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Deputy sheriffs work as sworn law enforcement officers, serving their communities through crime prevention and intervention. They make arrests and supervise their detainees, and enforce laws at the local, state and federal levels. Sheriff's officers, including deputy officers, are usually employed by county governments, and can advance through the ranks to become chief deputy sheriffs or sheriffs.
The median hourly wage for a deputy officer comes to $20.61, or $43,395 each year. Those in the lowest 10th percentile of earning potential make around $30,000 per year, or $14.01 per hour, while those in the 90th percentile make up to $73,000 annually, or $33.52 per hour.
On average, deputy sheriffs take home the following additional compensation, as well:
- Bonuses of between $103 and $5,960.
- $28,310 profit sharing.
Pay varies depending on location, experience and education level.
Requirements to Become a Deputy Sheriff
Most counties employing deputy sheriffs require job candidates to hold a high school diploma, valid driver's license and clean record, meaning no felony, DWI, domestic violence or recent misdemeanor convictions. Many prefer to hire candidates with a degree in criminal justice. Aspiring deputy officers should anticipate taking the following steps toward their dream career:
- Obtain a degree or relevant experience in the law enforcement field.
- Apply through a county government to become a deputy sheriff.
- Undergo a background investigation, fingerprinting and interview.
- If hired, receive on-the-job training to become a sheriff's deputy.
Prospective deputy sheriffs should prepare to meet requirements for physical ability and sound judgment and mental acuity, as well. Many sheriff's offices mandate that candidates undergo strength and dexterity tests, and academies tend to maintain stringent physical standards for aspiring candidates both at their time of entry and time of graduation. Trainees may be required to complete a long-distance run, sprint, and a set of pushups or bench presses in order to graduate from the academy.
Deputy candidates must also demonstrate sound judgment and mental acuity in their application process. Sheriff's offices may require only a high school diploma or equivalent as the minimum, but many give preference to applicants who have completed a law enforcement certification program or a college degree. Sheriff's deputies must possess solid knowledge of the law, law enforcement concepts and police procedures.
Testing and Training
Many sheriff's departments require candidates to pass a standard written test to demonstrate their reading, writing and math skills. Sheriff training may include physical exams, as well, to assess candidates' stamina, strength and dexterity. Candidates who successfully pass these tests must go through interviews with senior offers or the sheriff, plus a psychological evaluation and background check. Some departments may administer a polygraph exam, as well.
Candidates who obtain a conditional employment offer should complete basic training at a state-sanctioned police academy, for which requirements vary between states. Academy programs usually last between 18 and 24 weeks, combining a military-style, boot camp regimen with intense educational curricula. The physical component of sheriff training includes:
- Arrest procedures.
- Close combat.
- Firearms training.
- High-speed driving/pursuit tactics.
- Challenging physical conditioning.
In the classroom, they learn:
- Constitutional law.
- Organization history.
- Search and seizures.
- Traffic stops.
- Report writing.
- Witness questioning.
Following sheriff training and police academy graduation, prospective sheriffs deputies pair with field training officers for a probationary employment period, which may last several weeks or months.
Brenna Swanston is a freelance writer, editor and journalist. She previously reported for the Sun newspaper in Santa Maria, California, and she holds a bachelor's in journalism from California Polytechnic State University.
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