Are you interested in making your community a better place to live? If so, a law enforcement career as a police officer may be a good fit for you.
Police officers may work at the local, state or federal level, and their jobs may vary depending upon their rank. The following are among the typical duties for police officers:
Patrolling a specific area to enforce laws, conduct traffic stops and respond to emergency and non-emergency calls, as needed.
Administrative tasks may include obtaining warrants, completing reports and preparing cases for trial.
Investigating criminal cases by collecting evidence, conducting interviews and observing suspects.
Some duties, such as investigating, are limited to officers who have risen in the ranks to become detectives. Other police officers may perform specialized duties as members of SWAT teams, canine corps or railroad police.
Regardless of the roles they fill, all police officers share a common goal of improving community safety and ensuring laws are enforced quickly and correctly.
How Much do Police Officers Make?
Many police officers make a nice living. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for police and sheriff's patrol officers in the United States as of May 2014 was $59,560, with the lowest-paid 10 percent earning an annual wage of $33,030 and the highest-paid 10 percent earning an annual wage of $92,450.
Industry can affect pay as a police officer. According to the BLS, the top-paying industries in America for police and sheriff's patrol officers as of May 2014 were:
- State government (OES Designation): $65,270 annual mean wage
- Local government (OES Designation): $59,430 annual mean wage
- Specialty (except psychiatric and substance abuse) hospitals: $55,730 annual mean wage
Location may also factor in to pay. According to the BLS, the top-paying American states for police and sheriff's patrol officers as of May 2014 were:
- New Jersey: $88,530 annual mean wage
- California: $87,520 annual mean wage
- Alaska: $75,670 annual mean wage
And the top-paying metropolitan areas in America for police and sheriff's patrol officers as of May 2014, according to the BLS, were:
- San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA Metropolitan Division: $101,400 annual mean wage
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: $99,700 annual mean wage
- Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, CA Metropolitan Division: $99,200 annual mean wage
Occupational Requirements and Job Types for Police Officers
Some police officer jobs may be open to those with only a high school diploma while other agencies may prefer to hire those with a degree in criminal justice or a related field.
In addition, most officers must graduate from a police training academy. Larger police departments may have their own training program while smaller police forces may send recruits to a regional or state academy. These programs typically include a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on experience, such as firearms training and first aid application. To graduate, students might have to pass both physical and written exams.
Specific requirements may depend on the type of job an individual plans to pursue. The following are a few of the common positions and jobs types pursued by police officers:
- Uniformed police officers
- State troopers or highway patrol officers
- Transit and railroad police
- Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs
- Detectives and criminal investigators
- Fish and game wardens
- Federal agents
Across all these job types, if they want to be successful, officers must have excellent leadership, communication and judgement skills as well as physical stamina and emotional stability.