Sheriff: Career Summary, Employment Outlook, and Education Requirements

Explore the career requirements for sheriffs. Get the facts about salary, job outlook and education requirements to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Law Enforcement degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Sheriff?

Sheriffs are elected law enforcement officials who supervise sworn police officers within a jurisdiction. They work specifically on the county level, and usually have relatively similar duties to regular police officers. These duties may include patrolling designated locales, organizing files for court proceedings, overseeing police work at crime scenes and stopping traffic offenders. Sheriffs tend to do more security work in courts as well as operate jails.

Read the table to learn more about the key skills and education requirements for this career.

Education Required High school diploma; postsecondary education preferred
Training Required Police academy training
Other Requirements Winning an election in some jurisdictions
Key Skills Physical stamina and strength, leadership, empathy, good judgment
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 5% for first-line supervisors of police and detectives
Median Annual Salary (2018)* $89,030 for first-line supervisors of police and detectives

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are My Duties as a Sheriff?

As a sheriff, you are typically employed by a county government to oversee a team of deputies as they carry out police functions within their jurisdiction. As chief administrator in police services for your county, you may also go out on patrol, make arrests, act on warrants and provide protective custody. Your other duties can include operating the county jail, transporting inmates to different correctional facilities, testifying in court and managing emergency scenes.

How Is My Employment Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2018, employment for police supervisors, including sheriff positions, was expected to grow by five percent through 2028, which is as fast as average for all job growth. Demand for their services may be driven by the growing need desire for public safety in the United States. The BLS reported that police supervisors, including sheriffs, had an annual average salary of $89,030 in May 2018.

What Are My Education Requirements?

Although sheriff requirements can vary by location, you usually need to have a high school diploma, have no criminal record and be at least 21 years old. You may need to pass physical and psychological exams as well. Upon satisfactory completion of these first steps, you can then complete specialized training at a police training academy, which usually takes 3-6 months. As a trainee, you may receive instruction in firearms use, emergency vehicle driving, crowd control, defensive tactics and emergency response.

After graduating from the police academy, you can start as a sworn officer or sheriff's deputy and rise through the ranks. You may improve your chances of career advancement by completing a college-level degree in criminal justice, police science or public administration. Your department may also be willing to pay all or part of your tuition if you choose to pursue postsecondary education. Keep in mind that many sheriffs are elected to their positions, so you may have to campaign for an available opening.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Training at a police academy may be all that's required for sheriffs and police officers in some jurisdictions, but college coursework may help promote one to a sheriff's position. One can also become a corrections officer or bailiff, both requiring high school diplomas and different levels of training. Bailiffs keep the peace in courtroom proceedings and correctional officers oversee criminals in detention centers. Similar to police officers, correctional officers may need to take part in training academies. One job with minimal training and authority is that of security guard, who patrols public and private properties to keep everything safe and sound.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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