U.S. citizens depend on police officers and other law enforcement professionals to protect their lives and property. Although careers in law enforcement are frequently stressful and sometimes dangerous, law enforcement officers and agents are typically motivated by a desire to apprehend criminals and to benefit society and their communities.
College Degrees and/or Military Experience Desired by Law Enforcement Agencies
Most law enforcement officers work a forty-hour week, although unusual hours and frequent relocation are common as required by work assignments and to maintain public safety. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes the following trends for employment in law enforcement:
- Candidates with college training in police science and/or military experience are expected to enjoy the best employment prospects
- Local police departments offer excellent prospects for those qualified, while positions in large cities, state, and federal agencies are generally recruited from large pools of candidates
- Although educational requirements can vary from a high school diploma to graduate degrees from criminal justice programs, achieving higher educational levels can help you land the law enforcement job you want.
Education and career training for law enforcement jobs typically include a combination of formal education, military or other related work experience, and internal training provided by the hiring agency. In addition to career training, law enforcement officers and agents can expect to undergo rigorous physical and psychological training and to serve a probationary employment period. Ongoing career training may be required to learn new policies and procedures. Law enforcement officers who want to advance to careers as detectives, state and federal investigators, and homeland security experts may need graduate degrees in criminal justice, public administration, psychology, or related fields as required by job duties and hiring agencies. Many law enforcement agencies offer tuition assistance for employees seeking advancement.
Law Enforcement Provides Wide Range of Career Options
Depending on hiring needs and your qualifications, you can work as a local beat cop or an international security expert. Hiring is often subject to municipal, state, and federal budgets but law enforcement programs often receive priority for funding depending on available resources. Employment opportunities in law enforcement include:
- Local and state law enforcement agencies (uniformed police officers and detectives)
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
- U.S. Marshals and Deputy Marshals
- State Bureau of Diplomatic Security
- Department of Homeland Security
- Customs Inspectors /Border Patrol
- U.S. Secret Service
If you're interested in a law enforcement career, it's possible to direct your interests and experience toward specialized career opportunities.
Job Outlook is Excellent in Law Enforcement
Job descriptions and salaries in law enforcement vary widely depending on job requirements. Overall, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects excellent employment opportunities for those meeting psychological, physical, educational, and ethical requirements for employment in law enforcement.
Law enforcement salaries range from approximately $27,000 to $131,000 per year not including incentives such as availability pay (depending on your training), location, and rank. Law enforcement agents working for state and federal agencies may enjoy additional benefits. Layoffs are rare as consistent retirement rates among law enforcement personnel typically meet any mandated staff reductions.