Policeman? Sheriff? How About Game Warden?

Excitement? Yes.
Variety? Yes.
Adrenaline? Absolutely! (well, most of the time. . . .)
High Pay? Well…not really….

If you want a career in law enforcement, you are guaranteed one thing: you’ll always be into something new. A lot of the time, you’ll be assisting people on the wrong side of the law find their way to the right side, which means you won’t always be making friends along the way.

Becoming a Police Officer

To work in most areas, you’ll need some college work to become a police officer, ranging from a specified number of credit hours (around 90 in many places), a two-year degree, or a four-year degree, depending on what position you want.

You’ll have to take a written exam and a physical exam. Usually there will be a background check. And once you are hired, you will probably receive further training, including firearms training.

Not Just Giving Tickets

Variety is the name of the game for a uniformed police officer. You will certainly conduct regular patrols, usually in a police vehicle but sometimes on bicycle, horseback, or even on a police Segway.

You will also respond to many types of calls: domestic violence, accidents, burglaries, drug investigations, and more. You may also participate in community building, such as the DARE (www.dare.com/) program to help prevent drug abuse in youth.

County Sheriff

Jason Llewelyn is a county sheriff in a small rural county in Utah. The requirements to become a sheriff are not too different than becoming a policeman, but the job is different in some ways.

“Mostly the hours,” Jason says. “Police officers get overtime, but we don’t. The hours can be very long and demanding. Not too conducive for family life,” he chuckles (so the clichés on police dramas are right after all!).

Sheriffs get plenty of variety in their work, too. Check out this description for a sheriff’s job in Champaign, Illinois. When I asked Jason the most surprising thing he ever came across in his work as a sheriff, he said, “An airplane accident.” The crisis was long past and the scene was quiet, but the violence was evident in the crushed bodies of the victims.

Jason has worked in several areas in law enforcement, including communications. The work is interesting, but he points out that “most law enforcement jobs are not highly paid.” You can see their average salaries.

Police Cadet

If you are under 21, even if you are still in school, and you want to find out what police work is really like, you can apply for the Police Cadet Program in your area. Police cadets do genuine police work, such as lab work (including fingerprinting and photo lab), traffic services, youth services, communications, and more.

Doing this work can give you a true picture of what police work is like, and it may give you a perfect entry into your local police department, too.


If you don’t want to be out on the street, you can always train and apply to be a CSI. Just about every police department needs CSIs, even small community departments.

Federal Law Enforcement Jobs

There is a whole world of federal law enforcement out there. Read about the many possible jobs for you. Some of this work is local and some of it is in Washington D.C. and some of it requires a great deal of travel (think FBI and CIA).

Game Warden

And before you think you will only be pounding the pavement if you take a law enforcement job, remember there are some great outdoor positions, like game wardens.

It’s law enforcement because you have to investigate hunting and fishing violations, but it’s much more. You might also “conduct biological duties such as fish creel censuses, deer/elk/antelope population surveys, and migratory bird aerial surveys.”  Usually, just like other law-enforcement jobs, you’ll need a two-year or a four-year degree and the pay is not particularly high. It’s a great way to spend our life in the outdoors, though.

Is Law Enforcement for You?

Being in law enforcement is a great way to stay close to your community. Everybody knows you and people in trouble rely on you to help them through hard times. Sure, some folks may diss you for being a cop but most policemen love the chance to serve. If you’re interested, check out your local college and online opportunities to train as a law enforcement officer.

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