Police Officer Advancement Opportunities

Police officers have the opportunity to progress into more involved roles, such as detective, U.S. Marshal, and FBI agent. In this article, we will explore their potential career ladder.

Career Advancement for Police Officers

Police officers serve and protect society by enforcing the law. Their experience can prepare them for higher positions in law enforcement, whether in their own department or another government agency, such as those listed in the table below. Read on for an outline of these careers to determine which one may be feasible for you.

Job Title Median Annual Salary Job Growth (2016-2026)* Requirements
Detectives and Criminal Investigators $78,120 (2016)* 5% College degree or experience
U.S. Marshals $45,371 (base pay for 2016)** 5% (for detectives and criminal investigators) Bachelor's degree and/or specialized experience
FBI Agents $63,427 (2018)*** 5% (for detectives and criminal investigators) Bachelor's degree and relevant work experience

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **U.S. Marshals Service, ***

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Career Information

Detectives and Criminal Investigators

A police officer can become a detective or criminal investigator through promotion or college coursework, and by passing an exam. It's not a promotion of rank, but of job duties. Detectives and investigators, who may be uniformed or plainclothes, are generally assigned cases in a specific division, such as homicide, in which they do interviews, monitor suspects, collect and examine evidence, and participate in arrests. Experience as a regular patrol officer is needed beforehand.

U.S. Marshals

Police who desire to work in federal government may consider joining the Unites States Marshal Service. Members of this agency engage in judiciary security, prisoner transport, fugitive apprehension, tactical operations, asset forfeiture, and witness protection programs. One must be willing to handle traveling and fieldwork as they are often essential to the job. For a police officer to transition to a U.S. Marshal, he or she must attain either a bachelor's degree, specialized experience, or a combo of both higher education and specialized experience. Many police officers are currently required to have a college degree, so they're already half-way there. Prospective applicants must also complete the basic training academy.

FBI Agents

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is another option for officers who want to work at the federal level, and many agents are actually ex-cops. Much like detectives and criminal investigators, FBI agents gather evidence, conduct forensic analyses, interview people, surveil suspects, make arrests, participate in raids, and so forth. The main difference is that the FBI deals with more serious and high-profile crimes, such as terrorist activities, cybercrime, and drug trafficking. A bachelor's degree and applicable work experience are necessary to qualify for the job. Completion of their training academy is required as well. Be prepared for long and irregular hours, demanding fieldwork, and a good amount of travel.

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