All You Need To Know About A Police Officer Career

You think about becoming a police officer but are not sure whether this is the right career for you or not?

Great! Stick with me since I will show you everything you need to know about a police officer career in the following chapters.

Not only will you learn how much money you can make as a police officer, but you will also learn a lot about job satisfaction, prospects, future outlook, working hours, work-life balance, educational requirements, duties, responsibilities and much more.

You will also find an FAQ section at the end of this article where I answer the most common questions about being a police officer for you.

After reading this article, you will have a much better idea of what working as a police officer looks like and whether you still want to pursue such a career or rather want to work in a different field instead.

Table of Contents

What does a Police Officer do?

Police officers make sure that law and order is obeyed by the general public in various parts of life.

This includes family life but also general things like traffic controls that contribute to an increase in the overall safety of people.

Responsibilities & Duties of a Police Officer

  • Assuring a high level of safety on our streets
  • Making sure that criminals get convicted
  • Showing presence to deter people from committing crimes
  • Arresting people in case they break the law
  • Attending and documenting accidents
  • Making sure that laws, rules and regulations are met
  • Preventing anti-social behavior to assure high quality of life for the general public
  • Enforcing traffic laws
  • Investigating crimes in an objective manner
  • De-escalating conflicts

What a Typical Day of a Police Officer looks like?

Police officers work both during the day as well as at nighttime.

Thus, depending on your shift, you will either start your workday in the early morning, in the afternoon or in the evening.

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Consequently, you should be quite flexible in this regard before you decide on becoming a police officer.

After getting to work, you will talk to your boss and get your plan for the day.

Depending on the field you are responsible for, you will either spend your time in an office questioning suspects or will be on the streets to assure the overall safety of the general public.

Consequently, it will be pretty hard to say what your typical workday will look like since you will be able to work in so many different fields under different circumstances and conditions.

Yet, one thing is for sure.

You will have to deal with lots of conflicts and if you are not the type of person who is able to do so in an emotionally healthy manner, you will not get happy with being a policeman but should rather go for a different career path instead.

Police Officer Salary 2021

Police Officer salary brackets 2021

Salary BracketsSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Top 10 %> $86,000> $42.93
Top 25 %$65,000 – $73,000$32.44 – $36.47
Bottom 25 %$42,000 – $47,000$20.92 – $23.45
Bottom 10 %$34,000 – $39,000$16.88 – $19.41
Range$34,000 – $91,000$16.88 – $45.39
Average (Mean)$58,000$28.91
Median$56,000$27.87

Police Officer salary 2021 by expert level

Level of ExperienceSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Entry level$34,000 – $47,000$16.88 – $23.45
Junior$43,000 – $55,000$21.43 – $27.42
Professional$52,000 – $61,000$25.91 – $30.46
Senior Professional$58,000 – $74,000$28.89 – $36.93
Expert$71,000 – $83,000$35.41 – $41.48
Top Expert$80,000 – $92,000$39.94 – $45.97

Police Officer salary by state 2021 (average)

StateSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Alabama$54,200$27.08
Alaska$57,800$28.87
Arizona$58,700$29.33
Arkansas$54,500$27.24
California$64,800$32.38
Colorado$59,100$29.53
Connecticut$57,300$28.62
Delaware$52,900$26.41
District of Columbia$58,600$29.27
Florida$61,300$30.63
Georgia$57,400$28.68
Guam$53,800$26.89
Hawaii$59,700$29.82
Idaho$52,900$26.37
Illinois$50,400$25.18
Indiana$54,800$27.33
Iowa$51,600$25.77
Kansas$53,200$26.59
Kentucky$51,900$25.93
Louisiana$56,700$28.31
Maine$54,300$27.13
Maryland$59,600$29.79
Massachusetts$57,500$28.72
Michigan$52,800$26.38
Minnesota$56,300$28.12
Mississippi$51,700$25.83
Missouri$50,400$25.17
Montana$53,900$26.92
Nebraska$55,700$27.84
Nevada$52,600$26.28
New Hampshire$58,500$29.24
New Jersey$60,100$30.03
New Mexico$56,600$28.27
New York$64,300$32.13
North Carolina$57,200$28.58
North Dakota$52,500$26.24
Ohio$56,100$28.03
Oklahoma$58,300$29.13
Oregon$61,200$30.58
Pennsylvania$59,800$29.89
Rhode Island$57,500$28.72
South Carolina$58,300$29.11
South Dakota$54,900$27.43
Tennessee$56,400$28.18
Texas$58,100$29.04
Utah$59,600$29.78
Vermont$56,900$28.42
Virginia$57,300$28.63
Washington$60,700$30.32
West Virginia$58,200$29.08
Wisconsin$57,700$28.84
Wyoming$55,900$27.93

Job Security of Police Officers

Police officers have pretty high job security.

Since they work for the state, they will not have to fear getting fired anytime soon unless they do something really stupid.

Thus, you will not have to worry about getting unemployed as a police officer while many other people have to fear losing their jobs on a regular basis.

Future Outlook of Police Officers

Police officers also have pretty decent job prospects since due to an increasing world population, an increasing number of police officers are needed to keep our streets safe.

In turn, you will not have to worry about getting unemployed anytime soon and will have excellent job security for many years or even decades.

Working Hours of Police Officers

Most police officers start their workday between 7 and 9 a.m. and finish their workday between 4 and 6 p.m. if they work day shifts.

However, if you work night shifts, you will often start your workday between 6 and 8 p.m. and finish your workday between 3 and 6 a.m.

Job Satisfaction of Police Officers

Many police officers are not happy with what they are doing for a living since they have to deal with serious conflicts all day long and see many unpleasant things during their careers, which makes them quite vulnerable to suffering from serious mental health problems in the long run.

Promotion Opportunities of Police Officers

Promotion opportunities for police officers are rather limited.

While you can climb the ladder, it will take deputies many years or even decades to do so until they get more responsibility and have more power to make the world a better place.

Career Levels of Police Officers

  • Police officer apprentice
  • Junior police officer
  • Senior police officer
  • Police captain
  • Police commander
  • Police deputy chief
  • Chief of a police department
  • Chief of many police departments
  • Chief of police for an entire region

Fields and Types of Police Officers

  • Traffic police officer
  • Police officer resolving family conflicts
  • Police officer protecting court
  • Police officer focused on assuring the safety of sports events
  • Police officer working at customs
  • Police officer specialized in preventing the distribution of illegal substances
  • Detective
  • Sheriff
  • Uniformed police officer
  • Undercover police officer
  • Highway patrol officer
  • Railroad officer
  • Police officer focused on border patrol
  • Crime scene investigator
  • Police officer specialized in air traffic

Educational Requirements for Police Officers

Police officers don’t need a fancy degree for working in this field in most states.

Instead, they just need to finish high school and can start their police officer career at a rather early age.

How to become a Police Officer

  1. Inform yourself about the advantages and disadvantages of being a police officer
  2. Get your high school diploma with decent grades
  3. Apply for jobs in this field
  4. Pass the background check
  5. Master the job interview
  6. Pass the licensing exam
  7. Pass psychological tests
  8. Sign your labor contract
  9. Work hard and climb the ladder

Character Traits you need as a Police Officer

  • Patience for difficult people
  • Empathy for people who have a bad day
  • You should like to work with people
  • You should be friendly
  • You should have a strong mindset to overcome difficult periods of your career
  • You should be a good listener
  • You should be a good be good at feeling with people
  • Ability to deal with unpleasant experiences in an emotionally healthy manner
  • Ability to unplug from work
  • You should not be afraid to work in a risky environment

Police Officer Skills

Hard Skills for Police Officers

  • Excellent knowledge of laws, rules and regulations
  • Knowledge of interrogation techniques
  • Conflict resolution skills are crucial
  • Good knowledge of safety procedures
  • You should know when it is time to talk and when it is time to listen
  • You need a clean record
  • You often need a driver’s license
  • Good physical condition
  • Ability to forecast potential conflicts
  • You should know when it is time to be strict and when it is time to be empathetic
  • Digital skills help as well
  • Knowledge of body language

Soft Skills for Police Officers

  • Empathy for people who have a bad day
  • Ability to deal with emotionally sick people in a healthy manner
  • Perseverance helps you reach your goals in the long run
  • Assertiveness helps you resolve conflicts
  • Maturity helps you deal with pressure
  • You should be able to deal with stress in an emotionally healthy manner
  • Good communication skills help you solve conflicts
  • Good people skills help you lead a team
  • You should be open-minded and always try new things to improve your results
  • You should not get discouraged by drawbacks

Exit Options for Police Officers

Police officers don’t have great exit options since they are often pretty specialized in what they are doing and often lack the skills needed to work in a different field.

Thus, apart from working as a bodyguard or a watchman, there will be not many jobs available to you outside the law enforcement sector.

Police Officer – Similar Careers

  • Bodyguard
  • Watchman
  • Security specialist
  • Private investigator
  • Correctional officer
  • Lawyer
  • Firefighter
  • Probation officer
  • Cybersecurity analyst
  • Fraud investigator

Police Officer Career FAQs

Is working as a police officer physically demanding?

Working as a police officer can be physically demanding since you will often have to overbear criminals to arrest them and many of them will make it as hard as possible for you.

Consequently, you should be in good physical shape and also willing to exercise quite a lot to be able to do your police officer job in the best possible manner.

Is working as a police officer mentally demanding?

Working as a police officer is also heavily mentally and emotionally demanding since you will have to solve complex cases and problems and you will also see many unpleasant things on a regular basis.

In turn, many police officers have problems unplugging from work since they always have to think about the bad things they have experienced in the recent past.

Is it dangerous to work as a police officer?

Working as a police officer can be dangerous since you will have to arrest real criminals on a regular basis and in case you make mistakes, you may not only lose your own life but may also put the lives of your colleagues on the line.

How long do police officers stay in their jobs?

Police officers stay in their jobs for many years or even decades since they don’t have to fear losing their jobs anytime soon and are also pretty specialized so that they often have a hard time finding a job in a different industry and get trapped in the law enforcement sector.

Is it easy for police officers to find a new job?

It is relatively easy for police officers to find a new job since police officers are in high demand right now and unless you lose your job due to stupid decisions you have made in the past, chances are that you will find a new job pretty soon.

Is it hard to switch from being a police officer to another field of work?

While police officers are pretty employable inside the law enforcement sector, they are also pretty specialized and often lack the skills needed to work in a different field.

Consequently, it is pretty hard to get out of this industry once you start working as a policeman.

Do police officers have a high social status?

Police officers have a decent social standing.

However, many people will still not respect you and may try everything to bring you down.

Some people may even make fun of you and you need strong nerves to stay happy with what you are doing as a police officer in the long run.

Can you help out your family and friends as a police officer?

While you will do an important job for society, it will still be hard for you to help out your loved ones since you will just not learn many practical skills compared to carpenters, roofers or other craftsmen who can install and fix many things around the home and can provide real value to their family and friends.

Can police officers work remotely?

Police officers are not able to work remotely most of the time since they have to be present on our streets to assure the safety of the general public.

Consequently, while financial controllers and other people who work in classical office jobs are able to work from home quite often, you as a police officer will be far less flexible in this regard and will also have to spend lots of time and money commuting to work and back.

Is it easy to find a partner as a police officer?

It is relatively hard to maintain relationships for police officers in the long run since they often have to work pretty exotic hours and also have a high risk of getting injured at work.

Consequently, police officers are not considered the best providers or good family persons and they often have a harder time in the dating market compared to dentists or other people who can make lots of money in a relatively safe environment.

Do police officers have to work on weekends?

Police officers also sometimes have to work on weekends.

In fact, crimes are committed also during Saturdays and Sundays and you should be willing to work at least some weekends before you decide on becoming a police officer to stay happy with your job in the long run.

Do police officers have to work on holidays?

Police officers sometimes also have to work on holidays.

While you will not have to work all of them, you will still work during those days from time to time and if you want to have all those days off, you should rather go for a classical office job instead of becoming a policeman or police lady.

Do police officers have to work at nighttime?

Police officers also often have to work at nighttime.

You will also have to be quite flexible in this regard since your schedule may change quite a lot and this makes it hard for police officers to plan their leisure since they may be called for an emergency without prior notice.

Do you have to travel as a police officer?

Apart from commuting to work and back, there is no need to travel as a police officer.

While consultants and many other people who work in office jobs are away for business trips quite often, you as a police officer will be able to spend lots of time at home with your family.

Are police officer pensions good?

Police officers receive pretty decent pensions since they work for the state and often get additional benefits in this regard.

Consequently, while many other people get into financial trouble once they get older and retire, you as a police officer don’t have to worry that much about paying your bills once you quit your active career.

Are police officer salaries going up?

Police officer salaries have been going up moderately over the past years.

However, salaries are still rather low for the high level of responsibility and risk you have to deal with at work.

Can you have a positive impact on society as a police officer?

You can have a big positive impact on society as a police officer since you can arrest many criminals and make our streets safer.

Moreover, you can also do lots of educational work and show people how to behave like decent human beings.

How long does it take to become a police officer?

Since you don’t have to get a college degree for becoming a police officer in most states, you can start your police officer career right after finishing high school.

However, it will still take you a few years before you can consider yourself a real police officer and also get more responsibilities.

Is it difficult to become a police officer?

Becoming a police officer is not that difficult since you don’t need to get lots of fancy formal education.

However, you should still have a strong motivation to make the world a better place so that you stay motivated with what you are doing for a living in the long run.

Do you need to be smart to work as a police officer?

Since you don’t need to get lots of formal education, you don’t need a high IQ for becoming a police officer.

What’s much more important is that you are really passionate about working in this field so that you are able to work hard and get better at what you are doing in the long run.

Do police officers have a good work-life balance?

Police officers have pretty poor work-life balance since they often have to work on weekends, holidays and also in the late evening or at nighttime.

Consequently, police officers are often not able to make nice trips with their families and may also not have that much time for their favorite hobbies.

Do police officers have to work many extra hours?

Police officers don’t have to work many extra hours.

Instead, they have a rather fixed schedule and once their shift is over, other policemen will take over and you will be able to get home from work.

How to maximize your chances of becoming a police officer?

The more experience you get in this field at a rather young age and the more contacts you have to other police officers, the more likely it will be to get a job as a policeman.

Can police officers work part-time?

While police officers are able to work part-time in theory, most of them still work full-time in practice since their hourly wage is rather low and most police officers have to work full-time to make a living from what they are doing.

Do police officers work indoors or outdoors?

Police officers work both indoors as well as outdoors.

They also have to work outdoors during times of bad weather and if you don’t want to work under those unpleasant conditions, you should not become a policeman but rather work in a classical office job instead.

What does the workplace of a police officer look like?

Since police officers work in many different locations, it is pretty hard to tell what your workplace will look like.

However, one thing is certain. You will be surrounded by conflicts during your workday and you therefore need a strong mindset to stay happy with what you are doing in the long run.

Do you have to look good for working as a police officer?

You don’t need to look good for succeeding as a police officer.

What’s much more important is that you are empathetic so that you can feel with other people and understand what really drives them to find solutions to complex problems.

Is a police officer career beneficial for your private life?

Being a police officer is not beneficial for your private life since you will have to work rather exotic hours and will also often have to work during weekends so that you will not have time to make nice trips with your family.

Moreover, you always have to put your life at risk and your loved ones will often worry about you and whether you will come home from work alive or not.

Do you need a college degree for becoming a police officer?

You don’t need a college degree for working as a police officer in most states.

Instead, finishing high school will be enough to start your policeman career and while many of your friends will have to spend lots of time and money on college education, you can even start making money from a rather early age.

Do you need to be certified to work as a police officer?

You need to pass an official exam before you can consider yourself a police officer in an official manner.

Apart from that, you don’t need to get additional certifications in most cases.

How much does it cost to become a police officer?

Since you don’t need fancy college education, you can become a police officer at almost no cost and are even able to start making money from a rather young age.

Is being a police officer a good career?

Since you will have to work on weekends and holidays quite often and will also have to put your life at risk while you will still not be able to make good money as a police officer most of the time, being a policeman cannot be considered a good career when taking all major relevant factors into account.

Is it easy to start your own business as a police officer?

It is almost impossible to start your own business as a police officer since you will often work for the state and police officers are just not able to work self-employed in most cases.

Thus, if your dream is to have your own business in the long run, you should not become a policeman or policewoman but rather work as a digital marketer or in another field where working self-employed is much easier.

Can police officers teach themselves?

While police officers are able to teach themselves many things they need for their jobs, they still have to get some formal education and pass an exam before they are officially able to work in this field.

Do police officers make good money?

While some police officers can make decent money, many policemen still complain about their rather poor salary and are barely able to make a living from what they are doing.

Is it ever too late to become a police officer?

While it is never too late to become a police officer, you should still start your career in this field at a rather young age since working as a policeman can be physically demanding and you may no longer be fit enough to start a career in this field once you get older.

Do police officers have to quit their careers early?

While some police officers have to quit their careers early due to injuries or mental problems, many police officers are still able to work until they reach official retirement age.

What is the hardest thing about working as a police officer?

The hardest part about being a police officer is that you will see many unpleasant things during your career and have to deal with those issues in an emotionally healthy manner so that you don’t suffer from mental and emotional problems in the long run.

Can you provide for your family by working as a police officer?

While you might be able to provide for your family in case you live in rather cheap regions, you will have a hard time providing for your family as a police officer in case you live in expensive regions where rents and living costs are high and your police officer salary may not be enough to make a living and your spouse may have to work as well.

Will police officers suffer from old-age poverty?

Most police officers don’t suffer from old-age poverty since they receive pretty decent pensions and will likely not get into financial trouble, at least if they don’t have a fancy lifestyle and don’t spend too much money on dumb things they actually don’t need.

Can police officers retire early?

Since police officers don’t make really good money from what they are doing, most of them are also not able to retire early since they are just not able to make enough money during their active careers.

Thus, if your plan is to retire early, you should rather become a judge or an investment banker instead of becoming a police officer.

Do police officers get a fixed or variable salary?

Police officers mainly get fixed salaries in most cases.

Consequently, they don’t have to worry about huge income swings compared to salespeople whose salaries often greatly depend on the number and volume of items they sell.

Can you get rich as a police officer?

Since your police officer salary will be rather low, it will be almost impossible to get wealthy or even rich as a policeman.

Thus, if money and luxury are really important to you, you should become a lawyer or financial analyst instead of working as a police officer.

Do police officers need a second job?

While most police officers don’t need a second job to pay their bills, some of them still have to work a second job to cover their expenses.

This is especially true in regions where rents and living costs are high and the salary of a police officer will not be enough to make a living.

Do you get continuous training as a police officer?

You get continuous training as a police officer since the world changes quite rapidly and if you don’t adapt to those changes appropriately, you may no longer be able to compete with criminals in the long run.

Do you get sick pay as a police officer?

Most policemen are eligible for sick pay.

However, if you want to be entirely sure in this regard, you should talk to a police officer in your neighborhood to get more information on this topic.

Do police officers have a high level of responsibility?

Police officers have a high level of responsibility since mistakes on their side can lead to catastrophic outcomes for the general public and also for their colleagues, not to mention that you might lose your own life.

Can police officers work abroad?

Police officers are needed all over the world and can therefore also work abroad.

However, working conditions and salaries are often quite different compared to your home country and you should therefore inform yourself carefully in this regard to avoid unpleasant surprises later on.

Is it stressful to work as a police officer?

Working as a policeman can be stressful since you will often have to deal with serious conflicts and you may also have to fear losing your life on a regular basis, which leads to lots of emotional pressure in the long run.

Is it boring to work as a police officer?

Working as a police officer will never become boring since you will always experience new situations and challenges and it will take you quite a lot of mental and emotional power to get things done.

In turn, you will just not have any time to feel bored at all during your workday.

Is being a police officer hard?

Being a police officer can be tough on a mental as well as on an emotional level since you have to solve conflicts and also experience many bad things during your active career and if you don’t have a strong mindset, you may really struggle with your job in the long run.

Are police officers at risk of burnout?

Police officers are often at risk of burnout since they have to deal with lots of stress at work and also have to digest many difficult situations on an emotional level.

Thus, police officers are often quite vulnerable to burnout and other emotional problems.

Is there a dress code for police officers?

Police officers often have to wear official uniforms so that they are recognized by the general public and also have a certain level of authority.

What kind of police officers are paid the most?

The longer you stay in your job and the more experience and responsibilities you get, the more you can make as a police officer.

However, making really good money is still not possible for the vast majority of police officers out there.

What percentage of police officers are women?

Only around 14% of all police officers are women while 86% are men.

While this industry is still dominated by men, there is still an increasing number of women aspiring to a career in this field.

Do I need a mentor to succeed as a police officer?

While you don’t urgently need a mentor to succeed as a police officer, it can still help to have an experienced colleague on your side who can help you during difficult periods of your career.

Will you be personally liable for mistakes as a police officer?

You may be personally liable for mistakes you make as a police officer.

However, if you are not sure in this regard, you should consult a lawyer to get additional information.

Do police officers have a high life expectancy?

Police officers don’t have a high life expectancy since they have to put their lives a risk every day and sooner or later, bad things may happen to you if you are unlucky.

Do police officers suffer from sleeping problems?

Since police officers often have to work at nighttime and also have to deal with many unpleasant situations at work, they also often suffer from sleeping problems related to their jobs.

What states are best for working as a police officer?

Since you will make a rather low income across states as a police officer, you should choose a state where living costs are low enough so that you are able to make a living from your police officer career and don’t need to get a second job.

Who do police officers work with?

Police officers have to solve conflicts of many different people every day.

Consequently, you need excellent people skills to calm down people so that situations don’t get out of control.

Is working as a police officer cool?

Being a police officer is not considered cool by most people and while some people may respect your work, others may just make fun of you.

Can you start a side hustle as a police officer?

It is pretty hard for you to start a side hustle as a police officer since you will be rather specialized and will not have that much valuable knowledge outside the law enforcement industry.

Do you have to be creative as a police officer?

Being creative helps to succeed as a police officer since you will be better able to solve complex problems and will also have an easier time dealing with difficult people.

Do police officers suffer from being overweight?

Since many police officers get lots of exercise at work, most of them burn enough calories and don’t suffer from being overweight.

How employable are police officers?

Police officers are pretty employable and in high demand right now and you therefore don’t have to fear losing your job anytime soon.

Are police officers happy with their jobs?

Most police officers are not happy with their overall working conditions since they often have to work on weekends and at nighttime and also have to put their lives at risk on a regular basis.

Is working as a police officer exciting?

Working as a police officer can be pretty exciting since you have to deal with new situations quite often and some cases may really make your heart beat faster.

Can you have a positive impact on our environment as a police officer?

You will not care about our environment that much as a police officer and will rather go for criminals.

In turn, your positive impact on our environment will be rather limited.

What are the pros and cons of working as a police officer?

If you still want to become a police officer, you should also check out additional pros and cons of a police officer career.

Sources

https://www.statista.com/statistics/191694/number-of-law-enforcement-officers-in-the-us/

https://www.statista.com/statistics/750805/number-of-state-and-local-police-in-the-us-by-state/

Interviews and own research.

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people about the different career paths that are possible in our current state of the world. In my opinion, people often make the mistake to choose their profession solely based on how much money they can earn from it instead of doing what makes them really happy.

This is quite sad and I just want to give people a more objective picture of how a fulfilling career could look like. I did the same when I started working in consulting after finishing my Master’s degree in Economics. However, I’ve quit pretty soon after that since I haven’t found true meaning in my job.

Now I can do what I really love to do and I want to enable as many other people as well to go this exciting path towards happiness instead of money.

I conducted various interviews with employees to give you a good impression of what working in different fields will look like and that you can make the best possible decision regarding your future career choice.

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