What are the Different Police Officer Careers?

Police officers may be detectives, responsible for investigating crimes and interviewing suspects.
A police chief is the leader of the police force.
Some police officers spend much of their time patrolling an area.
Police officer who walk "beats" have regular patrol areas.
Police officers may choose to focus on accident scene cleanup.
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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 December 2014
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While they may seem straightforward and self-explanatory, there are many different types of police officer careers focusing on a wide range of applications. Those looking into police work as a career should find themselves with many different options to choose from. However, in many locations, jobs are assigned based on seniority, so those starting a career may need to wait to get into the more desired lines of work.

Furthermore, the requirements of some jobs may be such that a young officer must spend some time gaining proper experience before being trusted with more responsibility. The main thing to consider, when looking at police officer careers, is to get the proper initial training, which will likely include a state-licensed police academy. From there, jobs will be available.

Police officer careers include being a patrol officer, a supervisor, an administrative officer, or a detective. Similar to the police administration track is also the job of sheriff. While the sheriff is the head of a law enforcement agency, this is done by election in many states. Therefore, not only is the sheriff the top law enforcement officer in a county, he or she will also need to be a politically astute individual.


As far as those embarking on a career path, the patrol officer is often the first opportunity they will have. While many may serve their entire life in such a capacity, they will likely move up in ranking from an officer, to a lieutenant and sergeant. These officers often still patrol, but also work to train other officers and may also move into supervisory positions.

Once a patrol officer has had some time on the job, and possibly received further formal education and investigative techniques, they may be able to become a detective. As far as police officer careers go, this may be one of the most interesting jobs. The job of the detective is to solve crimes, gather evidence, and do so in an entirely legal and ethical way so as not to jeopardize a case in the court system. This type of career requires paying attention to each small detail and making sure exact procedures are followed. Cases can be lost in court just because a piece of evidence is logged improperly.

Those looking at police officer careers may also be interested in administrative roles. Police administrators, such as the chief, assistant chief and other such hierarchy, often work themselves up through the ranks of the force. In such cases, it could take years to get enough experience to be considered. However, for those who truly love police work, this is not really much of a sacrifice.


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