Benefits of a Law Enforcement Career for Police Officer Exam (page 2)

Updated on Mar 16, 2011

Job Outlook

Whatever your reason for pursuing a law enforcement career, the current, cooled-down economic situation may make it more difficult to follow your dream. It has been an employment reality since the Great Depression of the 1930s that in times of economic instability people seek government jobs. Because policing is one of the most desirable government jobs (and in most locales is among the highest paid), competition intensifies when private industry jobs are less available and riskier.

In the period from about 2005 to 2008, many police agencies were unable to recruit a sufficient number of candidates to fill existing vacancies. Many offered signing bonuses to new officers; others began to recruit farther and farther from home. Since the nation's economic downturn, the situation has turned around dramatically. Departments are flush with applicants; departments in Connecticut, for instance, reported in mid-2009 that they were receiving up to 50 applications a month where a year earlier they were lucky to receive three or four. Police chiefs see this as wonderful news; many have reported a noticeable upturn in not only the quantity, but also the quality of applicants who see policing as a secure job with benefits and a career ladder. What the chiefs see as wonderful, though, means that the competition has intensified. Your written exam score—the first major step toward your career—will become more important than ever to open the door to your career. Do not be discouraged, though; by reading this book, you have taken an important step in preparing yourself to achieve a high test score to place yourself among the more competitive candidates for these sought-after police positions.

The number of police in the nation has grown significantly since 1990 (in part due to the 1994 Violent Crime Control Act, which provided federal funds for hiring 100,000 new officers). By 2000, there were about 78,000 more sworn officers than in 1990, an increase of about 21%. If funds remain available, and even a small fraction of these officers begin to retire at the 20-year mark, replacement positions will become available as early as 2014—which, as you will see after reviewing the hiring process, is not as far away as it might seem. Although the majority of police officers remain for a full career, there is attrition of those leaving the field. Police departments generally have an average attrition rate of about 5%, but this figure has recently increased due to vacancies that have existed for the years police departments had difficulties recruiting candidates. More recently, in mid-2009, the COPS Hiring Recovery Program awarded almost $1 million to more than 1,000 police agencies to fund close to 5,000 officers.

The U.S. Bureau of Law Statistics, in its Occupational Outlook Handbook for 2008-2009, estimated that employment of police would grow 11% between 2006 and 2016, and termed the job prospects excellent for those able to meet the stringent qualifications. This demand is fueled by increases in population, the movement of people into areas where smaller police agencies are growing to meet population demands, and the overall fear of crime that continues despite falling crime rates. The BLS estimated that by 2016 there would be almost 100,000 police officers employed around the country, the vast majority of them employed by municipal, state, and special jurisdiction departments. By starting your career planning now, and undertaking a study regimen before your written exam, you are enhancing your chances to be one of those officers.

Additional Resources

Becoming a Police Officer. (New York: LearningExpress, 2009).

State Trooper Exam, 2nd Edition. (New York: Learning-Express, 2010.)

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