Pursuing a career in law enforcement can take you in any number of directions, from homeland security to the police force to the correctional system to the legal and courts system. Law enforcement officials in the United States can be employed by local, state or federal governments, but they are all entrusted with the mission of protecting public safety, preventing crimes and apprehending criminals. Federal government opportunities in law enforcement include the U.S. Coast Guard, the FBI, the CIA, the DEA, positions with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, federal judges, federal prison guards and more. State and local positions include bailiff, county or city jail guard, police officer, detective, criminal lawyer, judge and others. Law enforcement officials have the authority to make arrests, investigate crimes, hear cases, conduct investigations, and/or give punishment. Law enforcement officials are specifically trained in their field, but all have an understanding and commitment to the overall criminal justice system in the United States.
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Depending on your position within law enforcement, you could make an average salary or a very high, competitive salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, police chiefs earned between $78,547 and $99,698 a year in 2006, while police corporals earned between 44,160 and 55,183. Detective supervisors earned between $53,900 and $83,940 and FBI agents earned between $48,159 and $60,199 as entry-level agents in 2007. These salaries also depend on geographic location and the governmental agency that employs you. Federal agencies, for instance, generally pay higher salaries than local government entities. Government employees also receive full benefits packages, which can include benefits like paid vacation and holidays, health insurance, long-term care insurance, access to a retirement savings plan and more.
Educational requirements for law enforcement positions also vary. Many police officer positions only require that applicants have a high school diploma, some college credits and have passed the police academy training program and exam. Special agents, however, need to have a bachelor’s degree, but Master’s degrees can be helpful when competing against other job seekers. Lawyers need to have a law degree from an accredited institution, and forensic scientists should have at least a bachelor’s degree, though a Master’s is sometimes preferred.