Pay Scale for a Homicide Detective

by Brenda Scottsdale

Homicide detectives use their analytic skills to solve real-life murder mysteries. Most detectives work full-time jobs with health and vacation benefits and are eligible for overtime. Because crime never sleeps, homicide detectives can work all hours. You'll work your share of weekends, holidays and night shifts -- especially if you are new to the force,


As of 2013, the national average earnings for homicide detectives were $60,580 or $29.13 per hour, according to the Internet salary survey website Salary Expert. Salary Expert reports individual averages per city; in a random selection of five cities, average earnings at the 10th percentile included Dallas, $53,004; Fairbanks, Alaska, $40,238; Honolulu, Hawaii, $49,200; Miami, $50,009; and Walla Walla, Washington, $45,854. The average starting salary in these cities was $47,661 or $22.91 per hour. At the 90th percentile, the average salaries were Dallas, $88,380; Fairbanks, Alaska, $67,094; Honolulu, Hawaii, $82,039; Miami, $83,387; and Walla Walla, Washington, $75,457. The average salary at the 90th percentile in these cities was $79, 271 or $38.11 per hour.

Geographic Differences

In these five states, average earnings varied by as much as $8,689. States with the highest employment levels of detectives and criminal investigators, including homicide detectives, were Texas, California, New York, Florida and Arizona, while states with the highest concentration of jobs were District of Columbia, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Montana, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Top-paying states were District of Columbia, Alaska, New Jersey, California and Washington.

Job Outlook

The BLS classifies homicide detectives in its police and detective category. It estimates demand for this occupational group to rise by 7 percent through 2020, compared to 14 percent for all occupations. Given this forecast, there will be 3,500 new detectives and criminal investigators on the beat in 2020. Shrinking local law enforcement agencies is causing the competition for federal and state agencies and larger urban police departments to become fierce. Those with prior investigative experience will have a better chance of obtaining a position.


Most detectives have at least a high school education, according to the BLS. Due to the competitive nature of this occupation, many have earned their bachelor's degree in criminal justice or law enforcement. Speaking a foreign language gives you an edge when applying to federal agencies or urban departments. To become a homicide detective, you have to graduate from the police academy. After graduating from this rigorous training program, you must work in the field for several years before applying for a promotion to detective in the homicide division.

About the Author

Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites.

Photo Credits

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