Police officers
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Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers
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Overview
Police officers protect lives and property. Detectives and criminal investigators, who are sometimes called agents or special agents, gather facts and collect evidence of possible crimes.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for police and sheriff's patrol officers are expected to grow by 7%, and should have about 49,500 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Police and sheriff's patrol officers are less likely to be automated than 75% of other careers.
Workforce size
Police and sheriff's patrol officers, with 684,200 workers, form a larger workforce than 94% of careers.
Education
Only 37% of police officers have a bachelor's degree or higher.
Education attained by police officers
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with bachelor's degrees
More police officers have bachelor's degrees than 62% of other careeers.
Salaries
The median (middle) salary for police and sheriff's patrol officers is higher than 69% of all other jobs' middle salaries. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most police and sheriff's patrol officers.
This job's median $61KAll jobs' median $39K$61K$38K20142015201620172018$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median Salary
Gender
Women account for 14% of police officers -- that's a smaller percentage than 71% of other jobs.
Gender of police officers
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For police officers, the median men's salary was 16% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 19% of police officers are minority, and 5% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of police officers
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (5%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. The darker the blue, the higher the job density.
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
Job benefits
Employer or union-sponsored pension plans are offered to 77% of police officers, and 86% have company-sponsored health insurance (11% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for police officers
100% premiums covered
Partial premiums covered
Plan with no cost sharing
No health insurance
The downside
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of police and sheriff's patrol officers who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Deal With Unpleasant or Angry People (99%)
  • Responsible for Others' Health and Safety (91%)
  • Frequency of Conflict Situations (85%)
  • Time Pressure (79%)
  • Deal With Physically Aggressive People (78%)
  • Exposed to Hazardous Equipment (67%)
  • Consequence of Error (67%)
  • Exposed to Contaminants (63%)
  • Exposed to Disease or Infections (59%)
  • Exposed to Minor Burns, Cuts, Bites, or Stings (31%)
SOURCES:24.0 O*NET
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do police officers earn?

In this section, we want to give you a clear idea of what you can expect to earn in this career. We use two sources of data here: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which asks employers to classify their workforce and to report salaries using the SOC-specialty level of reporting, and the American Community Survey (ACS), which asks people to classify their jobs using the broad classifications that ididio uses for career profiles, and to self-report their salaries. For some jobs, the differences in survey approaches between BLS and ACS can paint a very different end-picture. In particular, the ACS data is reported for the larger career group police officers, which combines the data for 2 careers, including police and sheriff's patrol officers. Whenever possible, we provide data from both sources.

The BLS-compiled salary data is reported by companies for their employees. This data is classified by SOC specialty, and excludes self-employed workers. We first show the distribution of salaries for police and sheriff's patrol officers, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for police and sheriff's patrol officers compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for police and sheriff's patrol officers (BLS Salary Data)
$61K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$61K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
We compiled household data from the ACS to determine the salaries that people working at least 35 hours a week report themselves to earn. Unlike the BLS estimates, this data includes self-employed wages. Additionally, we only have ACS survey data for the larger career category and not for the specialty level. We first show the full salary distribution for all police officers, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for police officers compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for police officers (ACS Salary Data)
$62K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$62K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Employers and salary
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, and following we show the salary distributions for these workers based on those employer types. For some careers, the salaries can be vastly different between private, government, and self-employment. As with our salary overview, we view the both the BLS economists' salary profiles and the household-reported salaries from ACS to get a thorough understanding of where police and sheriff's patrol officers work and for what salary. We have the great faith in the accuracy of economist-vetted BLS data; however, the BLS restrictions on which employers are surveyed skews the data a bit (read more in the sources), and the ACS responses provide different and useful categorizations of employers and salaries.
Employers of Police officers (ACS)
Private for-profit (1.3%)
Private not-for-profit (0.4%)
Local government (68.3%)
State government (15.5%)
Federal government (14.5%)
Self-employed incorporated (0.0%)
Self-employed not incorporated (0.0%)
Working without pay (0.0%)
Distribution: Salaries of police officers by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses. These salaries were reported for the larger career group of police officers, which combines the 2 specialties for this career.
$62K$62K$60K$63K$46K$52K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000$120,000Federal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of police and sheriff's patrol officers by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS. Remember that the BLS salaries are for the specialty police and sheriff's patrol officers, and may differ signficantly from the ACS salary estimates which combine several career specialties.
$61K$54K$61K$54K$67K$0$20,000$40,000$60,000$80,000$100,000$120,000Federal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for police officers

The biggest take-away from the following two charts is the relationship between salary and experience that we can infer from age. Does this job seem to attract especially younger or older workers? Does it reward experience?

