Police Officer Career
Police officers serve their communities by protecting property and people. Job responsibilities vary by function and employer, but law enforcement officers typically respond to emergency and nonemergency calls, keeping detailed incident records. Daily activities may also include testifying in court, collecting criminal evidence, and arresting suspects.
police officer career
Various police officer jobs exist, including detective and criminal investigator, fish and game warden, and transit and railroad police officer. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of law enforcement officials to grow as quickly as other occupations, at a rate of 5% from 2018-2028. Police officers and detectives also receive above-average earnings, taking home a median annual salary of $65,170 in 2019, according to the BLS.
Police officers perform various duties, including keeping residents safe, maintaining detailed records, and testifying in court against criminal suspects. Common law enforcement duties also include patrolling assigned areas, conducting traffic stops, observing a suspect's activity, making arrests, and preparing cases.
Duties and daily tasks differ based on police officer type. Police officers and sheriff's patrol officers, the most common types of officer, wear uniforms and conduct regular patrols. They also make arrests, conduct searches, and look for signs of criminal activity in their communities.
Fish and game wardens, on the other hand, educate the public about laws, patrol hunting and fishing areas, and conduct search-and-rescue operations. Transit and railroad police protect train and railway passengers from crimes such as assaults and robberies. Sometimes called agents or detectives, criminal investigators gather facts and collect criminal evidence. Detectives usually specialize in a specific kind of crime, such as homicide or financial crimes.
Unlike other professionals, most police officers carry equipment for arrests and defense, such as guns or handcuffs. They regularly work scenes of crimes and accidents. Specific types of police officers -- such as those in the U.S. Secret Service or FBI -- may need to travel or relocate. Border agents and environmental police work outdoors in physically challenging terrains and weather.
Law enforcement careers usually require some on-the-job training. After graduating from the training academy, police officers usually undergo a probationary period under the supervision of a superior officer. During this probationary period, inexperienced police officers learn how to apply techniques in the real world.
After probation, officers qualify for promotion. To become a corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, or captain, applicants must pass a written exam in addition to on-the-job training. In large departments, candidates may qualify for detective positions or specific criminal fields, such as homicide or juvenile crime.
Students can also acquire on-the-job training while pursuing a criminal justice degree. Many colleges and universities offer (and sometimes require) internships for law enforcement students. Learners can also apply for internships at local police departments, giving students the chance to network with veteran police officers and gain first-hand experience in protecting local communities.
Additional skills, such as physical strength and stamina, can help candidates meet police officer requirements. To keep up with daily job requirements, apprehend suspects, and pass required physical tests for entry into the field, officers and detectives must maintain good physical shape and demonstrate strength. Employers see prior military or security experience as a plus, since these candidates undergo previous physical and firearm training.
Moreover, police officers must possess good written and oral communication skills to effectively give detailed incident reports and speak with the public during fact-gathering. Law enforcement agents may also speak with suspects who communicate in other languages. To help diverse communities, officers should understand many different perspectives and display empathy. Law enforcement agents must also practice good judgment by determining the most effective way to solve problems.
Officers holding higher positions, such as detectives and fish and game wardens, may need critical thinking skills and perception to determine in advance why suspects act in certain ways. Since the public looks to officers for assistance in emergency situations, these professionals become highly visible community members. In their public roles, officers often serve as role models and must possess leadership skills.
Police officer salaries vary depending on many factors, including job type, location, and additional compensation and benefits. Some police departments even offer higher pay for officers with college degrees and who speak multiple languages.
According to the BLS, the lowest-paid police officers earned less than $37,710, while the highest-paid officers earned an annual salary exceeding $109,620 as of 2019. Police officers often earn additional pay through overtime and special assignments.
In this field, individuals can increase their salaries through education and job experience. According to the BLS, detectives and federal agents earn the most of all police officers, taking home a median annual salary of $83,170 as of 2019. Aspiring federal police officers and detectives typically must possess a college degree and prior job experience.
As the need for public safety continues, the BLS projects employment for police to grow on pace with other occupations. Demand for police officers varies by location and depending on state and local budgets. Due to low job turnover, police candidates may face competition. Candidates with college degrees, law enforcement or military experience, and knowledge of other languages may stand out among job applicants.
Police and detective work can be physically demanding, stressful, and dangerous. Police and sheriff's patrol officers and transit and railroad police have some of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Working around the clock in shifts is common.
Despite limited employment growth, about 68,500 openings for police and detectives are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Job duties differ by employer and function, but police and detectives are required by law to write detailed reports and keep meticulous records. Most carry law enforcement equipment such as radios, handcuffs, and guns.
Detectives and criminal investigators are uniformed or plainclothes officers who gather facts and collect evidence related to criminal cases. They conduct interviews, examine records, monitor suspects, and participate in raids and arrests. Detectives typically investigate serious crimes, such as assaults, robberies, and homicides. In large police departments, detectives usually specialize in investigating one type of crime, such as homicide or fraud. They are typically assigned cases on a rotating basis and work on them until an arrest and trial are completed or until the case is dropped.
Some police officers work only on a specific type of crime, such as narcotics. Officers, especially those working in large departments, may work in special units, such as mounted (horseback), motorcycle, or special weapons and tactics (SWAT). Typically, officers must work as patrol officers for a certain number of years before they are appointed to a special unit.
Transit and railroad police patrol train yards and transportation hubs, such as subway stations. They protect property, employees, and passengers from crimes such as thefts and robberies. They remove trespassers from railroad and transit properties and check IDs of people who try to enter secure areas.
Police and detective work can be physically demanding, stressful, and dangerous. Officers must be alert and ready to react throughout their entire shift. Officers regularly work at crime and accident scenes and encounter suffering and the results of violence. Although a career in law enforcement may be stressful, many officers find it rewarding to help members of their communities.
Some federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Secret Service, require extensive travel, often on short notice. These agents may relocate a number of times over the course of their careers. Other agencies, such as U.S. Border Patrol, may require work outdoors in rugged terrain and in all kinds of weather.
Police and sheriff's patrol officers and transit and railroad police have some of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. They may face physical injuries during conflicts with criminals and other high-risk situations.
Police and detective applicants must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent, although some federal agencies and police departments may require that applicants have completed college coursework or a college degree. Many community colleges and 4-year colleges and universities offer programs in law enforcement and criminal justice. Knowledge of a foreign language is an asset in many federal agencies and geographical regions.
Many applicants for entry-level police jobs have completed some college coursework, and a significant number are college graduates. Common fields of degree include security and protective service and social science.
Candidates for law enforcement appointment usually attend a training academy before becoming an officer. Training includes classroom instruction in state and local laws and constitutional law, civil rights, and police ethics. Recruits also receive training and supervised experience in subjects such as patrol, traffic control, firearm use, self-defense, first aid, and emergency response.
Some police departments have cadet programs for people interested in a career in law enforcement who do not yet meet age requirements for becoming an officer. These cadets do clerical work and attend classes until they reach the minimum age requirement and can apply for a position with the regular force. Military or police experience may be considered beneficial for prospective cadets. 041b061a72