While the job scope of sheriff’s deputies tends to vary from one jurisdiction to the next, what remains constant is their duty to protect and serve as sworn peace officers.
In return for their service, these law enforcement professionals enjoy strong salaries. However, the base salary for sheriff’s deputies is just one component of the overall compensation picture. Bonuses, incentives, and benefits can and do have the ability to turn a good salary into a remarkable one.
State by State Overview of Hourly Pay for Sheriff’s Deputies Throughout the US
The following Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) table highlights what police and sheriff’s patrol officers are earning hourly at every level, from early career (25th percentile) to late-career/experienced (90th percentile), as of May 2021:
Factors Influencing a Sheriff’s Deputy Salary
According to the BLS, sheriff’s deputies earned an average annual salary of $70,690 ($33.98/hour) as of May 2021.
A broader overview shows that early career police and sheriff’s patrol officers earned about $50,630 ($24.34/hour), while the highest earners brought home salaries of about $102,530 ($49.29/hour).
Where you work—geographically speaking—is the largest factor when determining your salary potential. In certain parts of the country, salaries for sheriff’s deputies are higher to reflect a higher cost of living. For example, you can naturally expect sheriff’s deputies in California to earn more than their counterparts in Louisiana.
As of May 2021, the states with the highest average salaries for police and sheriff patrol officers were:
- California: $102,920
- Washington: $92,390
- New Jersey: $91,690
- Alaska: $87,510
- Illinois: $82,800
Larger jurisdictions also often come with larger sheriff’s deputy salaries, as do larger sheriff’s departments. Some of the metro areas with the highest paid patrol officers include:
- San Jose (includes Sunnyvale and Santa Clara), CA: $125,960
- San Francisco (includes Oakland and Hayward), CA: $118,450
- Napa, CA: $116,010
- Vallejo-Fairfield, CA: $115,800
- Santa Rosa, CA: $106,050
- Santa Cruz (includes Watsonville), CA: $104,420
While the minimum educational requirement to become a sheriff’s deputy in most sheriff’s departments is a high school diploma or GED, that doesn’t mean a college education isn’t valued in this field. In fact, most departments reward sheriff’s deputies who have some type of college education in the form of higher salaries. Plus, many sheriff’s offices also offer monetary incentives for sheriff’s deputies who want to earn a degree.
From advanced critical thinking and communication skills to a solid foundation in the criminal justice system, college degrees (anywhere from an associate’s degree to a master’s degree) can provide sheriff’s deputies with skills that translate well to work in the field of law enforcement. While degrees in criminal justice are the favored post-secondary course of education for sheriff’s deputies, other popular degrees in law enforcement include criminology, sociology, public safety, accounting, forensic science, cybersecurity, and STEM-related fields like science, technology, and engineering.
Individuals with prior military experience are highly valued in law enforcement, and sheriff’s offices are no exception. Both reservists and veterans have already demonstrated their loyalty to the country and their willingness to serve others. Furthermore, most sheriffs’ offices follow a hierarchy similar to that of the military with a top-down command structure. Military veterans are familiar with taking orders from superiors and serving within a unit. Many organizations are willing to pay deputies with command experience a premium in addition to their base salary.
Are you bilingual? You’re in luck. Many sheriff’s departments offer sheriff’s deputies who are bilingual a monthly stipend or bonus. Being able to speak another language, particularly in areas of the country that have a high population of non-native speaking residents, is beneficial for effectively communicating with the citizens you serve.
Advanced/Specialized Skills and Positions
Additional training and education leading to advanced skills often translate into higher paychecks for sheriff’s deputies. For example, sheriff’s deputies with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, after two years of experience, may apply for a specialized position, which comes with a salary increase.
Just some of these skilled positions include honor guard, internet crimes, canine, child abuse, homicide investigation, auto theft task force, arson/explosives, and vice narcotics.
As of May 2021, detectives and criminal investigators for sheriff’s departments earned an average salary of $78,730, which beats out the average salary for detectives and criminal investigators at the state level ($70,470).
Benefit packages are an important part of a sheriff’s deputy total compensation package. Paid time-off, including sick days and paid holidays; retirement savings plans; health insurance; life insurance; and disability insurance can all significantly add to a sheriff’s deputy’s income.
Experience and the Tiered Salary System
Most sheriff’s departments employ a tiered salary and promotion system for their sheriff’s deputies. These include an initial training salary, followed by an entry-level salary for commissioned officers who have completed all required training.
From there, salary increases are often dependent upon years of experience and promotions to higher ranks. In most organizations, there is a maximum time allotted before a step increase occurs, but increases may be awarded earlier at the discretion of the supervising officer.
The final step in a sheriff’s office salary scale is retirement, which usually occurs at 20-25 years of service. Retirement benefits in law enforcement tend to be generous, with most retired deputy sheriff’s earning 50% or more of their ending salary. Many departments also continue to provide some form of health and life insurance following retirement.
2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures for police and sheriff’s patrol officers and detectives and criminal investigators. Job growth projections from the US Department of Labor-sponsored resource, Projections Central. Figures are based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed August 2022.