Skip to Content

12 Different Types of Jobs on a Police Force (Career Opportunities)

Police car focused on flashing siren lights.

We’ve all had an encounter with a police officer at some point in our lives, hopefully, always on the right side of the law. Some of us might have even dreamed of an action-filled career as a police officer.

If you’ve never had any extensive dealings with the police, you might be inclined to just think about the police officer that you come across while they’re on patrol as being the only kind of job available.

There are many different jobs on the police force, including:

  • Uniformed officer
  • Detective
  • State police
  • Fish and game warden
  • Transit and railroad officer
  • Sheriff
  • Special jurisdiction police
  • Air marshal
  • Border patrol agent
  • Crime scene investigator
  • Evidence technician
  • Victim advocate

Whether you’re considering a career in law enforcement or just curious, you are going to want to read on to explore a few of the different jobs available on the police force. 

Police Officer

Smiling officer standing next to his car.

The police officers that everyone knows, and most law-abiding folk love, are most likely uniformed officers. These brave people risk their lives every day to protect the public from crime.

They do regular patrols in their cars, on motorcycles or horseback, or on foot to maintain law and order and generally help citizens in need. These police officers are typically assigned to specific areas and become familiar with them, meaning that they will sense when anything is out of the ordinary.

See also  Interview Strategy: 6 Steps to Follow When You Get An Interview

They are usually the first responders to emergency calls when crimes are reported. They also direct traffic in road incidents or traffic light malfunctions, issue traffic citations, and arrest people for traffic violations when necessary. Back at the station, they will help other personnel with casework and document crime reports, and send them for further investigation.

Police officers also get involved in investigating crimes.

Other responsibilities of police officers:

  • Arresting and processing criminals
  • Carrying out sting operations in drugs and criminal dens
  • Interviewing crime victims and interrogating suspects during investigations
  • Responding to domestic and public place disturbances
  • Taking control of emergencies and assisting the victims
  • They work to improve relationships between the police and the public by reaching out to the community

The basic educational requirement for a police officer is to have a high school diploma at least and may need to have a college degree. You would also need to attend a state-approved police training academy and pass any examinations that are held.

Detective

Back profile of a detective looking at investigation board.

The other common police force job that we are familiar with is that of a detective. We’ve all watched some sort of crime tv show which depicts a detective going about their work. As with most other law-enforcement jobs, being a detective can be highly dangerous.

The detective’s role is to examine crime scenes to gather information ahead of an investigation, with the primary goal of handing cases over to prosecutors. They need to collect physical evidence and interview suspects and witnesses to gain testimonial evidence.

They will then use this information to put together a probable version of the events that led to and followed a criminal act. They also need to search records in databases and analyze findings which will then be used during court cases. They might also be responsible for outlining the chronological events of a crime during court proceedings.

See also  Questions to Ask on the Second Interview

As the main investigative factfinder in many criminal cases, they must write highly detailed official reports that lay out all the evidence and information they gather.

To become a detective, you would generally start as a standard uniformed police officer. You might then be promoted to the role of detective within the police department. This sort of promotion may involve passing an examination and continuing your professional education.

Detectives need to be very meticulous in their roles. Each bit of evidence, interview, and action will be intensely scrutinized by the legal defense teams, and even minor errors can create significant issues with court cases.

State Police and Highway Patrol

Highway Patrol officer on motorcycle waves to crowd during a parade.

State police, also known as state troopers and highway patrol, are regularly seen in their different colored vehicles on the highways. The differences between highway patrol and state police vary depending on which state you’re in, but for the most part, they have similar responsibilities. The highway patrol assists with traffic accidents, issue tickets to motorists for problematic driving, make arrests when necessary.

They also check on and report hazardous road conditions to protect motorists. In some areas, they are limited to performing traffic services to ensure the safety of the roads.

The state police is a full-service law enforcement agency that plays an essential role in helping the local police force when emergencies or investigations extend beyond local police resources and jurisdictions. As state law enforcement officials, the state police assist with law enforcement in small towns and rural areas.

As with becoming a police officer, you would need to at least have a high school diploma and may need to have a college degree and attend a state-approved training academy. The main difference between being a uniformed police officer and a state police or highway patrol member is the agency for which you work.

See also  39 Different Types of Jobs for Registered Nurses (Career Opportunities)

Fish and Game Warden

Back profile of a whale warden wearing a beanie and a jacket.

One group that we might forget about when thinking about the jobs in the police force are the people responsible for enforcing the rules and regulations that protect our wildlife – the fish and game wardens.

