5 Honorable and Beneficial Careers in Law Enforcement
When you look at the occupational variety within the field of law enforcement, it's easy to get excited about your own career potential. That's particularly true if you also think about why so many kinds of criminal justice professionals are needed in the first place.
For instance, consider these facts from 2017:
- More than 10.5 million arrests were made across the U.S.1
- Of those arrests, over 500,000 were for violent crimes.1
- The most common crimes leading to an arrest were drug violations, with over 1.6 million arrests that year.1
Despite declining crime rates in recent years, those numbers still represent a lot of illegal activity. We still need many dedicated law enforcement pros to help keep everybody safe and ensure that justice is carried out when criminal acts occur.
Here are five great career options within this field that can allow you to make a real difference:
1. Security Guard
Did you know that some of the work that used to be exclusively reserved for police officers is now being handled by professionals in the private security field? Increasingly, people with security training are being hired to help protect property and conduct patrols for businesses and public facilities. Today's security guards often have the skills to handle incidents related to everything from vandalism and theft to terrorism and organized crime.
That's probably why nearly 71,000 new job openings for security guards are predicted to become available between 2016 and 2026—a rise of 6 percent.2 A lot of the highest-paying jobs in security are related to the protection of utilities like natural gas distribution, waste management, and water systems. In those industries, the average pay is over $54,000 per year.3
2. Correctional Officer
A lot of people who get arrested end up being incarcerated. So, with millions of arrests taking place each year, it shouldn't be surprising that U.S. prisons need to be well-staffed to handle a lot of inmates. In fact, in 2017, America had more than 180,000 federal offenders under some kind of correctional supervision or control.4 And that doesn't include the thousands more held within state prisons or local jails.
In 2018, the average salary for a correctional officer in the U.S. was $49,300. But the pay can go a lot higher if you work for a federal facility or accumulate experience. Some correctional officers made over $76,760.3
3. Probation or Parole Officer
Sometimes, convicted criminals get sentenced to probation rather than to prison time. In those cases, they are still considered to be under correctional control. They just aren't necessarily considered a big danger to the community. However, they do need to be supervised to ensure public safety. And they also need to receive guidance in getting rehabilitated from their criminal past. That's where probation officers come in.
Similarly, professionals are needed to monitor convicts who have been released from prison but are still on parole as part of their punishment. Such convicts need help reentering their communities, and they need to be indirectly supervised to make sure they don't fall back into any illegal activities. That's the job of a parole officer.
Professionals in this category of law enforcement can make good salaries. In 2018, the average annual pay was $58,790, with some probation and parole officers making more than $94,770.3
4. Police Officer
Policing is what comes to mind when most people think about law enforcement, which isn't surprising. Even with the expanding roles of many civilian security guards, police officers are still the most common first responders to crime scenes. In fact, in 2017, sworn officers represented 70 percent of all law enforcement professionals in America.1 Plus, there's a certain amount of prestige that comes with the courageous role of serving and protecting the public in the face of danger.
With law enforcement training from a post-secondary school, you may become a more appealing candidate for a police academy. And if you do achieve your goal of becoming a police officer, you can make a comfortable living. The average salary for a U.S. police officer in 2018 was $65,400. And some officers made more than $101,620.3
5. Emergency Management Director
This position isn't always found directly within the law enforcement field, but it is often closely related to it. That's because, when emergencies like natural disasters occur, people in this occupation frequently must coordinate with police and government law enforcement agencies. They are typically responsible for planning the responses to potential emergencies and putting those plans into action when disaster strikes.
Plus, emergency response directors don't always work in the public sector. Increasingly, many of them are employed by private companies to help them ensure that they can make it through weather disasters or other damaging events with as little impact on their operations as possible. In fact, within the local government, excluding education and hospitals sector, employment of people in this field is expected to grow by an impressive 52 percent from 2016 to 2026.2
So, with the right educational credentials, you may have the chance to become an emergency management director who earns high pay. In 2018, the average salary in this field was $82,570, with a lot of the most experienced people earning more than $141,130, particularly if they worked at the federal level.3
1 Federal Bureau of Investigation, website last visited on July 2, 2019.
2 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, website last visited on July 2, 2019.
3 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on July 2, 2019.
4 Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, website last visited on July 2, 2019.