Police Officer Job Description

Salary: $40,800 – $69,100 Number of Jobs: 661,460
Hourly Rate: $19.63 – $33.21 Employment Outlook: Good
Green Job: No Education: Long-term on-the-job training

What do Police Officers do?

Police officers protect life and property by enforcing laws and ordinances. This is very important role within our society, and it can be a very rewarding occupation for those who like to serve the greater good.

To enforce the law, police officers have to be on the lookout for suspicious activity. If sufficient evidence is found, they cite or apprehend those who violate the law. Additionally, police officers frequently respond to emergency calls, investigate domestic issues, issue traffic tickets, and provide emergency care to accident victims.

The exact responsibilities for police officer jobs vary depending on the type of work that they do. Here are a few of the most common types of police officers:

Uniformed police officers are usually assigned a geographic area to patrol. While on patrol, they look for signs of broken laws and arrest suspected criminals when necessary. They also respond to emergency calls, enforce traffic laws, and investigate complaints that they receive from citizens.

State police officers (or state troopers) spend most of their time enforcing traffic laws on state interstates and highways. Unlike most police, troopers are able to work anywhere in the state that they work in. Often times, state troopers are asked to help local and federal law enforcement agencies.

Sheriffs are elected by the public to enforce the law at the county level. Some sheriffs work in a sheriff’s department, while others run county jails. Their overall responsibilities are similar to those of a police chief. Read more about sheriffs.

Work Environment and Schedule

The work that police officers do can be stressful and dangerous. They frequently have to deal with threatening situations that put their lives and the lives of others at risk.

Police officers are often exposed to traumatic events. Working at crime scenes or responding to violent crimes can create a mental burden that carries over into all parts of a police officer’s life. This is a rewarding occupation for many people, but it isn’t a job for everyone.

Police officers protect the public 24 hours a day, so they need to work in rotating shifts. As a result, their schedules are very irregular, and officers are required to work nights, weekends, and holidays.

The demanding schedule can negatively impact a police officer’s personal life, so it’s important to consider what you want your personal life to be like before you start your career in this field.

Police officers work full time, and paid overtime is often required.

How to Become a Police Officer

Many police officers have a bachelor’s degree, but the minimum educational requirement is a high school diploma. Earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or law enforcement can significantly increase your chances of working as a police officer.

There are many other requirements you will have to meet to become a police officer. The exact qualifications may vary from department to department, but most require you to be at least 21 years old, have a valid driver’s license, pass a drug test, and pass a series of physical examinations that test your strength, agility, and senses.

If you want to become a police officer but aren’t old enough to qualify, many police departments run cadet programs that you can attend. While working as a cadet, you will perform administrative tasks and attend classes to learn the basics of law enforcement and how police departments operate. When you turn 21, you can apply for a position as an officer.

Before you can become a police officer, you will have to complete police academy. In police academy, you will take classes that teach civil rights, state laws, constitutional laws, and ethics. You will also be trained in traffic control, self defense, first aid, and the use of firearms.

Related Occupations

Employment Outlook

There are currently 661,460 police officers in the United States, with 22,790 new police officer job openings created each year.

Police Officer jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.

Police Officer Salaries

Overall Salaries

Police Officer salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most police officers make between $40,800 – $69,100 per year, or $19.63 – $33.21 per hour.

Updated: 09/02/2017

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