detectives. In fact, several of the top finishers in the 2013 National LawFit Challenge held detective rank. In order to get through the police academy, which is the first step toward becoming a homicide detective, you'll need to pass a physical fitness test, which may include such activities as sit-ups, push-ups and running. Taking courses in physical education will help prepare you for this and allow you to establish the habit of maintaining a healthy, fit lifestyle that will sustain you throughout your career.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: How to Become a Police Officer or Detective
- City of Los Angeles Personnel Department, The Los Angeles Police Department: The LAPD Career Ladder
- City of Los Angeles Personnel Department, The Los Angeles Police Department: Qualifications
- City of New York Police Department: FAQ
- Arlington County Police Careers: Minimum Qualification Requirements
- Criminal Justice Programs: Bachelor Degree in Criminal Justice Programs
- Wheaton Quarterly: Putting Forensic Psychology to Use as a Police Officer
- Military.com: Wanted in Law Enforcement: Foreign-Language Skills
- The Roanoke Times: Roanoke Police Officer Sets Fitness Standard
- Eastern Michigan University: Physical Fitness and Law Enforcement
- Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images