Take a minute a look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working in this career changes. We only provide this data when there are enough consistent ACS survey responses to allow a reasonable margin of error, so for some careers you will see gaps in our reporting of salary by age.

$59K$74K$75K$67K$73K$62K$64K$48K$32K$0$50K$100K$150KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
050K100K150KNumber employed20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Gender and Equity
Police officers and gender

With 14% women, this occupation has a lower percentage of women than 71% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
14%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Police officers
Men (86%)
Women (14%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

As we'll illustrate at the bottom of this section, the median salary for all full-time male workers in the US exceeds the full-time median salary for women by 20%. The situation is a little better for police officers, with the median salary for men 16% higher than the median salary for women. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

$54K$62K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KWomenMen
Context: Salary Inequity

Nationwide there are twenty careers for which men do not have a higher median (middle) salary than women. The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary, for most jobs. Police officers have one of the middle percentage increases for men's salary, with the increase for the men's median salary over the women's median salary in this job higher than that for 46% of other jobs.

16%0%20%40%60%80%100%

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Race/Origin
Race and origin of police officers

The representation of minority and foreign-born workers is quite different between careers, and the relative pay of those workers also varies significantly between careers. The percentage of minority police officers falls in about the middle of all careers' percentages. There is a smaller percentage of foreign-born workers in this career than in most other careers.

Race/origin of police officers
White (78% )
Black (12% )
Other (3% )
Multiracial (2% )
Asian (2% )
Hispanic (1% )
American Indian (1% )
Pacific Islander (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
19%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
5%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for police officers by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$46K$55K$58K$62K$62K$63K$65K$71K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KAmerican IndianBlackPacific IslanderMultiracialWhiteOtherHispanicAsian
Distribution: Salaries for police officers by nativity
$61K$68K$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120KAll native citizensAll foreign-born

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Pathways to this career
Education requirements and salary
Education attained by police and sheriff's patrol officers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), police and sheriff's patrol officers typically hold a high school diploma or equivalent.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as police officers as reported in responses to the American Community Survey. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for police officers.

Education attained by police officers
None
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Deg/Doct
Doctorate
Details: Education and training recommended for police and sheriff's patrol officers

Police and detective applicants must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent, although many federal agencies and some police departments require some college coursework or a college degree. Many community colleges, 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.

Fish and game wardens typically need a bachelor’s degree; desirable fields of study include wildlife science, biology, or natural resources management.

Federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation also typically require prospective detectives and investigators to have a bachelor's degree.

Many applicants for entry-level police jobs have taken some college classes, and a significant number are college graduates.

Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for police officers? Below we see the distribution of police officers salaries based on the education attained. These comparisons are based on all survey responses by those who identified themselves as police officers, and are not intended as a statistical analysis of salary differences that would correct for non-educational factors that could contribute to high or low earnings.

$47K$48K$57K$62K$68K$78K$87K$87K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KNone (1%)High School (13%)Some College (32%)Associate's Degree (17%)Bachelor's Degree (31%)Master's Degree (5%)Professional Deg/Doct (1%)Doctorate (0%)
Bachelor's degree pathways
College majors held by police officers

This table shows the college majors held by people working as police officers. Select any degree to see detailed information. We are able to connect careers to degrees using the American Community Survey (ACS), and their degrees are defined a little differently from our programs, which are based on standard CIP classifications. Therefore, selecting some degrees will lead to a selection of CIP-level programs from which to choose.

If you see "**" before the name of a degree/program, that means this field is one that the Department of Education believes is preparatory for this career. However, you can see from this list that those recommendations are far from your only path to this job!

Degree
Select any title to learn more about that degree
Percentage of Police officers with this degree
Salary for all majors
Salary distribution (across jobs). Showing 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
Final education level of all people with this major
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Gender of people this bachelor's degree
Men
Women
The link between degrees and careers
The link between degrees and careers

With the following "sankey" diagram, you can follow the top ten bachelor's degrees held by people working as police officers, and then, in turn, you can see the 10 occupations that hire the most of each degree's graduates. This visualization links fields of studies and careers, suggesting both similar careers and options for degrees. The full list of bachelor's degrees held by police officers given in the previous section reminds us that there are many paths to these careers beyond what we can summarize here.

Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for police officers

What jobs will most police officers hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of police officers reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Police officersFirst-Line Supervisors of Police and DetectivesBailiffs, correctional officers, and jailersDetectives and criminal investigatorsSecurity Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for police officers

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 4 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as police officers as well as 1% of respondents after working as police officers. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for police officers: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as police officers? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of police officers surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Read about police and sheriff's patrol officers
Responsibilities and activities
Responsibilities and activities

Police officers, detectives, and criminal investigators typically do the following:

  • Respond to emergency and nonemergency calls
  • Patrol assigned areas
  • Conduct traffic stops and issue citations
  • Search for vehicle records and warrants using computers in the field
  • Obtain warrants and arrest suspects
  • Collect and secure evidence from crime scenes
  • Observe the activities of suspects
  • Write detailed reports and fill out forms
  • Prepare cases and testify in court

Job duties differ by employer and function, but all police and detectives write reports and keep detailed records that will be needed if they testify in court. Most carry law enforcement tools, such as radios, handcuffs, and guns.

The following are examples of types of police and detectives: 

Detectives and criminal investigators are uniformed or plainclothes investigators who gather facts and collect evidence for criminal cases. They conduct interviews, examine records, observe the activities of suspects, and participate in raids and arrests. Detectives usually specialize in investigating one type of crime, such as homicide or fraud. Detectives 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.

Fish and game wardens enforce fishing, hunting, and boating laws. They patrol fishing and hunting areas, conduct search and rescue operations, investigate complaints and accidents, and educate the public about laws pertaining to the outdoors. Federal fish and game wardens are often referred to as Federal Wildlife Officers.

Police and sheriff’s patrol officers are the most common type of police and detectives, and have general law enforcement duties. They wear uniforms that allow the public to easily recognize them as police officers. They have regular patrols and also respond to emergency and nonemergency calls. During patrols, officers look for signs of criminal activity and may conduct searches and arrest suspected criminals.

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 horseback, motorcycle, canine corps, and special weapons and tactics (SWAT). Typically, officers must work as patrol officers for a certain number of years before they may be appointed to a special unit.

Transit and railroad police patrol railroad yards and transit 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.

Personality and skills
Personality and skills

Can you see yourself in the ranks of police and sheriff's patrol officers? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.

Communication skills
Police and detectives must be able to speak with people when gathering facts about a crime and to express details about a given incident in writing.
Empathy
Police officers need to understand the perspectives of a wide variety of people in their jurisdiction and have a willingness to help the public.
Good judgment
Police and detectives must be able to determine the best way to solve a wide array of problems quickly.
Leadership skills
Police officers must be comfortable with being a highly visible member of their community, as the public looks to them for assistance in emergency situations.
Perceptiveness
Officers, detectives, and fish and game wardens must be able to anticipate a person’s reactions and understand why people act a certain way.
Physical stamina
Officers and detectives must be in good physical shape, both to pass required tests for entry into the field, and to keep up with the daily rigors of the job.
Physical strength
Police officers must be strong enough to physically apprehend offenders.
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for police and sheriff's patrol officers
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) salary for police and sheriff's patrol officers was higher than 69% of all other jobs' middle salaries. This graphic shows how the salary distribution (adjusted for inflation) has changed for this job over recent years. The gray line, as a comparison, shows the median salary of all US workers.

This job's median $61KAll jobs' median $39K$60K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$20K$40K$60K$80K$100K$120K
Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for police and sheriff's patrol officers are anticipated to grow by 7% over the next decade; 51% of jobs are projected to grow more.

The projected employment for police and sheriff's patrol officers is the best guess created by talented economists and statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, as you look through several careers you'll notice that the projections are heavily influenced by past performance and may miss current trends. No one can tell the future, and as new information and better techniques are developed, actual counts and future projections may change. Here's a glimpse at the actual counts versus the projections over time.

20002010202020300200,000400,000600,000800,000
Employment counts
Actual measured employment
BLS 10-year predictions
Variation by state
Employment
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most police and sheriff's patrol officers? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as police and sheriff's patrol officers. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

One important factor in the differences between ACS and BLS data is that the ACS numbers are for all police officers, comprised of all specialities listed in the menu bar, and you can choose to view the BLS at the specialty or full career level.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Number of Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.05.010.015.020.0
Salary
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where police and sheriff's patrol officers earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for police officers compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for police officers.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information. The ACS salaries are for all police officers, which combines the specialities from which you can choose at the top of the page.

Choose the metric to review
In-state comparisions
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Median salary ratio: Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers to all workers (BLS for this specialty)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which police and sheriff's patrol officers earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.00.51.01.52.02.5
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the dots below to find other jobs you might like. The dots closer to the top represent jobs that are like Police officers (shown with a blue star). Look for the dots to the right to find the best salaries! (We pulled salary data from BLS, and they give a top salary value of just over $200K to protect privacy, so our graph would go much higher if the salaries were not top coded.)

How should the career similarity be computed

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
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