Law enforcement is a respected and essential profession in the United States. A chief of police not only supervises a team of officers and law enforcers, but also holds many managerial responsibilities associated with administration, finances and organizational development. Police chiefs work their way up the law enforcement ladder and can be compensated well for their services, but average salaries can greatly vary depending on several factors.
To obtain a position as a chief of police, you will need a minimum of a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. At least 10 years of law enforcement experience is also necessary and knowledge of a large variety of common practices and procedures in the law enforcement industry is preferred. Not only is a clean law enforcement record also important, but many candidates climbing the law enforcement ladder need to take extensive tests regarding morals, mental health and domestic and family life.
Like most professions, a chief of police salary can differ greatly depending on location. States with a higher cost of living will likely provide higher compensation. For example, in Georgia, a state with a relatively low cost of living index, average chief of police salaries range from $44,771 to $90,314 a year, according to PayScale's 2010 data. Conversely, in California, known for its high rent prices, a police chief can expect to average between $97,000 and $166,250 annually. The national average is $47,546 to $96,835 a year, as of 2010.
Experience is often a major factor in determining the salary of a police chief. A police chief with less than four years of experience in the position can make an average as low as $33,738 and only a high average of $71,489 a year. As the years go by and the chief gains not only experience, but a reputation as a quality law enforcement officer, the salary can go up significantly. A police chief with 20 years or more of experience can expect to bring in an average between $59,600 and $108,970 annually, according to PayScale.
Type of Employer and Police Force Size
A chief of police for a school district will be managing law enforcement for a smaller population and often receives a smaller salary, averaging between $36,174 and $73,698. However, a police chief at the head of a federal agency can expect a salary ranging from $52,381 to $122,219 a year. These numbers are tied into the size of the employing company or organization as well. A police chief in a small town with less than 10 law enforcement employees will average $35,605 to $49,640. However, PayScale states that a chief in a large city or law enforcement entity containing 600 to 1999 employees will average from $50,500 to $102,000 a year.