There are benefits, both tangible and intangible, for using your degree in law enforcement. Beyond the compensation and related benefits of employment, there is the altruistic satisfaction of serving your city, county, state, or country. You must uphold the law, display integrity, and respect, and abide by a code of ethics.
You might be pursuing a degree in criminal justice or one of many others that are applicable to the professions of fighting crime. Not all of these require a degree. For example, you only need a high school diploma to apply to most police academies. This is where the majority of law enforcement personnel work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 662,390 police and sheriff’s patrol officers employed in the nation as of May 2017. These officers enjoy many benefits not offered by many private organizations.
Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies offer health insurance coverage to their employed officers and their dependents, in which they cover 70 percent or more of their officers’ monthly premiums. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, for example, provides its officers with the Federal Employees Health Benefits option that covers up to 75 percent of employee premiums. However, some city departments require officers to contribute part of their salaries, depending on whether they want coverage only for themselves or include their families.
Individuals interested in healthcare insurance should check the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). This government site compares all of the 2018 healthcare plans available for federal employees.
At the city level, for example, San Antonio, Texas, police department provide 100% health, dental, and optical insurance for you and your family.
Upon retirement, officers who meet certain qualifications, such as being over 55 and having at least 10 years of service, receive subsidies for medical insurance. Years of service and the retiree’s age are factors in the calculation.
Retirement may be the furthest thing on your mind as you enter the law enforcement out of college. However, if you are dedicated to becoming a police officer or similar occupation in law enforcement, you should examine pension benefits. Not all pensions are created equal. For example, in New Hampshire, the calculation of pensions for state and local police, firefighters, correctional officers, and public safety workers is as follows:
Two percent (.02) X the average of three highest-paid years X amount of time served.
In order to become eligible for pension as a state police officer in Massachusetts, you will need to work 20 years in the service. After 20 years, you will receive 50 percent of your final year’s compensation as your pension. This could be advantageous if you continue working in another line of work to supplement your pension.
For pension information pertaining to your state, please refer to the National Conference of State Legislature site.
The highest paid police officers typically work in the more expensive cities. According to the BLS, New York/White Plains pays the highest – a median salary of $74,560. Los Angeles exceeds New York with a median age of $103,320. Ideally, you want to work where there is a high income, coupled with a low cost of living. Nevada tops the list with a median salary of $72,040, no state income tax, and a Cost of Living rank of #36. Details provided by PoliceOne in March 2017. They listed the top states to make a living as a police officer. They used the criteria of salary, cost of living, income tax, and property taxes. Other high rankings were Washington (state) #2, Wyoming #3, Alaska #4, and Texas #5.
College graduates with aspirations to join federal law enforcement will need at least a Bachelor’s degree. Candidates must hold a four-year degree from a college or university accredited by one of the institutional associations recognized by the United States Secretary of Education. At least three years of professional work experience is also mandatory.
The General Schedule (GS) classification and pay system cover the majority of civilian white-collar Federal employees (about 1.5 million worldwide) in professional, technical, administrative, and clerical positions. The GS pay schedule comprises 15 Grades with 10 Steps for each Grade. These range from Grade 1/Step 1 at $18,785 to Grade 15/Step 10 at $136,659.
The DEA, for example, pays students enrolled in the 18-week training program between $37,309 and $41,612 during their training. Once posted, the agent may receive a salary rating from GS-7 up to GS-9, which translates into initial salaries ranging from $49,746 to $55,483. To reflect the superior credentials, intelligence specialists join the Drug Enforcement Administration at the GS-9 pay grade, which offers salaries from $51,630 to $67,114 per year.
FBI agents receive compensation based on the same General Schedule. The schedule used by the FBI in 2018:
- GS-10: $48,289-$62,787
- GS-11: $54,062-$68,983
- GS-12: $63,600-$82,680
- GS-13: $75,628-$98,317
- GS-14: $89,370-$116,181
- GS-15: $105,123-$136,659
Tangible benefits could be the most enticing aspect of pursuing a degree in criminal justice or related degree. A number of degrees will provide eligibility to apply to your local police force or a federal agency. The intangible benefits are more difficult to quantify. These entail your personal reasons for wanting to work in a crime-fighting role. These reasons might stretch from your desire to make society safer to a sense of honor to serve and protect.