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EXPLORE BECOMING POLICE OFFICER AS A CAREER
What do Police Officers do?  

Police and detectives enforce laws. They catch criminals. They collect evidence. At times they testify in court. Others patrol set areas to prevent crime. Some patrol and give out traffic tickets. Some police direct traffic. Most police wear uniforms. Detectives and special agents work in regular clothes. Most detectives are part of regular police forces. Special agents work for Federal and State agencies. They file reports about what they've done during the day.

Most police work on foot or ride in cars. Some, however, ride horses, bikes, or motorcycles. Some work in boats on rivers and in harbors. Some police work with dogs.

Most police and detectives work at least 40 hours a week. When they work longer, they get extra pay. Because police work is a 24-hour-a-day job, some police have to work nights and weekends. They have to be ready to go to work at all times. Police may work very long hours on a case. Some have to travel a lot, often on short notice.

Some police work outdoors in all kinds of weather. Some take very big risks when they chase criminals in cars or when they make an arrest. The job can be very stressful for the police officer. The officer's family may worry a lot. Good training, teamwork, and good equipment reduce the number of injuries and deaths among police officers.

How do you get ready to become a Police Officer?  

Most police officers must be U.S. citizens. They usually must be at least 20 years old. They must be healthy and strong and of good character. To get a job, a person must pass a written test, be at least a high school graduate, and have some work experience.

Some local, special, and State police units want recruits to have some college training. All Federal police agencies require a college degree. Many police units encourage new recruits to take college courses in police work.

How much do Police Officer get paid?  

The middle half of all police and sheriff's patrol officers earned between $32,300 and $53,500 a year in 2002. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $25,270. The highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $65,330 a year.

The middle half of all police and detective supervisors earned between $47,210 and $74,610 a year in 2002. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $36,340. The highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $90,070 a year.

The middle half of all detectives and criminal investigators earned between $39,010 and $65,980 a year in 2002. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $31,010. The highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $80,380 a year.

Police get paid for overtime. Police also receive paid vacation, sick leave, and medical and life insurance. Often they get money for uniforms. Many retire at half-pay after 20 or 25 years of service.

How many jobs are there?  

There were about 840,000 police and detectives in 2002. About 80 percent worked for local governments. They worked mainly in cities and towns with more than 25,000 people. The rest worked for State or Federal police agencies.

What about the future?  

Employment of police and detectives is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through 2012. This is because people are concerned about crime. Many people are attracted to police work because it is challenging. Persons with college training in police science or who have military experience, or both, should have the best chances for a job.

Are there other jobs like this?  

  • Construction and building inspectors
  • Correctional officers
  • Customs and immigration inspectors
  • Firefighting occupations (fire marshals)
  • Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians (health inspectors)
  • Private detectives and investigators
  • Security guards and gaming surveillance officers

Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics

Where can you find more information?  

For more comprehensive information on careers see the Careers Database.

 



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