A police officer is responsible for maintaining public safety and security by enforcing the law. Officers patrol the streets in cars, respond to 911 calls, track down criminals, arrest offenders, and direct traffic, among other duties. Training is acquired through a police academy.
Police officers provide protection to the general public. They work for local or state police departments and perform a variety of duties, including patrolling neighborhoods, directing traffic and investigating crimes. A high school diploma or the equivalent is required, and many officers hold college degrees. After being hired, recruits train at a police or law enforcement academy to learn about ethics, local regulations and civil rights as well as to get hands-on training in various aspects of police work.
|Required Education||High school diploma or the equivalent|
|Other Requirements||Training at police academy|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)*||5% for police and sheriff's patrol officers|
|Median Salary (2018)*||$61,380 for police and sheriff's patrol officers|
Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Policeman Career Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), jobs for police officers are expected to grow 5% from 2018-2028, which is considered slower than average for all occupations. Salary and job availability varies greatly upon city size and crime rates; in general, smaller cities offer lower pay than larger communities with higher crime rates and greater needs for a large police force. Pay differs greatly depending upon the size of the police department and the crime statistics within its jurisdiction, but most police officers follow structured pay scales and receive comprehensive benefits.
A police officer performs a variety of duties, including pursuing criminals and filing reports. Some of the many duties charged to police officers are shown below:
- Investigating break-ins
- Making arrests
- Patrolling areas within police jurisdiction
- Responding to 911 calls
- Directing traffic
- Recording witness accounts of crimes
- Give first aid to victims in need
- Calming disputes
- Serving as a public liaison to enhance police image
Police officers employed on the state level often provide assistance to smaller or rural police departments. Some police officers specialize in chemical analysis, special weapons and tactics (SWAT), fingerprint identification and motorcycle or bicycle patrol.
Police officers are given more privileges than the average citizen and are charged with added responsibilities. They are expected to remain impartial, treat every citizen with respect and offer the rights guaranteed by the U.S. constitution.
Police officers should be prepared to work on a flexible schedule because they are needed around the clock. They generally work 40-hour work weeks, but shifts can vary and paid overtime is not uncommon. Junior officers typically work more holidays and weekends than senior officers.
Police officers are also expected to be constantly alert and exercise sound judgment in threatening situations. Police work brings with it inherent danger and stress, so mental fortitude and resilience is important.
Police officers must be physically fit, emotionally balanced, and act rationally to do their job effectively. They typically work many hours on a fluctuating schedule. No formal education beyond a high school diploma (or its equivalent) is needed, though some jurisdictions may require college coursework.