What Are the Job Duties of a Sheriff?

A sheriff is responsible for law enforcement on the county level. The sheriff's deputies carry out most of the law enforcement duties while the sheriff, usually an elected official, manages their activities. Read on to find out about a sheriff's duties and job description. Schools offering Law Enforcement degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Sheriff?

The sheriff is usually an elected position, serving for a set term (often 4 years). A sheriff is responsible for law enforcement on a county level, ensuring that all local, state, and federal laws are followed. He or she performs a role similar to that of a police chief in a municipal department, managing a department in charge of protecting people and property and maintaining order. The sheriff usually has jurisdiction over any unincorporated areas of his or her county, while a police chief is in charge of areas within town or city limits.

What is a Deputy Sheriff?

A deputy sheriff, or sheriff's deputy, serves under the sheriff in a role similar to that of uniformed police officers. Deputy sheriffs perform the day-to-day tasks of law enforcement under the supervision and direction of the sheriff.

What Does a Sheriff Do?

A sheriff manages his or her deputies, who are usually uniformed officers who patrol and maintain order in the community. The sheriff monitors and directs deputies as they perform the following duties:

  • Investigating complaints
  • Emergency response
  • Patrolling
  • Monitoring traffic safety
  • Resolving disputes
  • Arresting suspects
  • Criminal investigation
  • Executing warrants

The sheriff is also responsible for managerial and clerical office duties, which may include filling out paperwork on warrants and complaints, reviewing patrol logs, overseeing hiring and training of deputies, managing the county jail, and writing and distributing the budget. The sheriff also may be responsible for, or at least take part in, public forums on policing matters, as well as community outreach programs.

Important Facts About Sheriffs

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent
Similar Occupations Police detective, correctional officer, border patrol agent
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 5% (for all police and detectives)
Median Salary (2018)* $61,380 (for all police and sheriff's patrol officers)
Work Environment Office, in the community

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Sheriff Job Description and Qualifications

Sheriffs are employed by counties, and their departments tend to be small, often with fewer than 50 employees. To become a sheriff, one should possess a desire to help people and engage with their community. While a college degree is not always required, many sheriffs have an associate's or bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field. Sheriffs benefit from having prior experience supervising staff, writing budgets, and managing all types of paperwork. Since the county sheriff typically serves in an elected position, candidates usually have several years of experience serving in some capacity in the community, as well as familiarity with the county.

Salary Statistics

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary earned by a police or sheriff's patrol officer was $61,380 a year as of May 2018. However, pay can vary greatly in this field, with the lowest-paid 10% earning below $35,750 or less a year and the highest-paid 10% earning $101,620 or above annually. A major factor affecting salary is the size, as well as the budget, of the county for which a sheriff is working.

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