Firefighters, police officers and other law enforcement professionals play a huge role in keeping society safe. These careers can be a great option for anyone looking to serve the public in a job that keeps you on your toes.

Law Enforcement

According to FBI crime statistics, more than 1.1 million violent crimes occurred nationwide in 2013. That rate equates to one instance of violent crime happening every 27.1 seconds. The FBI's crime clock reveals multiple offenses transpire every second, every minute of each day:

  • Burglary: 16.4 seconds
  • Vehicle theft: 45.1 seconds
  • Robbery: 1.5 minutes
  • Murder: 37 minutes

Like crime, fires also occur every single day, challenging firefighters on a daily basis. Data from the National Fire Experience Survey shows there were more than 1.2 million fires in the US in 2013, affecting highway vehicles (164,000), structures (487,500), outdoor sites (67,000) and more.

Finally, more nearly 1.6 million individuals were imprisoned in state and federal prisons in 2013, with states admitting 9,000 more prisoners in 2013 than were released from correctional facilities.

These statistics are vital to understanding the important role protective service occupations play in today's society. Protective services is an umbrella term for careers that cover several areas, including law enforcement; corrections; the local, state and federal court systems; security services; firefighting and more. Individuals serving in these roles are responsible for protecting society at-large, keeping it safe from criminal behaviors and public safety hazards.

More than 3.25 million individuals were employed in protective services professions in 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In particular, law enforcement is a growing industry with multiple career avenues, which is good news if you are considering pursuing employment in the field of legal careers.

The law enforcement field

Broadly speaking, protective services includes two related branches of law enforcement — criminal justice and public services. On the one hand, criminal justice typically deals with investigative-focused careers, such as forensic science, arson investigators, detectives and more. On the other, public services include service-oriented occupations, including police officers, firefighters, correctional officers and more.

If you are wondering if you have what it takes to become a police officer, bailiff, sheriff patrol officer, security guard or other protective service worker, then you should consider if you have the basic skill sets that translate into these types of vocations.

A review of data for law enforcement careers from O*NET — an occupational database from the BLS — revealed these careers shared common skills and abilities.

  • Active listening. Ability to provide full attention to others, ask relevant questions and not interrupt at incorrect moments.
  • Coordination. Ability to adjust to the actions of others in an appropriate and timely manner.
  • Social perceptiveness. Ability to understand one's environment and be aware of the actions of others.
  • Speaking. Ability to convey thoughts accurately, effectively and efficiently.
  • Critical thinking. Ability to identify problems and use reasoning to create solutions or approaches to tackle those problems.
  • Persuasion. Ability to change the thinking or behaviors of others.
  • Negotiation. Ability to collaborate and bring people together in order to solve differences.
  • Judgment and decision making. Ability to consider the costs and benefits of a single or multiple potential actions, prior to taking a course of action.
  • Service orientation. Ability to actively care for or be concerned for the welfare of others.

If you are well-versed in these types of personal qualities, then you could be well-suited for a career in law enforcement; at which point we have great online schools for law enforcement for you.

Law enforcement careers

Because of the breadth of the law enforcement industry, you have several potential career avenues to consider, from corrections to policing, firefighting to transportation services. Based solely on total national employment figures from the BLS, the five most common law enforcement occupations include security guards, police and sheriff's patrol officers, correctional officers and jailers, firefighters and police supervisors.

Below is a list of 10 examples of law enforcement careers, including two nationwide statistics: projected job growth and the average salary in 2013, as reported by the BLS. Keep in mind that these are just examples of professions in the field, and there are far more than 10 types of opportunities to seek work in law enforcement.

  1. Security guards: 12.1% growth, $27,550 average salary
  2. Private detectives and investigators: 11.2% growth, $53,890 average salary
  3. Gaming surveillance officers: 7.0% growth, $31,970 average salary
  4. Firefighters: 6.6% growth, $48,270 average salary
  5. Fire inspectors and investigators: 6.2% growth, $58,100 average salary
  6. Police and sheriff's patrol officers: 5.9% growth, $58,720 average salary
  7. Transportation security screeners: 5.9% growth, $37,400 average salary
  8. Bailiffs: 5.3% growth, $40,620 average salary
  9. Correctional officers and jailers: 4.9% growth, $44,350 average salary
  10. Transit and railroad police: 3.4% growth, $58,200 average salary

Working with past offenders and helping them turn their lives around might be challenging at times, but it's also hugely rewarding. Learn how to become a probation officer, and find out if this caring career is a good fit for you.

Firefighters are responsible for fighting fires, responding to emergencies and educating the public. It's a great career for anyone looking for an adventurous, interesting job focused squarely on helping people.


Educational tracks for law enforcement careers

There are several educational options for students considering law enforcement careers, including associate and bachelor's degree programs. Criminal justice is one of the most common degree paths, serving as a general course of study that typically allows students to specialize in areas such as corrections or law enforcement.

Additionally, some schools and universities may offer either associate or bachelor's degrees in specific protective service occupational fields, such as:

  • Law Enforcement Administration
  • Law Enforcement
  • Correctional Management

If you're ready to pursue a career in law enforcement, be sure to review your educational opportunities and how they could impact future career decisions as some employers may require advanced degrees, certifications or training for employment.


Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves. What is equally true is that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on.

-Robert Kennedy


1. "Prisoners in 2013," E. Ann Carson, U.S. Department of Justice, Sept. 30, 2014, http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/p13.pdf
2. Crime in the United States 2013, Federal Bureau of Investigation, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/browse-by/national-data
3. 2013 Number of Fires by Type of Fire, National Fire Protection Association, http://www.nfpa.org/research/reports-and-statistics/fires-in-the-us/overall-fire-problem/number-of-fires-by-type-of-fire
4. Summary Report for Correctional Officers and Jailers, Occupational Information Network, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/33-3012.00
5. Summary Report for Police Patrol Officers, Occupational Informational Network, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/33-3051.01#Skills
6. Occupational Employment and Wages 2013, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes
7. "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh
8. Robert Kennedy. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved April 2, 2015, from BrainyQuote.com Web site: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/r/robertkenn400860.html