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Human Services Pathway

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Human Services Pathway

Law Enforcement

What Police Officers Do

Police officers protect lives and property. Detectives and criminal investigators, who sometimes are called agents or special agents, gather facts and collect evidence of possible crimes. Law enforcement officers’ duties depend on the size and type of their organizations.

Work Environment

Police and detective work can be physically demanding, stressful and dangerous. Police officers have one of the highest rates of on-the-job injuries and fatalities.

How to Become a Police Officer

Education requirements range from a high school diploma to a college degree or higher. Most police and detectives must graduate from their agency’s training academy before getting on-the-job training. Candidates must be U.S. citizens, usually at least 21 years old, and meet rigorous physical and personal qualifications.


The median annual wage of police and detectives was $55,010 in May 2010.

Job Outlook

Employment of police and detectives is expected to grow by 7 percent from 2010 to 2020, slower than the average for all occupations. Continued demand for public safety will lead to new openings for officers in local departments; however, both state and federal jobs may be more competitive.

Quick Facts: Police Officers
2010 Median Pay $55,010 per year
Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
On-the-job Training Long-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2010 794,300
Job Outlook, 2010-20 7% growth rate

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