Police officers earned an average annual wage of $55,010 in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and many law enforcement professionals never earn a six-figure income during their careers. However, some law enforcement jobs offer greater promise for those who wish to live with looser purse strings. By identifying law enforcement careers that pay well, and by understanding the necessary qualifications, you can better prepare yourself for one of these high-salaried law enforcement jobs.
Police Chief and Sheriff
The chief of police represents as the top-paid official with the municipal police department, and the sheriff serves as the highest salaried employee with the county sheriff's office. These law enforcement officials set rules and regulations for department personnel, establish their departments' budgets, recruit and train officers and serve as liaisons between the department and the public, outside law enforcement agencies and elected officials. They also plan and orchestrate crime sweeps and patrol the streets. Pay ranges from approximately $75,000 per year to as much as $200,000 per year. In Orlando, Florida, the police chief earned $143,166 in 2011.
Lieutenants, Captains and Majors
Police departments establish rank for officers, and the highest-ranking officers, including lieutenants, captains and majors, earn more than deputies and sergeants. In 2013, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office paid its majors between $78,803 and $118,204 per year. Captains earned $56,630 to $89,1093, and lieutenants earned $50,402 to $79,381. These high-ranking positions require past law enforcement experience. Most departments promote from within. Therefore, deputies and sergeants may earn more after they become senior officers and receive higher rank.
FBI Special Agents
The Federal Bureau of Investigation employs more than 10,000 federal officers. The FBI refers to them as special agents. These professionals specialize in areas such as counterterrorism, cybercrime and counterintelligence. Special agents attend the FBI Academy for training. They begin their careers at the federal GS-10 salary level. For 2012, that equaled an annual salary of $56,857. Field officers receive promotions up to the GS-13 level, which paid $89,033 annually in 2012. Supervisory, management and executive positions with the FBI pay at the GS-14 and GS-15 levels. These top FBI officials earn more than $100,000 per year.
Detectives investigate crimes committed in their area. They collect evidence, conduct interviews with suspects and witnesses, observe suspected criminal activity and arrest suspects. Detectives also do office work, which involves completing detailed reports for each of their cases and preparing for criminal trials. Detectives frequently appear in court to testify on behalf of the prosecutor. Detectives earn more than do police officers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for detectives was $68,820 in 2010.