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Police Officer

What is this job like?

Police officers and detectives enforce laws. They catch criminals. They collect evidence. They sometimes testify in court. Others patrol set areas to prevent crime. Some patrol and give out traffic tickets. Some direct traffic.

Most police officers wear uniforms. However, detectives and special agents often work in regular clothes. Most detectives are part of regular police forces, but detectives usually have separate duties from police officers.

Most police officers work on foot or ride in cars, but a few ride horses, bikes, or motorcycles. Some work in boats on rivers and in harbors. Some police work with dogs.

Most police officers and detectives work at least 40 hours a week. When they work longer, they get extra pay. Because police work is a 24-hour-a-day job, some police have to work nights and weekends. They have to be ready to go to work at all times. Police officers may work very long hours on a case. Some have to travel a lot, often on short notice.

Some police officers work outdoors in all kinds of weather. Some take very big risks when they chase criminals in cars or when they make an arrest. Good training, teamwork, and good equipment keep police officers safe.

How do you get ready?

Most police officers must be U.S. citizens. They must be healthy, strong, and of good character. To get a job, a person must pass a written test, be at least a high school graduate, and have some work experience.

Some local, special, and State police units want recruits to have some college training. All Federal police agencies require a college degree. Many police units encourage new recruits to take college courses in police work.

How many jobs are there?

There were about 661,500 police officers, sheriffs, and detectives in 2008. Almost 9 out of 10 worked for local government. The rest worked for state or federal police agencies.What about the future?

Employment of police officers and detectives is expected to increase about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2018. Many people are attracted to police work because it is challenging and offers an opportunity to serve their communities. Persons with college training in police science or who have military experience, or both, should have the best chances for a job.

How much does this job pay?

In May of 2008, police officers had average yearly wages of $52,810. Police get paid for overtime. Police also receive paid vacation, sick leave, and medical and life insurance. Often they get money for uniforms. Many retire at half-pay after 25 or 30 years of service.

Are there other jobs like this?

Correctional officers

Customs and immigration inspectors

Firefighting occupations

Private detectives and investigators

Security guards

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