Civilian Jobs in Law Enforcement

Transitioning from a military career to one in the civilian world may be a little smoother for military members who join civilian law enforcement, as many of the necessary skills for success are similar between the two.

Serving in the military equips veterans with a number of useful career skills that can be applied to many different fields and industries, notably the field of law enforcement. There are a number of different job possibilities available in civilian law enforcement, all of which will likely draw upon the skills an individual developed during their time in the military. We will discuss a few of these options below.

Career Comparison

Job Title Salary Job Growth* Applicable Military Skills/Traits
Police Officer $59,680* (Median, 2016) 5% Physical stamina, interpersonal skills, communication skills, leadership, good judgment, teamwork
Border Patrol Agent $52,583** (Base salary, 2017) Not Available Observational skills, emergency response, good judgement
Fish/Game Warden $51,730* (Median, 2016) 2% Physical stamina, good judgment, decision making
FBI Agent $64,437*** (Median, 2017) 4% (for all police and detectives) Leadership, communication skills, analytical thinking, decision making, physical strength and stamina
Secret Service Agent $119,161 (Average, 2017)**** Not Available Patrolling, securing areas, providing protection for individuals, gathering information

Sources: *Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Dept. of Homeland Security, ***, ****

Relevance to Military Background

While the duties and responsibilities associated with being a member of the military differ depending on which branch you join, all branches of the military are committed to the same goal of protecting the United States of America. In a similar way, a civilian law enforcement officer's duties vary depending on what agency or organization they join. However, the goal of all law enforcement agencies is to uphold American laws at a county, state, or federal level while ensuring the safety of civilians. Former military members are likely to find that many of the leadership, critical thinking, and communication skills they learned in the military can be easily applied in a career in civilian law enforcement.

Police Officer

Police officers work at the county, city, and state levels. They are responsible for responding to police calls and patrolling their assigned areas to deter and stop criminal activity. Within the police organization, there may be various police divisions, like narcotics which focuses on drug activity or the homicide division which investigates deaths and murders. Police officers may work at the county level as sheriffs, or at the state level as state troopers or highway patrolmen. Former military members may be good potential police officers due to their former physical training as well as their ability to work on a team and identify potential threats. To become a police officer, you will need to complete training at a police academy.

Border Patrol Agent

A border patrol agent is responsible for keeping the United States border safe from the unauthorized entry of illegal persons, weapons, and drugs. Your daily duties generally include patrolling the border and looking out for any suspicious activity. Depending on what part of the country you live in, you may carry out your patrol from horseback, bike, or an off-road vehicle so that you are able to access areas that are difficult to access otherwise. Some agents also may be members of more specialized teams, like BORTAC which is responsible for rapid response during emergencies or BORSTAR, which performs search and rescue operations. Many of these duties may sound familiar to veterans, as both military members and border patrol agents must have highly-trained observational skills and must know how to quickly respond in emergency situations. To become a border patrol agent, you will have to pass an exam, a physical fitness test, drug test, and interview process.

Fish/Game Warden

A fish and game warden is a law enforcement officer who is specifically in charge of making sure people abide by hunting, fishing, and boating laws. They usually patrol very large outdoor areas, make sure individuals have the proper permits for whatever activity they are engaged in, and sometimes may carry out search and rescue missions. Their job duties can vary widely depending on the type of outdoor area they patrol. As many military members may have performed regular patrol duties while on active duty and needed to be able to respond to a wide variety of different emergency situations, they may find familiarity in a job as a fish and game warden, especially if they enjoy working outside. These professionals usually need a college degree to secure a job through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, sometimes in a relevant field like biology or natural resources.

FBI Agent

Working as an agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation requires a high level of both physical and mental ability, as these agents are involved in investigating federal crimes. Agents at the FBI generally work in either the intelligence, counterintelligence, counterterrorism, criminal, or cyber division. Some agents may work primarily out of an office while others may often work in the field. Veterans who have a background in military intelligence may find transitioning to the role of an FBI agent to be a natural choice. The process to become an agent is quite vigorous, as it requires passing a highly-selective screening test, including both physical and mental aspects that may be a similar process to undergoing military boot camp.

Secret Service Agent

Secret service agents are highly-trained specialized federal law enforcement agents who are housed under the Department of Homeland Security. One of their most important duties is protecting both domestic and foreign leaders from outside threats. This means they often will go to extreme lengths to make sure a location is secure before a leader arrives, perform extensive patrolling and security measures during a speech or event, and providing a constant escort to a leader. These agents are also involved in investigating high level financial and cyber crimes. Former military members may be well-suited for positions as secret service agents, as they would already be familiar with knowing how to secure locations, provide backup and protection, and have strong observational skills. To become a secret service agent, you will generally need a bachelor's degree as well as some work experience at a lower level of law enforcement.

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