The tradition of women in law enforcement is a long one, but it wasn’t until 1972 when they were actually allowed to serve on patrols. Before that, those of the female persuasion were relegated to “women’s work,” so to speak. They were stuck with clerical duties, dispatching calls and guarding female convicts. While the police force has come a long way since then, salaries have not. Police officers in general don’t often garner high salaries.
In 2011, police officers earned an average of $56,260 a year, or $27.05 per hour, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But this figure reflects all policemen and detectives, regardless of experience. Starting salaries for police officers are often less than this.
According to Allp.com, with less than a year of experience, a police officer can expect to earn a starting salary of anywhere between $21,590 and $48,040 per year. This works out to a range of $10.38 to $23.10 per hour. With one to five years of experience, starting salaries begin at $30,600 on the low end and $70,170 on the high end.
As with any job, location affects salaries, and police officers are no exception. Of all states, New Jersey has the highest average salary for police officers, at $81,970, according to Allp.com. California is a close second at $78,790, with District of Columbia rounding out third at $67,650. If you’re just starting out, any one of these states likely pays more for new recruits than others. But the same can’t be said for Arkansas, Mississippi and West Virginia, where salaries are the lowest in the nation, at $36,660, $31,060 and $36,250, respectively.
Employment opportunities don’t typically reflect earning potential. For example, according to the BLS, California employs the most police officers, yet salaries are only the second highest in the nation. Texas is second in the number of police officers employed, but salaries are in the middle for the nation. As a state, North Dakota employs the fewest, with only 980 policemen reported.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 7 percent employment growth from 2010 to 2020 for police officers. This is much slower than the growth rate for all U.S. occupations, which is estimated at 14 percent. The sluggish growth is likely a result of government spending cuts. But the low salaries typically mean higher turnover rates, so employment opportunities are present.
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.