How Much Does a Sheriff Make a Year?

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

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Keeping Order in the County

If the word "sheriff" brings to mind shootouts in Dodge City in the Wild West, you aren't alone. But modern-day sheriffs are integral parts of law enforcement in the United States. A sheriff runs a sheriff's office, and she is charged with patrolling and protecting rural areas and unincorporated urban areas. This top law enforcement post is usually an elected one. As a working mother, you'll love the solid salary and benefits this career offers, though it can be grueling and involve long hours. A sheriff's exact salary varies among states and also among counties within a single state.

Job Description

There is only one sheriff in a county, and she runs the sheriff's office, supervising other law enforcement personnel (often called deputy sheriffs) to maintain order in unincorporated areas. Officers in the sheriff's department perform many of the same duties as police officers do in cities. They issue citations and tickets, and they can arrest people for violations of state and federal laws. Because deputy sheriffs work in less densely populated areas, they may do more foot patrol work than urban police. A sheriff must organize her officers to ensure public safety.

Education Requirements

The more than 3,000 sheriffs' offices around the country have different job qualifications for the top law enforcement agent. Almost all require that deputy sheriffs hold at least an associate's degree or vocational school degree, but since the head sheriff is usually elected, there is no official educational requirement. However, successful candidates for sheriff often hold bachelor's or master's degrees in law enforcement or criminal justice.

In most jurisdictions, the head sheriff is selected either by the public in a general election or appointed to the post by a mayor or a police commission. You'll have to check with the county sheriff's office where you wish to work and plan accordingly. Regardless of how a sheriff is selected, candidates must be U.S. citizens and usually have extensive experience in law enforcement. Most counties mandate that candidates are at least 21 years of age and must be legally eligible to carry a gun. You'll need to develop political connections and find a way to get yourself into the public eye if the position you seek is an elected one.

Sheriff's salaries vary widely from state to state and also from county to county within a particular state. For example, in New York City, a sheriff's salary tops $110,000, while in the same state, a sheriff in the Buffalo area earns $20,000 less. In Georgia, salaries range from county to county but usually are above $90,000. The median annual wage for all law enforcement personnel in the country is $59,680. Since the sheriff position is an elected or appointed office, the salary does not vary based on education.

About the Industry

Sheriffs are employed by city, county or state governments. They do not work for any other industry.

Years of Experience

Because a sheriff is almost always elected or appointed to office, salary does not vary depending on years of experience.

Job Growth Trend

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, job growth for sheriffs and sheriffs deputies for the next decade will range between 5 and 8 percent. This is about average for all occupations.