How to Become a Sheriff

Like police officers, sheriffs are law enforcement agents who are responsible for issuing citations and handling emergency calls. Unlike police officers, however, sheriffs work on a county level, and are responsible for law enforcement across an entire country – not just within a single precinct. Some sheriffs have multiple duties in addition to normal law enforcement, like assisting with court responsibilities, working in jails, and offering general security services. Sheriffs are typically elected, although the exact hiring process varies across different counties.

Minimum Qualifications

Sheriffs must be emotionally and mentally fit, as they often have to respond to high-stress situations. They need to be physically fit as well, as the career is physically demanding. Sheriffs should have strong communication and writing skills, and they should also feel comfortable taking charge and assuming leadership positions. Finally, sheriffs should have clean criminal records and be able to pass psychological evaluations.

Education & Training

Potential sheriffs should have at least a high school diploma or GED, although a bachelor’s degree will provide the best job prospects. The best degrees for sheriff departments are bachelor’s degrees in law enforcement, criminology, criminal justice, or a related field, which teach potential sheriffs how to be driven leaders and how to work on teams. Instruction should include classes on psychology, communications, and report writing. Criminal justice candidates should also be comfortable speaking in front of groups.

Training is typically offered by the county in which the candidate hopes to work. Some counties have a sheriff training academy that provides programs in law enforcement, leadership, and professionalism. Training curriculums usually include classes on firearms, investigations, and law. Physical conditioning is part of most sheriff training programs, so candidates should be in shape and prepared to demonstrate endurance. In counties without sheriff training facilities, candidates can join the police academy, start out as officers, and work their way up to becoming sheriffs.

Career Statistics

The hiring process depends on county regulations. As many sheriffs are elected into their positions, it can take months for a sheriff to gain office. And as assessments and training are important, the time it takes for candidates to prepare for sheriff duty can be lengthy. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes sheriffs within the statistics it provides for police and detectives. As a whole, the field is expected to grow by 14% by 2020. The BLS also reports that professions within the police and detective category earn an average annual salary of $55,010. However, salary figures depend on the county, as well as the candidate’s experience and educational background, so these figures will vary.

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