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What to study in high school if you want to become a detective

If you dream of working as a homicide detective or PI, here’s how to prepare

Police detectives and private investigators are often portrayed in movies and TV as brave, brilliant and determined. While day to day life doing detective work is likely not as glamorous as what you’ll see on screens, detectives do tend to be highly perceptive, intelligent, and committed to serving justice.

Detectives also need to be emotionally stable and able to work in high-pressure situations. Working well with a team is an absolute must. If you’re detail-oriented, love research and solving puzzles, you might make a great detective.

In addition to personal qualities, detectives need a strong grasp of science, math, sociology and more. Our online curriculum includes all the classes you’ll need to take in high school to prepare for higher education and eventual career as a detective.

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High school classes for homicide detective

Recommended high school subjects & classes for detectives

Being a good detective requires a strong background in multiple subjects. Here are the high school courses you should take now to prepare for a career as a detective:


Homicide detectives must have excellent communication skills, and must be able to communicate effectively with different types of people (criminal suspects, witnesses, families of the victim, reporters, lawyers, the list goes on). Homicide detectives will also testify in court on a regular basis.

Homicide detectives need strong writing skills for highly detailed reports, which can also be used as evidence in court. To be ready, start now by taking an online Composition course and a Communication course, along with your required high school English classes.

All High School English Courses

Social Studies

Murder doesn’t happen in a vacuum – there are myriad social factors involved. It’s crucial to have an understanding of the social, political and cultural influences at work, to get a clear picture of the murderer’s motivation.

PsychologySocial Issues and Criminal Law are all great elective options for future detectives. Required high school history classes are also a great way to increase your understanding of the world and human behavior.

All High School Social Studies Courses

Foreign Language

Not all crime victims or witnesses speak English, and speaking a second language is an in-demand skill for any police officer, not just detectives. In the U.S., Spanish is the most widely spoken language after English and is the most desired second language for homicide detectives. We offer online Spanish 1, 2, 3 & 4 as well as AP Spanish.

Depending on the demographics of the region where you plan to have your career, you may want to start learning Mandarin Chinese, Russian or Portuguese.

All High School Foreign Language Courses


Math isn’t just about crunching numbers – it’s about developing an understanding of how unknown variables relate to a system and change over time. Having a strong grasp of shape, dimension and spatial relationships helps detectives analyze a crime scene and any tools used. You should take Algebra 1Algebra 2 and Geometry in high school, and more math classes (like pre-calc & trig) if possible.

Calculus and Statistics are also recommended – you can take them in college or take our online AP math classes and earn college credit while while still in high school.

All High School Math Courses


Homicide detectives work closely with forensic scientists, making detailed examination of all crime scene evidence. In a homicide the evidence often includes BiologyChemistry and Physics, so it’s important to have a solid understanding of all three branches of science.

Classes like Forensic Science and Anatomy & Physiology would also be great high school classes for future detectives to take.

All High School Science Courses

Information Technology

Homicide detectives need to work with cyber security specialists to access and analyze data from a smartphone or computer belonging to a victim or suspect. At minimum detectives need a basic understanding of Computer Applications. Further study in Digital Imaging or AP Computer Science Principles will introduce you to the workings of the internet, computational thinking and the most common types of software.

All High School IT Courses

Health & P.E.

Your first step on the path to becoming a homicide detective (after earning your high school diploma) is passing the tests to enter a police academy, including a physical fitness test. As a detective you may also need to run, jump, tackle or otherwise apprehend a suspect, which can be dangerous. Getting and staying in shape in high school is a great foundation for becoming a detective and maintaining your health for your whole life.

All High School Health Courses

How do I become a homicide detective?

Required high school courses to become a police detective or private investigator

Online classes foster self-reliance & problem solving, skills you'll need as a detective.

First you have to pass the entrance exam to a police academy, graduate and work as a police officer. Then you have the possibility of being promoted to detective.

Technically you don’t need a college degree to be a detective, but most agencies strongly prefer detective candidates have a 2 or 4-year degree.

Planning on higher education? Find out which classes are recommended based on the college you plan on attending.

Can you become a detective without being a police officer?

If you want to be a police detective, you’ll need to start out as a police officer and work your way up. If you don’t want to do it that way, you can become a private investigator instead. You’ll need a license to operate as a P.I., but you won’t have to be a police officer first.

eAchieve Academy has the resources to help you prepare now for your dream career, whether it’s in civil service or the private sector:

How eAchieve can help you work towards becoming a detective

We have a huge range of online high school courses and electives, all accredited and taught by Wisconsin state certified instructors. You can enroll with our online academy full-time, or stay at your current school (or homeschool) and just take one or two online classes with part-time enrollment.

Each student gets a personalized lesson plan for every class, and you’re free to study at your own pace. Ask questions by phone or email and/or attend optional weekly live eSessions to meet other students. Best of all, our online courses are tuition-free for Wisconsin high school students (out of state students can enroll with paid tuition).

Learn more about how online high school works or reach out to our staff with any questions about enrollment.
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