Law enforcement salaries: A guide

Law enforcement salaries are important to think about if you're considering a career in law enforcement. You should begin by investigating law enforcement salaries in the various localities and agencies that they serve. 

Law enforcement salaries vary according to the location and the governmental agency for which officers work, but overall pay is generally average to slightly above average than it is for most jobs in the U.S. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average law enforcement salary as of 2008 was $51,410. About 50 percent of officers earned between $38,850 and $64,940. The lowest law enforcement salaries were around $30,070, and the highest were up to $80,000 annually. 

Law enforcement salaries in federal Homeland Security positions were the highest at an average of up to $68,000. State government wages came in at up to $57,270 and local government salaries were $51,020.

When considering law enforcement salaries, it's important to take into account perks, like overtime, benefits and pensions. Federal law enforcement receives much more generous health insurance and pension benefits than any other law enforcement personnel. in positions where you're expected to work many hours of overtime – such as Federal officers also receive LEAP (Law Enforcement Availability Pay) which is essentially overtime for special assignments that require longer hours. 

Detectives in particular earn significant amounts in overtime pay because of the extended hours they work.  Other benefits that should be taken into account with law enforcement salaries are whether or not the agency will pay for additional training and coursework if officers want to go back to school and further their education in law enforcement work. 

Law enforcement salaries in the field of fish and game officers ranged between $30,400 and $50,440 annually. Parking enforcement law enforcement wages are the lowest in the field at an average of $32,390 annually. Transit and railroad law enforcement came in at a median rate of $46,670.

Law enforcement salaries are expected to grow at a rate that's slightly above average. As of 2008, there were 883,600 jobs in law enforcement in the U.S. Roughly 80% of those jobs were with local governments. State law enforcement agencies employed about 11 percent. Most law enforcement jobs are in cities with populations over 25,000. Small towns usually have less than 25 law enforcement officers.

Law enforcement salaries increase with promotion and officers usually become eligible to move up anywhere from six months to three years after entering the force. In bigger law enforcement departments, officers often move up to detective work or other specialties that rate a higher pay grade. Getting promoted to the higher positions of sergeant, lieutenant, or captain involves moving up the ranks one rank at a time.

Bureau of Labor Statistics

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