How to Become a Law Enforcement Officer

Overview & Salaries

Recommended Degree:
The right degree for you to become a law enforcer depends on the position you apply for and the state. For police officers and detective roles, those looking for an entry position in these fields will likely need at least a high school degree. But some departments, especially those where becoming a police officer is more competitive, may require you to get a bachelors degree in criminal justice or law enforcement, or a graduate certificate of some time. Most police and detectives must graduate from their agency’s training academy before completing a period of on-the-job training. After meeting the degree requirements, many states will have you complete a physical test along with a competency exam.

Most states also require police officers and detectives to be at least 21 years old.

You can launch your career path today by signing up for free information from one of our accredited colleges below that offer programs to help get you started as a law enforcer.

How Much Does a Law Enforcer Make?
$56,980 (national median salary, to see salaries in your state click on the “Best Places to Work” tab up top)

Expected Growth from 2012-2020:
+41,400 additional people employed

Specialization Options:
Lawyer, police officer, special investigations, criminal forensics, private detective, detective, etc…

(all information above provided by the 2012 BLS Police and Detectives page) 

The Best Places to Become a Law Enforcer

While a career in law enforcement can be as varied and wide ranging as any business, its salaries aren’t as rangy. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics top 10% law enforcement professionals earn more than $88,870, and the bottom 10% earn less than $32,440.

Law enforcement professionals are employed by a whole host of agencies both public and private from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to private investigation firms. The responsibilities of these professionals is great and high demands are placed on personal integrity and honesty of investigators. While these jobs are at times dangerous, they are also rewarding.

According to Police Link, a national law enforcement community, the 5 top cities police officers are:

  • Austin
  • San Antonio
  • Salt Lake City
  • Oklahoma City
  • Raleigh-Cary Metropolitan Area

Career and Salary Information by State

The following are median salaries for a range of law enforcement careers:

Detectives and Criminal Investigators $68,820
Private Detectives and Investigators $42,870
Police and Detectives $55,010
Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officers $24,380
Crime Scene Investigator  $63,500
Crime Scene Technician $57,300
Identification Technician $59,300
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists $47,200
Fish and Game Wardens $49,730
Fire Inspectors $52,230


Employment and Information Data for Law Enforcement

Why Become a Law Enforcement Officer?

Despite what you may see on television, a career in law enforcement isn’t only about crime scene investigations and detective sleuthing (although there are plenty of opportunities to do both). A career in law enforcement offers a plethora of rewarding opportunities both in the field and in the office.

From busting and prosecuting white collar criminals to guarding the country’s borders, to keeping prisons secure, a career in law enforcement offers something for just about everyone.

Recommended Courses to Help You Become a Law Enforcement Officer

  • Criminal Law
  • Cyber Crime/Criminal & Civil
  • Introduction to Networking/Security
  • Intro to Forensic Science with Lab
  • Biological Evidence
  • Current Issues in Criminal Justice
  • Introduction to Networking/Security
  • Intro to Forensic Science with Lab
  • Biological Evidence
  • Crime Scene Dynamics

Degree Options for Law Enforcement Officers

It wasn’t so long ago that if you wanted a career in criminal justice and law enforcement you went down to the local police department and picked up an application. Today, the world has changed and the more courses you take, and the more advanced degrees you receive, will allow you to explore a wider range of options.

Certificate Programs
 This is an ideal program for law enforcement officers looking to advance and specialize their career of beginning students hoping to find a niche in the field.

Bachelor’s Degree
For many law enforcement agencies today, a bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement. However, with the proliferation of criminal justice and law programs, the opportunities for study are great than ever in this discipline.

Master’s Degree
A master’s degree in criminal justice allows for many concentrations from forensic psychology, to international crime and justice to protection management. This advanced two-year degree is ideal for mid-career professionals seeking to expand their skills while advancing their careers.