Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers Overview

The work of police and sheriff’s patrol officers can be extremely stressful as well as dangerous. The education requirements for police and sheriff’s patrol officers can be anywhere from a high school diploma to a college degree or higher. There is a lot of job competition for those wishing to work at State or Federal agencies although police and sheriff’s patrols officers who are most qualified will have the best job opportunities available to them. The best job opportunities for police and sheriff’s patrol officers will be for those who are college trained in police science, have military police experience or are bilingual.

Nature of the Work for Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers

Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers

Police offers’ work involves protecting lives as well as property. The work of police and sheriffs’ patrol officers involves issuing warnings and citations to those who break the law. Most police and sheriff’s patrol officers will patrol their jurisdictions and then investigate any suspicious activity they may notice as well as respond to calls from any individuals.

The daily activities for a police or sheriff’s patrol officer depends on their occupational specialty as well as where they are working, such as a local, Federal, or State agency. No matter where they work, the duties of police and sheriff’s patrol officers always involves writing reports and keeping meticulous records that will be necessary if they testify in court.

The work of a uniformed police officer involves responding to calls for service as well as regular patrols. Their work can also involve investigating a burglary, giving first aid to an accident victim or directing traffic at the scene of an accident.

Police and sheriff’s patrol officers are usually assigned to patrol a specific area since police agencies are usually organized into geographic districts. Those working in large agencies will usually patrol with a partner. They may note or investigate any suspicious circumstances to public safety.

Some police and sheriff’s patrol officers will specialize in a particular field. They may work in chemical and microscopic analysis or fingerprint identification.

The work of sheriff’s patrol officers involves enforcing the law on a county level. Since sheriff departments are usually smaller, their duties are those similar to a local or county police chief.

Bailiffs are police and sheriffs’ deputies who provide security to county and city courts.

Those who arrest criminals Statewide as well as patrol highways are called State police officers or State troopers. They will issue traffic citations, direct traffic at the scene of an accident, call for emergency equipment or give first aid. State police offers can also write reports and are sometimes called upon to provide assistance to other law enforcement agencies.

Federal agencies that enforce particular types of laws include the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, as well as the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Other agencies with sworn arrest powers and the authority to carry firearms include the Postal Service, the Forest Service, and the National Park Service.

The work of police and sheriff’s patrol officers can be both stressful and dangerous. On-the-job injury and illness is prevalent for police and sheriff’s patrol officers. They must always be alert to deal with criminal confrontations as well as other threatening situations. Many police and sheriff’s patrol officers can witness death and suffering which can take a toll on their private lives.

The typical workweek for a police and sheriff’s patrol officer is 40 hours. Paid overtime is common and shift work might also be necessary since protection must be provided all hours of the day. Police and sheriff’s patrol officers are obligated to work whenever they are needed which can result in long work hours. They are also expected to be armed as well as exercise their authority whether they are on or off duty.

Junior officers will repeatedly work nights, weekends and even holidays.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers

The education requirements for police and sheriff’s patrol officers can vary from a high school diploma to a college degree or even higher. Most police and sheriff’s patrol officers learn on the job and in their agency’s training academy. Civil service regulations govern the appointment of police and sheriff’s patrol officers who usually need to be at least 21 years old, a U.S. citizen, and meet physical and personal qualifications.

Applicants looking to become police and sheriff’s patrol officers should have a high school education while some departments require applicants to have a college degree or to have completed some college coursework. Competitiveness, stamina and agility are important for police and sheriff’s patrol officers and physical education classes and participating in sports is helpful for developing such traits. Some Federal agencies and urban departments also find the knowledge of a foreign language to be beneficial.

State and local agencies encourage police and sheriff’s patrol officer applicants to take training or courses in law enforcement subjects after high school.

Police and sheriff’s patrol officers looking for entry-level jobs have usually completed some formal postsecondary education. Universities, colleges, and junior colleges offer programs in administration of justice as well as law enforcement. Some agencies will even pay portions of tuition for police and sheriff’s patrol officers working towards degrees in police science, public administration, administration of justice or criminal justice.

Police and sheriff’s patrol officers will go through training, sometimes through their agency’s police academy, for 12 or 14 weeks. For those working in smaller agencies, police and sheriff’s patrol officers will attend a regional or State academy.

Police and sheriff’s patrol officers looking to work at Federal agencies are required to have a bachelor’s degree and related work experience.

Police and sheriff’s patrol officer candidates, regulated by civil service, must usually be 21 years old and meet personal and physical qualifications such as a vision test or agility test.

Qualifications for police and sheriff’s patrol officers are honesty, integrity, responsibility, and sound judgment. Enjoying working with people as well as meeting the public are also important qualifications.

Advancement for police and sheriff’s patrol officers can occur after a probationary period lasting anywhere from 6 months to 3 years. Advancement can include becoming a detective or specializing in one type of police work as well as promoting to lieutenant, caption or sergeant.

The job performance of police and sheriff’s patrol officers can improve by continuing their training such as training in firearms, sensitivity and communication skills and self-defense tactics.

Top 10 Most Popular Criminal Justice/Police Science Schools

1. East Los Angeles College (Monterey Park, California)
2. Santa Rosa Junior College (Santa Rosa, California)
3. Rio Salado College (Tempe, Arizona)
4. Rio Hondo College (Whittier, California)
5. Victor Valley Community College (Victorville, California)
6. Monroe College, Bronx (Bronx, New York)
7. Ferris State University (Big Rapids, Michigan)
8. Fresno City College (Fresno, California)
9. Alexandria Technical & Community College (Alexandria, Minnesota)
10. Minneapolis Community and Technical College (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

See All Criminal Justice/Police Science Schools

Top 10 Most Popular Online Criminal Justice/Police Science Schools

1. Kaplan University - Online School
2. Ashworth College - Online School
3. South University - Online Programs
4. Saint Leo University Online
5. Colorado Technical University - Online School
6. Strayer University - Online School
7. Walden University - Online School
8. Everest University Online
9. Keiser University - Online School
10. Berkeley College Online

See All Online Criminal Justice/Police Science Schools

Employment and Job Outlook for Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers

Number of People in Profession

641,590

Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to grow about as fast as average (increase 7 - 13%).

Police and sheriff’s patrol officers who meet the psychological, personal and physical qualifications will have the best job opportunities. Jobs will also be created due to employment growth and those who retire or leave local agencies for Federal jobs and private-sector security jobs.

Job competition will be more prevalent in Federal and State agencies rather than local agencies. Police and sheriff’s patrol officers with a bachelor’s degree and experience will have the best opportunities in Federal agencies. Government spending is also related to the level of employment for police and sheriff’s patrol officers which can change year to year and place to place.

Earnings and Salary for Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers

Median annual wages for police and sheriff’s patrol officers are $53,210. The middle 50 percent earn between $40,450 and $67,990. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $31,400, and the highest 10 percent earn more than $83,550.

Annual Salary for Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers

On average, Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers earn $53,210 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $31,400/yr $40,450/yr $67,990/yr $83,550/yr

Hourly Wage for Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers

On average, Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers earn $25.58 per hour.

10% 25% 75% 90% $15.09 $19.45 $32.69 $40.17

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook