Police and Detectives: Salary, career path, job outlook, education and more

Education Required
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.
Training Required
Candidates for appointment usually attend a training academy before becoming an officer. Training includes classroom instruction in state and local laws and constitutional law, civil rights, and police ethics. Recruits also receive training and supervised experience in areas such as patrol, traffic control, firearm use, self-defense, first aid, and emergency response.
Job Outlook
The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026: 7% (As fast as average)
(The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.)
Advancement
Police officers usually become eligible for promotion after a probationary period. Promotions to corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, and captain usually are made according to scores on a written examination and on-the-job performance. In large departments, promotion may enable an officer to become a detective or to specialize in one type of police work, such as working with juveniles.
Median pay: How much do Police and Detectives make?
$61,600 Annual Salary
$29.62 per hour

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.

What do Police and Detectives do?

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: 

Careers for Police and Detectives

  • Border guards
  • Border patrol officers
  • Conservation enforcement officers
  • Conservation officers
  • Constables
  • Cops
  • Criminal investigators
  • Deputy United States marshals
  • Deputy sheriffs
  • Detectives and criminal investigators
  • FBI investigators
  • Fish and game wardens
  • Fish and wildlife wardens
  • Fish wardens
  • Game wardens
  • Highway patrol officers
  • Homicide detectives
  • Motorcycle police
  • Mounted police
  • Narcotics detectives
  • Narcotics investigators
  • Park police
  • Patrol officers
  • Police and sheriff’s patrol officers
  • Police detectives
  • Policemen
  • Policewomen
  • Railroad detectives
  • Railroad police officers
  • State highway police officers
  • State troopers
  • Track patrol
  • Transit and railroad police
  • Transit authority police
  • Transit police officers
  • Wildlife and game protectors
  • Wildlife control agents
  • Wildlife officers

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