Police officers at the municipal and city levels are among the most vital public servants in our communities. These law enforcement professionals protect our homes, our property, and our lives, ensuring our safety and well-being, and their importance cannot be overvalued.
Fortunately, in most parts of the country, the salaries of police officers reflect their value. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), police and sheriff’s patrol officers at the local/municipal level earned an average salary of $70,690 as of May 2021. The BLS also found that more than 90% of all police officers in the nation worked for local government entities during this time.
Police officers at this level may also work for colleges and schools. The BLS revealed that police officers working for colleges, universities, and professional schools earned an average salary of $60,120 as of May 2021. Those working for junior colleges earned an average salary of $54,810, while those working for elementary and secondary schools earned an average salary of $59,750.
A police officer’s salary is dependent upon a number of other factors, and with the right qualifications, your earning power can go from good to downright impressive.
State by State Overview of Typical Salaries for Police Officers
The following BLS table highlights state salaries for police officers serving at the municipal level:
Factors Influencing Police Officer Salaries
Here’s what you need to know about police officer salaries and the factors that influence them:
It’s About the Right Education
While most police departments accept candidates with a minimum of a high school diploma, post-secondary education of some kind is a valued qualification. And in some states like Illinois, New Jersey, and North Dakota, a college education of at least two years is mandatory.
…And Putting in the Time
The size of your salary will be largely dependent upon your years of experience as a commissioned police officer. You’ll find that most police departments reward their officers with salary increases based on years of experience.
Early career police officers earned about $50,630 as of May 2021, according to the BLS. But those at the top end of the pay scale earned about $102,530 during this time, which reveals a significant increase for those with extensive experience.
But you’ll also notice that salary increases occur as certain milestones are met. For example, it is typical for police officers to receive a salary increase upon graduating from the police academy.
Keep in mind that experience in the eyes of many police agencies includes military experience, so it’s quite common for those with either active duty or reserve duty military experience to earn a high salary than their non-military counterparts.
Benefits are Important, Too
Police officers’ benefits packages can add significantly to their overall compensation package. Benefits often include paid vacation days and holidays; life, healthcare, and disability insurance; and retirement benefits. In some police agencies, police officers are permitted to take home department vehicles, and stipends for supplies like boots and uniforms are commonplace.
Retirement benefits can be substantial in this field. For example, police officers with the San Francisco Police Department earn 3% of their final compensation per year of service at age 58, with a maximum retirement benefit of 90% based on years of service. Similarly, police offices with the City of Milwaukee earn a fully funded pension after 25 years of service.
The Value of Bonuses and Specialized Skills Incentives
A police officer’s salary can increase dramatically based on bonuses, rank, or specialized position. Hiring bonuses are commonplace in jurisdictions that struggle with a lack of qualified candidates.
Specialized skills also often result in increases in pay. Involvement in a department’s K-9 unit, traffic unit, aviation unit, mounted unit, or SWAT unit are just some of the ways your salary can increase.
While a 40-hour workweek is standard in law enforcement, police officers have the option of putting in overtime, which often comes with an increased hourly wage. Many police officers are able to dramatically increase their weekly take home pay with the addition of overtime hours.
2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures for police and sheriff’s patrol officers. 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.