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Unlike many other careers, police officers can’t receive adequate training from civilian-based education, and traditional on-the-job training isn’t applicable for workers in a potentially dangerous work environment. Because of this, police officers receive formal training in police methods and the criminal justice system as cadets when they attend a police academy. While most organizations hire officers and then enroll them in their academy, paying them a cadet salary as they train, some civilians self-sponsor themselves in an academy to bolster their resume.
Because the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t differentiate pay levels for police officers by their rank, it doesn’t keep statistics on cadets' pay while they attend the academy. As with other police officer salaries, pay ranges for cadets vary significantly around the country and with the size of the district that employs the cadet. Cadets in larger organizations may expect to earn salaries that range as widely as the low $20,000s to the $40,000 range. Baltimore cadets earn $24,295 annually as of publication and those training for the Maryland State Police earn $23,525 annually. Cadets in Houston earn $31,965 and those in Sacramento receive $40,032.
Cadet Salary vs. Officer Salary
Most police academy training lasts between 12 and 14 weeks, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook. During that time most cadets receive pay at a cadet-grade salary, which is often about 50 percent of a commissioned officer’s salary. Some large departments, such as the Los Angeles Police Department, provide full salaries to officers when they’re appointed to the academy, and they start receiving salaries that range from $45,226 to $48,880, depending upon their education.
Salary Upon Commission
If a cadet doesn’t receive a full officer salary while in the academy, he customarily receives a raise when he receives his commission. Average salaries for entry-level police officers range from $30,070 and $38,850, according to Criminal Justice Careers and Education. After they’re established in their career, police officers received an average annual salary of $55,620 as of May 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Police officer salaries range significantly, however, with the half of all salaries closest to the median range from $40,830 to $69,070.
Competition for law enforcement positions is fierce in some areas, and to help increase their qualifications when applying, some potential officers choose to sponsor themselves in a police academy. These students don’t receive a salary while in the academy and cover their own tuition at community-college tuition rates. In addition to allowing officers to enter the workforce immediately after they’re hired, it also spares departments the expense of training and providing a cadet salary through the length of the academy. As of publication, Illinois, Arkansas and Kansas do not allow students to self-sponsor and enter a police academy.
Wilhelm Schnotz has worked as a freelance writer since 1998, covering arts and entertainment, culture and financial stories for a variety of consumer publications. His work has appeared in dozens of print titles, including "TV Guide" and "The Dallas Observer." Schnotz holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Colorado State University.