- On average, police officers make around $42,000 per year (and up to $80,000 per year).
- There will be good number of new job opportunities within local police agencies.
- Most police offers need post-secondary degrees.
What do police officers do?
If you don’t know what a police officer does by now, more power to you. Some of us aren’t quite as fortunate and became well acquainted with men in uniform as soon as we got behind the wheel of a car (friendly advice: speed limits aren’t just “guidelines”). For those law-abiding citizens out there, a police officer is responsible for maintaining order and upholding local or state laws.
There are lots of different kinds of police officers, but for the purposes of this job description we’re going to stick to uniformed police officers. These law enforcers maintain regular patrols and respond to 911 calls (my bad on the loud music, Officer, won’t happen again). It’s a lot like the show COPS, but not as exciting, because you actually have to figure out what to do with the drunk, shirtless guy who can’t walk straight.
Most police agencies are split up into geographic areas called districts or precincts. Officers of a precinct will be assigned a specific area to patrol so that they can get familiar with the neighborhood, and hopefully notice if something just doesn’t look right.
How much do police officers make?
Most uniformed police officers make between $40,000 and $65,000 (some earn up to $80,000 a year). Wage will vary with geographic area and tenure (the amount of time you’ve spent on the job). Another huge factor in earnings is education level. Officers with a bachelor’s degree start at a higher wage and earn more over their career.
What are the education requirements to be a police officer?
Most entry-level police officer positions will require one or two years of college coursework or, in many cases, a college degree. Having a background in criminal justice is ideal, but experience in physical education or athletics can also help, because police work requires stamina and fitness. Knowing Spanish or another language is also important, especially in diverse urban areas.
Lots of junior colleges, colleges, and universities offer programs in law enforcement or administration of justice. If you find yourself in a situation where you can secure a position early in your education, the local police department may subsidize all or part of your education expenses for the remainder of your coursework.
On-the-job training is almost always mandatory. This training is usually offered in a police academy (12- to 14-week programs), with classroom instruction in law and accident investigation. Recruits also receive practical experience in patrol, traffic control, use of firearms, self-defense, first aid, and emergency response.
Career paths for police officers
Getting promoted as a police officer is a pretty straightforward process. The levels (from least to most tenured) are: corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, deputy chief, and chief. Entry-level salaries for a police chief range from $90,000 to $115,000 per year. While a bachelor’s degree isn’t required to become a police officer, to get promoted to more senior positions, you’ll have to have at least a bachelor’s in criminal justice or related field (if not a master’s).
The future of police officer jobs
According to the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), job opportunities for police officers are growing at an average pace. Older officers retiring and population growth are the two biggest contributors to employment growth over the next 10 years. Local jurisdictions typically pay lower salaries, but they are easier to get and offer a more positions for officers willing to work their way up.