How Much Does a Police Officer Make?

Police officers protect and serve their communities against lawbreakers. Read on to learn more about the salary you can earn in this career, as well as how the career outlook is for these professionals. Schools offering Law Enforcement degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

A police officer can be a generic term that refers to several careers in law enforcement. The basic goal of this position is to serve and protect citizens by upholding the law. Uniformed police officers usually respond to emergency calls along with maintaining regular patrols to make sure those areas are safe. When necessary, they'll fill out reports and file them so they may be used for later reference or in court cases as evidence. Detectives often have to work undercover or investigate cases for extended periods of time with little breaks.

As you gain experience with the police force, you may seek out promotions. Eventually, you might be able to become a police chief or a similar supervisor position that allows you to oversee other officers.

Salary Overview

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that police and sheriff patrol officers had a mean hourly salary of $27.78 in May 2012 (www.bls.gov). This translates to a mean yearly income of $57,770. The top 10% of workers in this occupation made upwards of $42.94 or more an hour.

Detectives and criminal investigators had mean hourly salaries of $37.43 and mean annual wages of $77,860. Police and detective first-line supervisors saw $82,060 for mean annual income and $39.45 for mean hourly wages.

Salary by Industry

According to May 2012 BLS figures, the top paying industry for police and sheriff's patrol officers was state governments, which paid a mean hourly wage of $30.20 and an annual mean income $62,810. Local governments paid the second highest average wages of $27.73 hourly and $57,670 annually. The federal executive branch of the government ranked third in employment level and had average wages of $25.30 an hour and $52,620 yearly.

Salary by Location

The BLS reported that police and sheriff's patrol officer employment levels were highest in the states of California, Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois in May 2012. Average earnings in these locations were $84,320, $52,130, $68,510, $56,380 and $66,570, respectively. Out of these five states, California and New York also had some of the highest average salaries in the country. Other states with high average wages included New Jersey ($84,930), Alaska ($72,240) and Washington ($68,920).

Most states with the lowest pay were located in the southeastern area of the country. Average salaries ranged from $27,260-$41,300, and some of the states included Georgia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana and Oklahoma.

Salary by Experience

PayScale.com reported that police officers with less than a year of experience made $28,534-$57,325 as of January 2014. With 1-4 years of experience, officers made higher earnings of $29,443-$61,727, and with 5-9 years of experience, they made $31,820 $78,346. Police officers with at least 20 years of experience made the most at $40,201-$99,460.

Job Outlook

According to the BLS, job opportunities for police and detectives will vary by location. Slower-than-average employment growth is expected in comparison to other careers with a total growth of five percent from 2012-2022. The BLS expects best prospects for those who have experience and a bachelor's degree. If you're able to meet the physical, psychological and personal qualifications, then you may be a good candidate for this career. Being bilingual is also a plus that can get employers to take notice of you.

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