When there’s danger, most people run in the opposite direction. Some, however, run to help. Those brave individuals who protect and serve on a daily basis are known as law enforcement or police officers.
As citizens, we know to honor our police, and we appreciate all that they do to keep us safe. Some of us may even desire to join the force and become a protector, too. Right now, you may be considering a career as a police officer. But did you know that there are many types of police officers in the field? Police officers work in all different settings, departments, and specialties – all of which are important and respected roles. Before diving into your career, take time to explore these options.
Here are 10 types of police officers you can choose to become today.
- Municipal uniformed police
You’re likely most familiar with this type of police officers. Uniformed police patrolling the streets of our towns and cities provide a large range of services. They respond to distress calls, patrol traffic, offer security for large events, detail construction work, and investigate criminal activity.
The role of a uniformed police officer on the municipal level requires at least a high school diploma or equivalent, but many more departments today are requiring a postsecondary degree. A criminal justice school, such as the one at Goodwin College, can prepare you for this demanding and rewarding job. Professors are police officers themselves, so the program provides expert knowledge from leaders with intimate knowledge of the field.
Police detectives may work in uniform or undercover, depending on their assignment. Within their jurisdiction, detectives explore crime scenes and work to piece together evidence in order to solve a crime. They work with witnesses and suspects, interviewing them as part of their investigation. Becoming a police detective typically requires previous work as a uniformed police officer. Some departments may also require additional education and testing in order to reach detective level.
Sheriffs typically perform similar duties to that of police chiefs, except police sheriffs are elected to their position. Another key difference with sheriffs is that they operate on a county-level. So, they oversee operations of uniformed police officers of an entire county, not just one city or town.
Sheriffs often work as uniformed police officers and/or deputies before gaining enough experience to be elected by their communities.
- State Troopers
State police, often referred to as state troopers, patrol highway safety. They also assist police departments on the local level, working within cities and towns as needed to keep communities safe.
- Federal Investigators
Federal Investigators uphold the law on the federal level. There are many law enforcement agencies at the federal level, and most require a bachelor’s degree in a related field (such as public safety) before applying for a job. Some of the most well-known areas within federal law enforcement includes:
- S. Secret Service
- S. Marshals Service
- S. Postal Inspection Service
- Special Jurisdiction
Just as it sounds, police officers of special jurisdiction work in specific areas that are beyond the work of a municipal officer. College campuses, transportation systems like subways or airports, local park districts, and Native American reservations are some examples of the departments for police working in special jurisdiction.
The path to becoming an officer in a special jurisdiction is similar to that of becoming a municipal police officer, where a college degree in criminal justice or law enforcement can help expand career prospects.
- Correctional Officers
Correctional officers are law enforcement officers within the walls of a prison. There are state penitentiaries, as well as federal-level pens. Correctional officers keep inmates safe, and maintain order to execute successful rehabilitation. With a criminal justice degree in hand, you can pursue this career.
- Environmental Police
Also known as Game Wardens, environmental police officers have all of the authority of a municipal police officer. However, they tend to focus on protecting our environment, enforcing laws related to fishing, hunting, and more. Game Wardens work within state conservation departments or federal agencies.
The competition to become an environmental police officer is pretty intense. A degree in environmental studies will prepare you for your role and put you above the competition, as will coursework in a criminal justice major. A degree may also be required in order to land a position within national departments such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.
- Fire Marshals
Fire Marshals investigate criminal activity related to arson. They can be employed by a local fire department or by the state. A criminal justice degree will help you prepare for this role, should you have an interest.
- DA’s Investigators
District Attorney’s Investigators are usually employed by a sheriff’s department, but not always. These investigators conduct research for court cases, on behalf of a local prosecutor – usually a District Attorney.
As you can see, there are many types of police officers and many different paths you can take in order to launch your career. For any of the above roles, a criminal justice degree is required, expected, or preferred by law enforcement employers today. This is because the competition for exciting police roles is growing.
You can pursuer your dreams by earning an Associate Degree at a flexible, career-focused school like Goodwin College. Classes are offered days and nights, to work around your busy schedule. If you would like more information, call 1-800-889-3282 or visit us online to learn about our law enforcement programs.
Goodwin College is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin College was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.