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Police Officer and Detective


This career is expected to grow 10 percent—about the same as the national average—through 2018. An increased national interest in security issues will fuel the growth. Opportunities will grow fastest (at a rate of about 17 percent between now and 2018) for detectives and criminal investigators.


In 2008, police and sheriff’s patrol officers earned an average salary of $51,410. Police and detective supervisors earned an average salary of $75,490. Detectives and criminal investigators earned an average of $60,910. Police and detectives often earn more than their base salaries because of payments for overtime.


Police officers and detectives protect people’s lives and property. They pursue and apprehend individuals who break the law. They also spend time writing reports and maintaining records. Most police officers patrol their jurisdictions and investigate any suspicious activity they notice. Detectives perform investigative duties such as gathering facts and collecting evidence.
Some job roles include: uniformed police officers, who maintain regular patrols and respond to calls for service; sheriffs and deputy sheriffs, who enforce the law on the county level; state troopers or highway patrol officers, who arrest criminals statewide and patrol highways; and a wide variety of federal employees, who work in agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Border Patrol or the Secret Service.


Applicants must hold at least a high school education. Many departments now require one to two years of college coursework in criminal justice or an associate degree. In many cases, a bachelor’s degree will be required.
To be considered for appointment as an FBI agent, an applicant must be a college graduate and have at least three years of professional work experience, or have an advanced master’s degree plus two years of professional work experience. Most federal law enforcement agencies require either a bachelor’s degree or related work experience or two.
Entering the Field:
If you’re looking for a job in local or state law enforcement, you will fare best if you have military experience coupled with at least an associate degree in law enforcement, criminal justice, psychology or police forensics. If you’re seeking a job in a federal agency, you will almost certainly need a bachelor’s degree along with several years of on-the-job law enforcement or military experience.
Career Changers:
Because many federal agencies, like the FBI, value additional skills and experiences—such as knowledge of a foreign language, law, or outside work experience—coming from another career field will give you an advantage over entry-level applicants, provided you’re qualified educationally. Those with military backgrounds make ideal candidates for homeland security, immigration and related government security positions. Applicants with at least a bachelor’s degree in human services, public administration, criminal justice, criminology, law, legal studies, sociology, counseling, law enforcement, paralegal studies, justice administration and management, forensics, and the general social sciences will receive the best job offers and salary grades.

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