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Step 1: Choosing the Right Law Enforcement Career

Step 1: Choosing the Right Law Enforcement Career

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A common question received at PoliceLink relates to what a service member can do in order to best align their skills with those needed to succeed as a civilian law enforcement officer (LEO). In this section, we’ll help you figure out which areas of law enforcement your skills best suit you for. For active duty service members, this may help you determine whether or not you need to change your specialty in order to prepare you for the field you strive to be a part of.

Skills Translator

The Skills Translator is a free tool that will translate your MOS, Rate, AFSC, or designator into their civilian counter parts. For example, a Navy MA 2008 has the skills needed to fill a Corrections Officer position, while a Marine Corps MP 5811 would find a good fit as a police officer or deputy sheriff.

Using the Skills Translator will provide you with a wealth of information on career fields, different options for your current skills, or can help you figure out what specialty to change to, should have that option.

Police Officer / Deputy Sheriff

Police officers and deputy sheriffs serve as every community’s front line defense against criminals. They conduct routine patrols, respond to calls for service, appear at community events, and conduct community policing initiatives.

When initially hired as a police officer or deputy, you will almost certainly be assigned patrol duties. Once you serve your time as a rookie, you’ll be given opportunities for advancement and promotion into a variety of specialty areas, such as K9, SWAT, bike patrol, motor squad, etc. Some of these units, such as K9 or motor squad, may be full time units, while others may be on call or as needed. In either case, you will be required to receive specialized training, which is highly sought after in order to advance your career.

The average starting salary for an entry level police officer is roughly $48,000. Officers with degrees or military service generally start at a slightly higher salary and are given the opportunity to advance more quickly.

Corrections Officer

Corrections officers perform a critically important role in the law enforcement world: the custody and supervision of today’s offenders. With today’s inmate population growing faster than ever, there is a never ending shortage in the need for corrections officers. It is estimated that there are about 500,000 correctional officers supervising almost 2.5 million inmates in local, state and federal jails at any given time in America.

All correctional facilities require at least a high school degree. However, many agencies – especially state and federal agencies – require at least a college degree or a mix of college credits, prior counseling experience, or prior military service.

The average income for an entry level corrections officer in America is about $36,000. Officers with degrees or prior military supervisory service generally advance quickly through the ranks to a higher paying supervisory position.

Special Agent / Federal Agent

There are hundreds of state and federal agencies that employ special agents. Agencies as obscure as the Virginia Lottery Commission or as famous as the Federal Bureau of Investigation all hire the most highly qualified candidates. Successful candidates often have advanced degrees in specialties such as accounting, computer sciences, foreign languages, or chemistry, or engineering.

The most qualified special agent candidates also have prior military or law enforcement experience. The average entry level salary for special agents is above $50,000 per year, with plenty of opportunities to advance to special agent in charge or higher.

Next: Choosing the Right Law Enforcement Career

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