Police Officers / Law Enforcement Career Guide

Police Officer / Law Enforcement Quick Links

  1. Police Officer Job Description
  2. Points to Consider
  3. Police Officer Careers
  4. Police Officer Job Requirements
  5. Police Officer Education
  6. Police Officer Salary
  7. Police Officer Videos
  8. Famous Police Officers
  9. Police Officer Schools

Police Officers on a Beat

Police Officers on the Job

Police Officer Job Description

Police Officers and Detectives enforce the law and protect and serve the community in a variety of ways, including preventing crime through education and physical presence, collecting evidence and apprehending law breakers, testifying in court, monitoring and directing traffic, giving out parking and traffic tickets, and responding to calls for service. Police officers and detectives spend considerable time writing reports, and maintaining records. Most police officers wear uniforms, but detectives may wear plain clothes. Although detectives may be part of a police force, detectives may have different duties than a police officer and often specialize in a specific area such as investigative work. Police officers and detectives may work with an assigned partner, or they may work with dogs that are specially trained to sniff out drugs or cadavers. Police officers and detectives are highly mobile, working on foot or riding cars, bikes, motorcycles, boats, and horses. A police officer or detective can expect to work at least a full 40 hour week, but also need to be available outside the normal work week and are usually paid for the extra hours.

Points to Consider

  • The job of a police officer or detective can be dangerous, physically demanding, and stressful.
  • Most police officers and detectives carry guns, and are trained to use them in special circumstances.
  • Police officers may retire at half-pay after 20-30 years of service.
  • Police officers and detectives must be U.S. Citizens at least 21 years of age and be of sound mind and body.
  • Advancement or promotion to corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, and captain are available after a period of exemplary job performance.

Specialized Police Officer Careers

  • Police Officers can specialize in areas such as forensics, training or firearm instruction, and special units such as special weapons and tactics (SWAT) or canine corp. They can also pursue management by becoming a police chief.
  • Detectives usually specialize in investigating a specific type of violation such as homicide or fraud. They will work an assigned case until the case is either solved or dropped.
  • Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs serve at the county level. Sheriffsare elected to their posts and serve at the county level. Their duties are similar to that of a police chief only a Sherriff’s department tends to be smaller.
  • State Police Officers often called state troopers or highway patrol officers, patrol highways to enforce motor vehicle laws and regulations. They perform many of the same duties as that of a police officer.
  • Fish and Game Wardens enforce laws relating to fishing, boating, and hunting. They patrol hunting and fishing areas and investigate suspicious activity.

Police Officer Job Requirements

The education requirements to join the Police Academy vary widely by state and municipality. Most require that you have a high school diploma and a college degree. 90% of police departments require that applicants must have an adequate education and graduate from that department's training program. Applications must also be US Citizens and be 21 years of age. Many of these programs have rigourous physical components, so it will pay to be in good shape before applying.

Police Officer Education

A high school diploma is sometimes the only education requirement, but a college degree or higher is often required, and applicants with college training in a field such as criminal justice, or who have military experience have a better chance of finding a job. Knowledge of a foreign language is also an asset. Often agencies may provide tuition reimbursement and then pay higher salaries to those who earn a degree towards fields such as criminal justice. Regardless of education, most police officers and detectives usually have extensive training in a police academy. This training includes instruction on local and state laws, firearm training, first aid, and self-defense. After training, police officers and detectives must pass rigorous physical qualifications that test attributes such as strength and agility. Police officers and detectives must also have a clean background and pass psychiatrist or psychologist interviews.

Police Officer Salary

Wages vary greatly by specialty, location, and agency, but the average yearly wage is $52,810. Total earnings frequently exceed this mark due to overtime payments.

Police Officer Video


Famous Police Officers

  • E Franceso Vincent Serpico is a retired American New York City Police officer who testified against police corruption in 1971. He had a movie made after him in 1973 entitled Serpico which starred Al Pacino.
  • John Edwin Bunnell is a former Sheriff of Multnomah County, Oregon, and is best known for hosting World’s Wildest Police Videos between 1998 and 2002.

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