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10 Pros and Cons of Becoming a Police Officer

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By Joel Barnard, Contributor

If you are considering becoming a police officer, have a look at this list of pros and cons first. You might find that they help point you in the right direction and guide you toward a life-long career.

Pros

1. Pay

The pay for being a police officer, whilst not stellar, is certainly higher than the national average. A police officer in the U.S earns, on average, slightly under $50,000 dollars per year.  Police officers in some areas, such as New Jersey or California, earn considerably more than this national average.  We’ve found that cities with more crime (and higher risks) tend to pay much more than those with a lower crime rate.  This is a risk-reward scenario, so if you’re willing to accept a little more risk, you’ll be paid much more than those in lower crime areas.  Median salaries range from $58,700 in Chicago to $42,000 in Atlanta.

Graphic showing median salaries in large US cities

2. Benefits

Police officers are the recipients of generous  government health benefits. In addition, they are given paid holidays, sick leave, pension plans, and compensation towards the cost of replacing  uniforms and equipment.  You can also expect paid training, so if you’re required to go out of town for a training event, you’ll be paid a per diem in addition to being compensated for your travel, hotel, and costs of training.

3. Early retirement

Many Police officers choose to retire early, and there is a good reason for this; in many cases police officers are given the opportunity to retire from the job after just 20 to 25 years of service, in return for half pay. So, conceivably, you may choose to retire well before you are 50.  This will allow you to enjoy a second career and if you play your cards right, you might even be able to earn second retirement check so your later years can be stress free.

4. Variety

No day is the same on the job. A police officer can expect to face different challenges on a daily basis in the course of carrying out their duty.

5. Excitement

Being a police officer can be a very exciting job and if you are someone who likes to feel the adrenalin pumping, then this could be the career choice for you. You never know when you will be needed to respond to an emergency, to provide back up, to arrest an unruly member of the public or, conversely, to perform more mundane tasks. This unpredictability can be exhilerating.

6. Prestige

For much of the population of the U.S, becoming a police officer is seen as a very respectable career path to take. This means that police officers are often afforded a lot of respect and are seen as generally honorable, good people who are doing their best for American public.

7. Job satisfaction

Becoming a police officer means that you are sworn to serve and protect. That is, serve and protect protect the public. Helping others can be very rewarding, and many police officers experience a high degree of job satisfaction.

8. Good camaraderie

Team work is essential in the police force and when you becoming a police officer is the first step towards working within tightly knit unit. The only people who truly know what it is like to be a police officer will be yourself and your colleagues. Hence, the relationships you make within the police force are likely to be strong, lengthy ones; a friends from within the police force is likely to remain a friend for life.

9. Ample Opportunities

When you become a police officer, there are many different career paths within the force that you can choose to take. Depending on your interests and / or attributes you might choose to become, for example: a dog handler, a park ranger, a detective, a fish and game warden, or even a member of a swat team. These represent only a fraction of the  potential positions available to you.

10. Fresh air

Although there are office-based jobs within the police force, you are likely to spend much of your time outside the station. So if you are someone who feels comfortable inside a warm office, working on a computer, this is not the correct career for you.

Cons

1. Danger

There is no doubt that being a police officer can be a dangerous job. Perhaps not as dangerous as one might think, but still close to being in the top ten most dangerous jobs in the US. For every 100,000 police officers, approximately 18 are expected to be fatally injured in the course of doing their duty.

2. Negative public perception

Although much of the population view police officers with respect, this is by no means universal. Multiple allegations of corruption and police brutality every year mean that many consider police officers to be operating outside the law, and that they are not held properly accountable for their actions.

3. Stress

Long hours and difficult working conditions mean that being a police officer can be a very stressful job. This stress can often be compounded due to the insular nature of the police force and a reluctance on the part of police officers to talk to “outsiders.”

4. Tough working hours

Work schedules can be incredibly irregular. This is not a nine to five job. Police officers routinely work nights, work long shifts, and work during holidays.

5. A difficulty balancing work and private life

It can be incredibly difficult to meet both the demands of the job, and the demands of a family. Police officers often work long, unsociable hours. This means that they will often return home when their partner, and any children they may have, have already gone to bed. In addition, as previously mentioned, no one can really understand the demands of the job unless they are another police officer, and so it can be very difficult to confide in your partner. Moreover, Christmas, children’s birthdays and school events, thanksgiving and so on, often have to take a back seat to the duties of a police officer.  It is no wonder that divorce rates are so high amongst police officers.

6. All weather work

Most police officers have to spend a considerable time outside, no matter what the weather. This can be a distinct positive when the weather is fine and balmy; in the heights of summer and depths of winter, however, it can be more than a little uncomfortable to be spending time exposed to the elements.

7. Extra hours

Although base salaries are adequate for police officers, many find themselves doing mandatory over-time due to a lack of police officers. This can cut into your social life, meaning even more time spend away from loved ones, or indeed anyone not involved in law enforcement.

8. Being permanently on duty

A police officer is never truly off-duty. They are available to serve the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This means that it can be very difficult for a police officer to truly relax and become a civilian for a few hours. This can significantly add to the stress and strain of the job.

9. Cynicism

Police officers have to spend a lot of time dealing with the public. Unfortunately, the members of the public they are most likely to be dealing with are the victims of crime and the perpetrators of said crimes. This, unsurprisingly, can lead to a cynical view of the population as a whole.

10. Glass ceilings

Although there are many different career paths within the police force, the most sought after positions are hard to obtain; the cream does not necessarily rise to the top. Many police officers find themselves out of consideration for the top jobs due to a lack of college qualifications and / or lack of contacts within the hierarchy.

Becoming a police officer may be an excellent career choice for some but is not without its drawbacks. Consider these carefully before applying to become a police officer.

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