Special Weapons and Tactical, or SWAT, teams are specially trained units within police departments that handle high risk situations. SWAT team members train constantly to handle crisis situations like hostage negotiations and have to maintain a high level of physical fitness and weapons expertise. SWAT team members, because of their high level of expertise and exposure to danger, are paid more, on average, than other police officers.
Job Duties and Conditions
Many SWAT team members in various police departments have "regular" police duties as well as their SWAT team responsibilities. They may work in traffic, on patrol or as detectives, and are called in for SWAT duties as needed. SWAT team members may work 12-hour or 24-hour shifts, and weekend and holiday work is required. Police work, including SWAT team work, is extremely stressful. There are long hours, confrontations with the public, dangerous situations and exposure to death and suffering.
SWAT team members are police officers. The median wage of patrol officers was $51,410 as of May 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Given the experience needed to be a SWAT team member, along with the specialized training, the median salary of a SWAT team member is a bit more, at $57,270 as of 2009, according to DegreeDirectory.org. Local SWAT team members made a bit less, with an annual salary of $51,020. SWAT supervising officers had a median salary of $69,300. Salaries can be higher than stated salaries because of significant overtime opportunities.
Police officers, including SWAT team members, have access to a number of benefits. Health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, sick leave, vacation time, a uniform allowance and tuition reimbursement are all typical benefits. SWAT team members, depending on where they are employed, may also participate in state, local or federal pension or retirement plans. Some pension plans also allow SWAT team members to retire early with a reduced pension.
Police work, which includes SWAT teams, is expected to grow at an average rate, as compared to other professions, according the the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Prospects are particularly good for bilingual officers. When SWAT team members are just starting out as police officers, they may need to start at urban, higher crime areas or in rural areas that may pay less to gain experience. They can also utilize tuition reimbursement and earn their bachelor's degree, if they haven't already, which can increase their pay and their job and advancement opportunities.