|Number of Jobs:||54,600|
|This Job is Ranked in|
|Best Social Services Jobs||#15|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#58|
Hollywood has generated a wildly romantic image of the police officer's life. The reality, depending on where you work and for whom, is probably somewhere between Dirty Harry and Barney Fife. Much of policing, in fact, involves the tedium of writing reports and updating records. When you're not behind a desk, you'll be on patrol, making your presence known in the community and responding to incident reports. There is clearly a public-service element to the job that you could reasonably call heroic, but there's also a cost to your personal life. Officers work long hours and suffer high rates of job-related injury. Still, for those with the right character, the protect-and-serve profession can be very rewarding.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 8.2 percent employment growth for patrol officers between 2010 and 2020, adding 54,600 more professions.
The BLS reports the median annual wage for patrol officers was $54,230 in 2011. The best-paid 10 percent in the field made $84,980, while the bottom 10 percent made approximately $32,080. The highest-paid in the profession work in the metropolitan areas of San Jose, Oakland, and Santa Ana, Calif.
Each jurisdiction has its own educational requirements for patrol officers. In some, a high-school diploma is sufficient. Others demand a college degree. In any event, you probably won't be using a lot of textbook knowledge on the job. Before becoming an officer, you'll go through some form of training academy, where you learn about key legal codes, first aid, firearms, patrol protocol, and more. You'll also have to pass a rigorous physical exam. You'll need to be a U.S. citizen for one of these positions—and you should have a pretty clean criminal record.
Maj. Mark Brown, chief training officer for the Florida Highway Patrol, said in a 2011 email that the FHP looks for "a solid work history, a desire to help others, a willingness to work through a difficult academy and the ability to work anywhere in the state." Police organizations generally put candidates through a thorough vetting process. Brown said applicants to the FHP can expect "a rigorous background check, polygraph examination, psychological test, physical ability test, a written test, and they will be screened by a physician (including a drug screen)."
|Upward Mobility||Above Average|