Choosing a career in law enforcement is not a casual decision. The nature of the work demands singular dedication. Becoming a police officer is as much a calling as it is a career.
Some people follow this path because it is a family tradition. Some want to give back to the community they call home. Others hope to make a difference through public service, and most are interested in the job stability and lifelong benefits that a career in law enforcement can offer. With more than 17,000 state and local policing agencies in the United States, there is room for a diversity of talent. Here are a few career opportunities in law enforcement:
1. Uniformed Police Officers
These law officials are the men and women we know and trust to be there to protect and serve us around the clock, without fail. In addition to responding to calls, making arrests, and enforcing public laws, today’s uniformed officers are often tasked with community policing. This approach to law enforcement can be particularly rewarding in terms of meeting people who want to create better, safer neighborhoods. Building relationships within the community, including children as well as adults, can prove invaluable in helping uniformed officers spot potential dangers, identify repeat offenders, and solve local crimes.
2. Special Jurisdiction Police
This type of police force has oversight for law enforcement responsibilities in a specific geographic area with precisely defined boundaries. Colleges, universities, and public school districts, as well as secure facilities like nuclear power plants and other possible targets, are examples of where special jurisdiction police may serve. They also work for agencies that offer protection for transportation hubs, including railways and airports.
3. State Police Officers
Whether actively patrolling the roads or standing guard against speeders and reckless drivers, state police are primarily responsible for keeping Americans safe on our highways. In addition to managing traffic incidents and accidents, state police officers also help to track down criminals who are on the move, and they provide backup to local police as needed. Most members of the state police force are uniformed officers, although many departments will likely employ a small team of investigators, administrators, and officers on special assignment.
The role of detective is reserved for seasoned law enforcement officers who have the experience to advance into the position of plainclothes investigator. Detectives will often specialize in a certain type of investigation and may be assigned to interagency task forces to collaborate with state and federal agents on high-profile cases.
5. Specialized Roles
Uniformed officers can have the opportunity to advance to specialized units, such as the horseback, motorcycle, bike, air or harbor patrol, or the canine corps. Other units can include the SWAT team or emergency response team. Training police cadets, conducting forensic studies, or supporting prison or court operations are other specialized roles within the field of criminal justice.
6. White-Collar Careers
Many police departments also place officers into white collar jobs throughout the department. A police force is like any other business and requires the talents of those with finance, technology, public relations, and other similar professional skills.
Future Outlook For Policing
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the law enforcement profession continues to experience growth. Many departments are adding staff to meet changing homeland security needs on the local and state level. The role of today’s police force continues to expand in terms of responsibility, with outstanding opportunities for career progression to higher levels of responsibility in roles such as sergeant, lieutenant, captain, and major.
An aging workforce approaching retirement is also contributing to job vacancies across the nation. Generous retirement benefits are one great advantage of a law enforcement career. Depending on the locality, officers can retire after as few as twenty years on the force. Many of these individuals go on to pursue second careers that leverage their experience and community connections.
In addition, police recruiters are faced with the challenge of a shrinking pool of qualified, well-educated applicants. The rigorous pre-screening rules out a majority of candidates who cannot meet the physical condition requirements and/or pass the background check. That leaves the doors wide open for healthy and fit, upstanding citizens who want to enter this field. Advanced education in the area of criminal justice can serve as a differentiator for individuals who want to quickly move up the ranks. Policing is an exciting choice for career changers, transitioning veterans, and all other men and women who feel a duty to serve.
Laura Mingo writes in the field of higher education. This article aims to offer career advice for university students in relation to criminal justice and promotes the benefits of advanced study regarding an online criminal justice master’s degree.
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