If you’re thinking about a career in law enforcement, consider police salaries.
Police salaries vary by location and government agency, but compared to most other occupations in the United States, overall compensation is generally average to slightly above average.
You should start by researching police salaries in the various communities where you plan to work.
Average Police Salary
According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for police patrol officers and detectives was $67,290 in May 2020. The bottom 10% earned less than $39,130, while the top 10% earned more than $113,860.
Fish and Game officials, most of whom are employed at the state level, earn an average of $58,040 per year. The median salary for Transportation and Railroad Police officers was $72,580.
While the average patrol officer earned $65,540 per year, criminal investigators and detectives earned about $86,940.
In comparison, the median wage in the United States for all occupations was $41,950.
Salary of Rookie Police Officers
Although it varies greatly depending on the type and location of the agency, prospective police officers can generally expect a salary increase once they graduate from the academy and/or complete the probationary period for new hires. In some cases, the annual salary increase over the cadet salary can be as much as $10,000 to $20,000.
Many departments post this information on their websites to help recruits plan ahead. The Austin Police Department in Texas, for example, pays its trainees $50,000 a year and a raise of nearly $13,000 upon graduation.
The Los Angeles Police Department is also increasing salaries after the academy, with salaries of about $71,000 per year increasing by $4,000 per year after graduation and then again to just over $80,000 when the new officers complete their 12 months of on-the-job training.
Salary of Federal Police Officers
Federal agents working for the FBI and other investigative agencies earn an average of $92,080 per year. Federal officers receive a special “Law Enforcement Availability Pay” (LEAP) and a locality allowance that varies depending on the geographic area to which they are assigned. LEAP typically increases the officer’s base pay by 25%, while the locality allowance may increase by 16% to 25%.
In comparison, salaries at state law enforcement agencies average $70,280 per year, while salaries at local police agencies average $65,850 per year.
Salary of Police Supervisors
Police supervisors earned the highest wages in the law enforcement industry, with a median annual salary of $92,970. The lowest 10% earned $52,610, while the highest 10% earned $152,090.
Police chiefs can earn even more, especially in large cities: San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr was the highest-paid police officer in the country in 2012, with an annual salary of well over $300,000.
Police Overtime Pay, Benefits and Pensions
When calculating police salaries, also consider overtime, health care, sick and vacation benefits, and police pensions.
Federal police officers receive far more generous health insurance and pension benefits than any other type of police officer. On holidays, police officers generally work and are eligible for additional time off credits or overtime pay. Additional compensation incentives may be available for foreign language proficiency, an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree, and for earning special education certificates.
Because of the long hours they work, criminal investigators in particular earn a lot of overtime pay. Uniformed patrol officers receive overtime pay for cases that require them to work beyond their normal duty hours and for appearing in court to testify.
Other benefits to consider in police officer salaries include whether the agency will pay for additional training and courses when officers go back to school and want to further their education in law enforcement.
Do Police Promotions Increase Salaries?
Police salaries increase with promotion, and officers can usually be promoted within six months to three years of entering the service.
In larger police departments, officers are often promoted to criminal investigators or to other specialties where they earn more. Promotion to the higher positions of sergeant, lieutenant, or captain occurs one rank up at a time.
While a college degree is not required to enter the police force, you will find that not only will it earn you more money immediately, but it will also make it easier for you to advance to a higher pay grade later in your career.
Are Police Salaries Rising?
Police officer salaries are projected to increase by 5%, faster than most other occupations. In 2020, there were 813,500 police jobs in the United States. About 80% of those jobs were with local agencies.
About 11% of police officers were employed by states. Most police jobs are in cities with populations greater than 25,000. Most small towns have fewer than 25 police officers.