Police officers, detectives, Federal Agents, and other law enforcement personnel work in adverse and trying conditions making sure that the streets remain safe and law-abiding citizens can sleep knowing that they are protected from harm.

The Scoop
Careers in Law Enforcement span a wide range of paths: Police officers who patrol the streets, detectives who track down wanted criminals, bailiffs who take care of security in the court system, transit police who make sure you can travel to work in safety, and of course, Federal Agents across a number of agencies such as the DEA or FBI.

As a police officer (or detective), your main tasks will include keeping a check on crime in public areas, responding to emergencies such as crime scenes and accidents, arresting suspects, tracking wanted persons, working undercover and of course, testifying in court. Other work roles in law enforcement are similar, with work focused on a particular area: bailiffs work in court, while an FBI agent might work undercover to catch a terrorist or counterfeiter.

The work, as you can expect, is hard and could place you in dangerous situations. Law Enforcement officers have to get used to irregular and punishing work schedules and timings. The work also places a high level of psychological stress on personnel, and a high degree of emotional strength is considered critical. Other personality traits that are considered as asset for law enforcement officers include an ability to remain unbiased, good situation awareness, and excellent communication skills. Prospective police officers should also not ignore physical fitness – this aspect of the job is so critical that you’ll have to pass regular tests to ensure that you’re in peak physical condition.

Study Paths
A high school education or GED is usually the minimum requirement for a career in law enforcement, while some agencies will expect a college degree. Most employers such as police departments and Federal Agencies will also have their own academies for specialized training. Apart from this, you can choose to study for an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in Law Enforcement or an allied field like Criminal Justice. Those with an existing degree can also go in for a Certificate course.

If you do choose to study a course in Law Enforcement, these are some of the subjects you’ll encounter:

  • Policing techniques and tactics
  • State criminal code
  • Evidence collection and crime scene techniques
  • Firearms safety and training
  • Driving techniques for law enforcement
  • Investigation techniques
  • Important court rulings
  • Federal and State issues
  • Corrections techniques
  • Legal issues
  • Terrorism
  • Patrolling techniques
  • Juvenile crime
  • Basic psychology

Career Opportunities
The most common career track in Law Enforcement is that of a police officer. Detectives and other specialist police personnel are also chosen from a pool of police officers. Apart from this, several Federal Agencies such as the FBI also recruit Law Enforcement specialists, while Fish and Game Wardens, and Transit Police officers are other popular occupational specializations.

Depending on their employers, Law Enforcement officers may also be allowed to work off-duty providing security to private establishments, while many also start up their own security business after retirement.