Working as a police officer can help you earn benefits such as a regular salary, medical coverage and a retirement pension. Your wages may vary depending on your work location and the salary levels set by local governments. Your educational background may also help increase your starting pay.
More than two-thirds of the officers at state and local law enforcement agencies in the U.S. were employed by police departments as of 2008, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The average starting salaries of new police officers ranged from $26,600 to $49,500, with larger jurisdictions generally paying higher wages, the BJS says. The median annual wage earned by police officers as of 2011 was $54,230, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salaries received by the bottom 10 percent of officers were $32,080 or less.
Pay by Region:
The city or state where police officers work affects their wages. As of 2012, the starting salary for officers in the Miami Police Department was $45,929. New police officers working for the Los Angeles Police Department start out earning $46,583 with a high school diploma. Officers who had completed at least 60 credit hours of college and had at least a 2.0 grade point average started out earning $48,462 in Los Angeles. Those who had a bachelor's degree or more advanced degree earned $50,342. Starting salaries for police officers in Columbus, Ohio, was $43,430.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division, police officers qualify to receive overtime. Under Fair Labor Standards Act laws, they are eligible to receive 1 1/2 times their standard hourly rate for all time they work above 40 hours in a week. Overtime may be paid to compensate officers for working extra shifts, caring for police dogs or extending their work hours by appearing in court on work-related cases.
Police officers may receive benefits such as paid sick leave, paid holidays, tuition assistance and medical coverage. Jobs for uniformed officers and detectives are expected to grow by 7 percent from 2010 through 2020, according to the BLS. By learning a foreign language, police officers may increase their chances of getting hired by federal agencies or departments in urban areas.