According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average police officer salary was estimated to be about $55,180 per year in 2009. Police agencies often operate with many different individuals taking on various levels of complex responsibility; this average, therefore, likely represents a statistical mean that takes this variation into account. The lowest ten percent of police officers make around $31,400 per year, while the highest took home about $83,000 (a job in criminal justice pays about $40 per hour). These salaries reflect both the nature of the work involved and the training necessary (ie., a criminal justice degree) to become a certified enforcer of the law.
How Do Police Officer Salaries Vary by Location?
Since different places in the United States have different standards of living (and varying needs for police density), the Bureau of Labor Statistics has compiled detailed information on police officer employment variance by location. Studies completed by the BLS demonstrate that the highest concentration of employed police officers was in Mississippi, where police officer salaries were reported at $31,170 per year. New York had the second highest employment per thousand workers at 6.419, but boasted a substantially higher average salary of about $60,000 per year. Other states with very high opportunities for employment include Maryland, New Jersey, and Alabama.
The United State Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the best-paid police officers worked in the following states in 2009:
- California: $78,690 per year
- New Jersey: $77,660 per year
- District of Columbia: $67,830 per year
- Illinois: $66,050 per year
- Washington: $64,620 per year
Because police officers are generally always in demand, the top-paying states also boast employment per thousand workers averages of about 5.2.
Which Industries Pay the Best?
As expected, police officers often taken on roles of differing complexity and responsibility within their respective agencies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics claims that in 2009 police officer employment was highest in local and state government, with employment in colleges, universities, and federal executive branches following closely behind. The average salary for state government police officers was highest at $58,860 per year.
Although state government police officers enjoy the highest criminal justice salaries, these programs are often very difficult to break into and require added policing expertise. The top paying industries for police officers include specialty hospitals, general medical and surgical hospitals, and postal service policemen, where average salaries hover around $53,000 per year.
What Are the Best Cities for Police Officers?
To further refine their results, the Bureau of Labor Statistics also provides information on which metropolitan areas throughout the United States have the best prospects for employment as a police officer. Ocean City, New Jersey had the highest concentration of police officers in 2009, with a strong annual average salary reported at $70,000 per year. The highest annual criminal justice salaries were found in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California area, where police officers make approximately $95,000 on average per year. Other well-paying cities include the Oakland-Fremont-Hayward and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale divisions of California.
Job outlooks for police officers are projected to grow 10 percent in the 2008-2018 decade.