Law Enforcement Careers

According to ONET Online (American Job Center network partner), the outlook for law enforcement careers is bright, meaning occupations are expected to have a large number of job openings over the next several years (243,900 new job openings projected for 2012-2022).

There are many types of law enforcement careers an individual may pursue.

The three basic types of jobs in law enforcement are investigators, uniformed officers, and support positions.

These jobs are available at the local, state, and federal levels.

Uniformed Officers

A uniformed police officer has general duties that include responding to emergency calls and maintaining a regular patrol.

Uniformed officers may direct traffic after an accident, investigate robberies, or provide first aid to a victim in an accident.

At larger police departments an officer may be assigned to a specific area of duty.

A lot of urban police agencies have community policing practices.

This is where the officers build relationships with people in the community and encourage the public to help with fighting crime.

Law Enforcement Career Opportunities


A detective is a plain-clothed investigator who has the job of collecting the evidence surrounding criminal cases.

Some investigators work in specific areas of crime.

An investigator will examine records, conduct interviews, and observe the suspect’s activities.

Additionally, investigators participate in arrests and raids.

State and federal agents as well as some detectives on the local level will often specialize in one area such as fraud or homicide.

An agent will be assigned a case on a rotating basis.

They work the case until an arrest is made or until it is dropped.

Some investigators are private investigators who work as freelancers for clients or law enforcement entities.

Support Positions

Other careers in law enforcement include support positions such as ballistics examiners, evidence technicians, intelligence analysts, and crime lab technicians.

Many of these positions are filled with individuals who were hired for a specific area of work.

Evidence technicians are often in charge of inventorying the evidence found by the investigators.

Becoming a Police Officer

For those who are interested in a job in the law enforcement industry, it is important to look at public vacancy announcements.

Most job announcements are for a limited amount of time and have a cutoff date for applications.

Most police offices only accept applications when there is a vacancy.

Police Academy Training


The minimum requirements for becoming a police officer will vary by department.

There are some departments that will require a person to have 60 college credits and others require that a person have a four-year degree.

There are some police departments that will hire someone that only has a high school diploma, however, in most cases, students with law enforcement degrees have more opportunities.

There are no certifications or experience required for entry positions in the law enforcement field.

Other requirements may include an age restriction of being at least 21 years of age.

There are also maximum age requirements set by some departments as well.

Most police departments will also require that a person have a valid driver’s license in the state they are applying in and may also require a person to live in a specific area.

Physical examinations are often required by most police departments before hiring.

A person will receive all of their training at the police academy.

This includes how to make arrests, using a weapon appropriately, as well as other aspects of the job.

Salary Information by State

State Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
District of Columbia5,280$81,160$39.02$102,500$62,440
New Hampshire2,900$62,480$30.04$80,120$47,480
New Jersey20,510$90,520$43.52$128,360$51,110
New Mexico4,610$56,690$27.26$71,910$40,550
New York50,600$81,750$39.30$127,020$49,210
North Carolina20,480$51,310$24.67$70,240$37,230
North Dakota1,710$65,730$31.60$79,960$48,550
Rhode Island1,760$68,290$32.83$83,200$49,080
South Carolina11,640$49,490$23.79$65,250$36,250
South Dakota1,830$54,130$26.02$76,390$39,270
West Virginia3,190$48,310$23.23$59,520$37,070
Puerto Rico12,930$40,230$19.34$49,570$23,430

Annual Average Salary: Top 10 States

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $104,010.

These are the top 10 earning states in the field:

  • California - $104,010
  • Washington - $92,250
  • New Jersey - $90,520
  • Hawaii - $89,640
  • Alaska - $85,710
  • Illinois - $82,470
  • New York - $81,750
  • District of Columbia - $81,160
  • Colorado - $80,990
  • Oregon - $78,150
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers, OCC Code 33-3051, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Michael Morales

About Michael Morales

Michael Morales is the Webmaster and Editor in Chief for With a strong background in Web Publishing and Internet Marketing, he currently works as an independent consultant. A former paramedic and ems educator, he enjoys punishing himself doing triathlons and endurance sports. Michael currently lives in sunny Northern California, home of the highest tax rates in the world.

7 Responses to Law Enforcement Careers

  1. Avatar
    Barrett Horton #

    By exploring the work of criminologists through articles, we gain a deeper appreciation for the critical role they play in shaping our criminal justice system and working towards a safer, more equitable society.

  2. Avatar
    Peter Warner #

    I want to be a criminologist! They are champions of social change, working tirelessly to reduce crime rates, support victims, and create a safer, more compassionate world.

  3. Avatar
    Sonny Bass #

    Community trust is a vital aspect of this field, and maintaining that trust is both a challenge and a rewarding part of a law enforcement career.

  4. Avatar
    Karson Higgins #

    Law enforcement professionals often build strong bonds with their colleagues, which can be a great source of camaraderie and support.

  5. Avatar
    Raya Marsh #

    It’s important to acknowledge the difficulties as well, such as the stress nd the potential dangers that come with the job. Proper training and support are crucial.

  6. Avatar
    Addison Crawford #

    It’s a challenging career. It provides a chance to make a real difference in your community and uphold the principles of justice.

  7. Avatar
    Adeyinka #

    As a layman always says a state without law there is no crime and if the is law there
    is crime

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