Benefits of a Law Enforcement Career for Police Officer Exam
The benefits of a policing career vary from agency to agency, and may include salary, fringe benefits (medical, dental, college tuition payments or reimbursement), and retirement and pension options. Law enforcement careers offer all of these. Benefits can also refer to non-tangible items, such as helping people, having an interesting or exciting career, or fulfilling a lifelong dream.
Salary is often a candidate's first consideration in taking a job. Although police agencies tend to offer excellent fringe benefits, many candidates—particularly the youngest ones—don't think as much about the future as much as older candidates or those who have had the bad luck of being unemployed. The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics found in 2007 that entry-level police and sheriffs' officers had a median annual earnings of $47,460. Although one might expect that the largest departments pay the highest salaries, this is not always true. Since police salaries are based on a combination of the local jurisdiction's ability to pay and how strong the police union might be, smaller, wealthier suburban areas often pay their police officers far more than large urban departments. Starting salaries and other benefits are featured on agency recruitment websites; the frequently asked questions (FAQs) will generally answer most of your questions in these areas.
Detectives and criminal investigators, who are most often selected from among the police officer ranks, had median annual earnings of $58,260. Supervisors—virtually all of whom likewise begin their careers as police officers and move through the ranks based on written exams and related factors similar to entry-level selection standards—had median annual earnings of more than $69,000. These are generally base salaries that do not include extra pay for working holidays, nights, or overtime.
Included in the definition of fringe benefits are paid vacations; sick leave; life, medical, dental, and disability insurance (for you and your dependents), tuition assistance or refund programs; a uniform allowance or possibly having your uniform provided by your agency, and retirement and pension benefits. While not every agency offers all these benefits, police departments tend to offer some of the most generous packages of public agencies. Often officers are eligible to retire after 20 or 25 years of service regardless of their age; other departments extend the 20-year retirement to those who have reached the age of 50 or 55. Either way, you may literally receive your retirement benefits for more years than you worked for them. These retirement benefits may be quite generous; it is not unknown for officers to receive at least half their final salaries as a retirement benefit and, depending on contractual agreements, far more than half if pension payouts are based on the final three or five years of salary.
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