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Job Outlook for Law Enforcement

A law enforcement job is among the jobs growing at a faster pace than most other career categories, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That growth should continue at least through 20012. Concerns over domestic crime and terrorism remain high, so the need for brave citizens who wish to "protect and serve" is on the rise.

In general, the minimum requirements for a law enforcement career in the U.S. include being a U.S. citizen, being at least 20 years old, meeting physical requirements and having successfully completed at least a high school education. Federal law enforcement agencies require a college degree, while most local and State units prefer at least some college. Military experience and/or college work in criminal justice areas increase the chances of finding satisfying work combating crime.

All Jobs Are Challenging in Law Enforcement

The greatest number of law enforcement jobs are in police work. There are currently about 850,000 dedicated citizens working as police officers or detectives in the United States. About 80 percent of those officers work in our local communities and county sheriff's offices. The remainder work for Federal or State police agencies. The diversity of these jobs, however, may be surprising to most people. Consider these job titles: border patrol officer, drug enforcement officer, U.S. Secret Service agent and even postal inspector,

Good character and honesty are important attributes for all of these law enforcement positions. Background checks, drug testing and psychological screenings may be part of the recruiting process. Physical exams usually include tests for strength, agility, hearing and vision. Virtually every level of police work includes special training from 12 to 16 weeks or more as the job begins.

Although police force recruits do receive lots of training in physical skills such as self defense and use of firearms, they must also be prepared to learn the laws they will enforce in detail and handle plenty of paperwork and clerical duties. They must testify in court as well as chase a fleeing suspect at the scene of a crime. The work is not always filled with action, but rarely are any two days nearly the same.

The median pay for an average of all police and sheriff's officers across the country was between $32,300 and $53,500 in 2002. Police and detective supervisors median pay averaged between $47,210 and $74,610. Detective and criminal investigator median pay averaged between $39,000 and $65,980.

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