Sheriff’s deputies are often responsible for ensuring peace and security in locations outside of major metro areas, in the often more rural, unincorporated parts of a county. In return for their valuable public service, deputy sheriffs are compensated with substantial salaries.
While there is considerable variation in the annual salary that deputy sheriffs around the country earn, base salaries generally range between $34,000 and $64,000 for full-time sheriff’s patrol officers and deputies.
The data in this table shows the average hourly wages earned by deputy sheriffs who responded to a U.S. Department of Labor survey conducted in May 2011.
Factors Most Likely to Influence the Salary of a Deputy Sheriff
Education— Most sheriffs’ offices pay a bonus to deputies who have completed an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree program. The advanced skills in communication, law enforcement subjects, and critical thinking lend themselves to better performance as a deputy sheriff.
Better job performance enables these organizations to more effectively police a jurisdiction, so they are willing to provide higher salaries to attract better-qualified candidates. Many sheriffs’ offices prize education so highly that they are willing to provide tuition reimbursement and flexible schedules to officers who elect to take courses part time.
Military experience— Prior experience in the military is a highly valued quality in deputies. Actual combat experience helps prepare deputies for the potentially violent confrontations that may occur while serving as a law enforcement official. Even veterans without firsthand combat experience are highly desirable for the other qualities that military service promotes.
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.
Tiered Salary and Promotions
Training salary— Sheriff’s departments recognize that training is essential to the safety and performance of their deputies, so recruits are usually paid an entry level salary. While a significant number of police academy trainees do drop out, their pay is usually reflective of the time served.
Entry-level salary— The starting salary for a newly hired deputy is usually the minimum in the range paid to deputies in the department. However, the starting salary may be adjusted to reflect the responsibilities of the incoming deputy. In most organizations, deputies who serve as detention officers at the local jail earn less than those performing patrol or other duties.
Promotion steps— It is fairly common to find a step structure within sheriff’s offices. There may be a number of interim salary increases or steps within a full rank promotion. For example, there may be ten minor increases in salary between hiring and the first promotion to the rank of detective. These steps may be contingent upon time served, job performance or reviews by supervising officers. 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
Retirement— The stresses of law enforcement duty have prompted most sheriffs’ departments to place a limit on the number of years a deputy can serve. This may vary from 20 to 25 years of service, but the retirement benefits are usually very generous. The sacrifices and risks inherent in any law enforcement career, and especially one as demanding as deputy sheriff are rewarded by pensions that can be as high as 50 percent of ending salary. Many departments also continue to provide some form of health and life insurance following retirement. Some retirement plans require annual investments between 3 and 6 percent of salary before receiving benefits.