How Do I Become a Sheriff?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2019
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The requirements to become a sheriff usually include successful completion of high school and a law enforcement academy, along with practical experience in law enforcement. In many regions, the sheriff is an elected official and it is necessary to have some political skills to become a sheriff in these areas. In other locations, the position is appointed and public officials select a sheriff on the basis of skills and qualifications. It is possible to transition to a sheriff's department after experience in other areas of law enforcement like military policing.

Sheriffs provide a variety of services to their communities, with a focus on public safety and assistance with law enforcement investigations. In some regions, the sheriff also acts as the coroner and conducts investigations into suspicious deaths. The first step for a person who wants to become a sheriff is to finish high school. Some sheriff's departments preferentially recruit people with two or four year degrees in fields like criminal justice and sociology, and it may be advisable to consider this.


Applicants for positions in sheriff's offices need to be physically fit. It is usually necessary to pass a fitness exam and meet some basic standards for blood pressure and weight. Candidates will also undergo a background check and must pass an entry level law enforcement exam. Some sheriff's offices accept applicants without law enforcement experience and send them to a training academy after hiring. Others want applicants with academy degrees or experience in law enforcement.

An applicant will not immediately take the position of sheriff unless she comes with law enforcement experience and training. Instead, the department will offer a position as a deputy sheriff. After completing a probation period, the new hire will become a member of the sheriff's department and will start building up experience to work his way up through the various pay grades and positions in the department.

To become a sheriff when the position is up to voters, applicants will need to file paperwork indicating their intent to run for office and must mount a successful political campaign. It helps to have the endorsement of the outgoing sheriff, as well as recommendations from community organizations. The sheriff may need to run campaign advertising, participate in local events, and use other tools to connect with the electorate and secure votes. Experience and a proven track record, including recognitions like medals, will appeal to voters.

In cases where the sheriff is not elected, rising through the ranks is the best way to get into position for a promotion to become a sheriff. It is important for deputies to maintain high standards of professionalism and to secure commendations that will go in their files to create a record of conscientious, thoughtful, and attentive duty. When a position as sheriff becomes available, candidates from within the department can apply. It is also possible to apply directly from another department or agency, although there may be a preference for candidates already familiar with a department's procedures and the area.


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