According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, or BJS, law enforcement professionals promote and maintain public order and safety. They prevent, detect and investigate crimes and apprehend suspects. Those entering law enforcement often do so for reasons other than pay, although some jobs in the field pay more than the U.S. Census Bureau's median household income of $52,762. Women make up 20 percent of law enforcement ranks nationwide, or 18,200 jobs, according to the latest BJS statistics from 2008.
The Ones in Blue
Patrolling, directing traffic, issuing traffic violations and arresting suspects, police and sheriffs work to protect life and property. As of 2012, the average annual salary of police and sheriffs was $57,770, exceeding the national median household income. Police and sheriffs in the highest 10th percentile earned $89,310 per year, the BLS reports. Nationwide, 12 percent of officers are women, according to 2011 data from USA Today. There is slightly less of a presence of women, 11.2 percent, in sheriff positions, according to 2007 data from the BJS. (reference 10)
Leading the Force
Some police officers and sheriffs work their way up to supervisory positions. In these positions, they lead a team of officers or sheriffs and coordinate their activities. As of 2012, the average annual salary of first-line supervisors of police and sheriffs was $82,060. Supervisors in the highest 10th percentile earned $125,620, the BLS reports. The National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives is an organization that's goal is to support women in management positions in law enforcement. Many women hold high ranking positions in law enforcement, such as Michele Leonhart, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Stacia Hylton, head of the U.S. Marshal's Service.
The Crime Solvers
Detectives and criminal investigators are non-uniformed law enforcement agents that gather facts and evidence in efforts to solve criminal cases. Usually focusing on one type of crime, such as homicide, detectives and investigators interview witnesses, observe suspects and examine criminal records. They also take part in raids and arrests. As of 2012, the average annual salary for detectives and criminal investigators was $77,860, with the highest 10th percentile earning $122,990, the BLS reports. According to 2008 data from the BJS, 16 percent of federal law enforcement officers are women.
Private detectives are hired by individuals or businesses to find out information. Like criminal detectives, they gather and analyze information and attempt to come to a conclusion. They may work to find a missing person or try to solve a computer crime. Private detectives do not, however, arrest suspects. As of 2012, a private detective's average annual salary was $50,780, just under the national median household income. Private detectives in the 90th percentile earned $79,790, the BLS reports. Sirius Investigations, a Bellingham, Washington company, is one example of a women-owned private investigations company.
2016 Salary Information for Private Detectives and Investigators
Private detectives and investigators earned a median annual salary of $48,190 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, private detectives and investigators earned a 25th percentile salary of $35,710, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $66,300, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 41,400 people were employed in the U.S. as private detectives and investigators.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Police and Detectives
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012 First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012 Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012 Detectives and Criminal Investigators
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012 Private Detectives and Investigators
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012 Forensic Science Technicians
- U.S. Census Bureau: State & County QuickFacts
- Bureau of Justice Statistics: Law Enforcement
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Private Detectives and Investigators
- Bureau of Justice Statistics: Women in Law Enforcement, 1987–2008
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Private Detectives and Investigators
- Career Trend: Private Detectives and Investigators
- David Hiller/Photodisc/Getty Images