How To Choose A Law Enforcement Career

Typically a position with a government agency is considered when looking at a career in law enforcement. Agencies are either part of local, state, or the federal government. Local agencies would be police and sheriffs departments. State agencies include highway patrol, department of public safety, department of criminal investigations, state narcotic, alcohol, and gaming agencies. Some federal agencies have an enforcement mission as their primary function. These agencies would be the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Secret Service, Marshals Service, and Drug Enforcement Administration. Other federal agencies have a law enforcement component, such as the Offices of Inspector General.

When considering whether to pursue a career in with a local, state, or federal agency, there are several factors to examine. First is the amount of re-locating that may be required. If you get hired with a local police department you can be assured that you will remain located in that city so long as you continue to be employed by that department. If you are with a federal law enforcement agency with offices throughout the United States, you may be required to transfer to various locations during your career. The same may hold true for working with a state law enforcement agency.

Another factor to consider is the type of work you will be doing. In most police departments new recruits work as patrol officers and then have the opportunity to get promoted into specialized units such as narcotics, homicide, and SWAT. Many state and federal law enforcement agencies have specialized missions. Therefore if you begin your career as an FBI Special Agent you will be conducting investigations.

The mission of the agency is an important factor to look at. If you work for a drug enforcement agency you most likely will be working narcotics. If you work for highway patrol you most likely will be working traffic enforcement. Therefore, select an agency that has the type of work you are seeking.

One final factor to consider is pay and upward mobility. The pay between agencies can vary greatly. Every job announcement will state the starting pay range and often will state what the highest level of pay for that position will be. Look at what are the possibilities for career advancement within that agency. For example, a large police department has many specialized units that officers can move up into.