If you're considering a career in law enforcement, the average cop salary has to be a factor in your decision. Even though you'll only be a rookie cop for a short time, you need to know how much rookie cops make. Read about the average cop salary for rookies and in general. In addition, learn the factors that impact a police officer's salary.
Police Salary Average
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for police officers and detectives in 2021 was $66,020, or about $31.74 per hour. This varies largely by location, however, as well as by level of experience and the government agency overseeing the police department. State troopers, for instance, may make more money than a town police officer or county sheriff's deputy. Though these roles are technically different, they are often confused by the layperson.
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There is a wide range in police salaries. The lowest-earning 10 percent of police officers, which often includes rookie cops, made less than $40,420. Meanwhile, the highest-earning 10 percent earned more than $105,540. The median salary for detectives and criminal investigators, who are higher ranking than rookie cops, was $83,640.
The higher you rank, the more money you will earn. Detectives can become captains, lieutenants, and even chiefs of police or commissioners. Promotions within police ranks depend heavily on your work record. You may also need to pass examinations or complete more education.
The vast majority of police officers are full-time employees and earn other benefits in addition to their pay. This list includes health insurance, life insurance, paid holidays and vacations, the opportunity to earn overtime pay and other benefits. Significantly, most police officers also receive generous pensions upon retirement, and they get to retire earlier than most of the workforce.
How Much Do Rookie Cops Make?
An entry-level cop's salary will undoubtedly be less than an officer with experience. That's typical of anyone starting in any line of work. The most significant determining factor for how much money rookie cops make is where they live and serve. The cost of living varies widely in different parts of the country, and local taxes pay police salaries. That means that the income and tax revenue in a given municipality directly impacts the pay of police.
In Nashville, Tennessee, police academy trainees earn $43,105, and rookies can earn up to $50,772 depending on the level of education completed. In Phoenix, Arizona, officers start at about $53,000 and can earn up to $78,603.
In comparison, LAPD salaries for recruits are about $70,800 while in the academy and close to $75,000 for trainee officers. They get an annual pay increase (step increase) every year in addition to a cost of living increase.
How to Become a Police Officer
Different police forces have their own requirements, but most require all applicants to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Especially at the state or federal level, potential officers may need an associate degree or even a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field. FBI agents must have at least a master's degree.
Most police departments send their recruits to a training academy, where they learn the basics of police work. Admission to these academies sometimes depends on exam results. The training includes physical training and education about laws, police procedures and more.
If you plan to become a police officer, you might want to gain some experience in related fields, such as working as a security guard. If you're going to be a state or federal officer, it helps to have experience in smaller departments, such as a local department or force.