Since the job involves nature, we might think that all fish and game wardens work in rural areas. Many do, but some work in more populated and urban regions at campgrounds and parks.

These officers usually work for state conservation departments or federal agencies. To enforce fishing and hunting regulations, they patrol hunting and fishing areas in boats and off-road vehicles, investigate complaints and accidents, and conduct search and rescue operations.

They may also have to assist with relocating sick or threatening animals. Due to the nature of their jobs, they may have close encounters with unpredictable wild animals.

People in these roles need to be in good physical condition. They are also required to know how to use firearms, self-defense tactics, and first aid.

You’ll need solid educational background and experience to become a fish or game warden. There is a lot of competition to get into a role like this, so you may need a bachelor’s degree in conservation or biology to become a fish and game warden at federal agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Park Service.

Transit and Railroad Officer

Railroad officers patrolling at a train station.

Another of the groups that we might forget about in terms of police jobs are transit and railroad officers. These officers patrol public transportation hubs such as subways and railway stations to prevent crimes along with the transportation network, such as vandalism, trespassing, theft, and smuggling.

See also  38 Jobs Similar to Lawyer

They may be required to investigate public safety incidents on railroad property and work together with various law enforcement agencies on issues related to the railroad.

Railroad police often use sophisticated surveillance technology and investigative techniques, such as night vision, thermal imagers, K-9 teams, and so on, to carry out their work. They may also take a proactive role and communicate about safety and security to schools and businesses.  

To become a transit and railroad officer, prospective officers will need to train at a police academy, and they may also need to go through specialized training courses.

Sheriff

Texas sheriff standing in front of his car.

The sheriff’s duties are very similar to those of a police chief, but the community members usually elect a sheriff to their role. Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs have jurisdiction at a county level, allowing them to look after areas outside local police departments’ responsibility. They may be responsible for managing county jails as well as security at local government buildings.

A sheriff would usually begin their career as a uniformed police officer or as a sheriff’s deputy. Once they have gained some experience, they will be able to run for sheriff’s office.  

Special Jurisdiction Police

Special jurisdiction police with police dog crossing the lane at airport.

If you have ever wondered who looks after the law enforcement at special places like college and school campuses, we have the answer. These officers are called special jurisdiction police.

They work for police agencies that are responsible for particular geographic jurisdictions and have special enforcement responsibilities. Another example of special jurisdiction police is the officers who work at airports.

The special jurisdiction police offer the same services like local police, and people interested in pursuing a career in this line of law enforcement should follow the same guidelines as those of becoming a police officer.

See also  Can You Become A Bartender Without a License?

Air Marshal

Back profile of an air marshal wearing a cap and a jacket.

Federal air marshals hold a significant role within the world of law enforcement. Their work is to deter and defend the public and flight crew members against the dangers of hostile passengers and terrorism on board an aircraft, including commercial flights.

They often perform investigative work, both on land and in the air. They also travel on flights daily to actively protect the people on board the flights.

Much of the work they do is undercover, so the specific number of air marshals and what flights they’re traveling on is treated as highly confidential security Information – this is information that, if publicly released, is “detrimental to transportation security.”

Air Marshals must have at least a bachelor’s degree. They need to undergo 14 weeks of federal government training, including basic and specific air marshal training in physical fitness, firearm handling, and tactical classes.

Bachelor’s degrees in Criminal Justice, Homeland Security, Criminology, or Sociology would be good choices for prospective air marshals.

Border Patrol Agent

Border patrol agent patrolling along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Border patrol agents are most likely to be found working rurally, but they also work in customs control at the airports.

The typical assignments border patrol agents are responsible for include interpreting, following tracks, marks, and evidence of smuggling. They work hard to stop undocumented non-citizens from crossing the border and preventing the transport of illegal narcotics.  They may also be involved in specialized work within the Customs and Border Patrol agency, doing horse patrol, bike patrol, and emergency medical services.

They also undertake surveillance from covert positions around the Mexican and Canadian borders and the coastal borders. Border patrol agents use technology like infrared scopes during nighttime operations.

See also  26 Jobs that Require Chemistry

Border patrol agents will most likely need law enforcement experience together with criminal justice college training courses.

Crime Scene Investigator

Crime scene investigator collecting evidence in a crime scene.

Crime scene investigators, also known as forensic technicians or forensic scientists, are often the subjects of TV series and books. They are the law enforcement professionals responsible for searching crime scenes for evidence and then gathering and documenting their findings. They may also do laboratory analysis of the evidence that they find.

They are likely to be called in as expert witnesses in criminal trials. This means that they need to explain complicated subjects in plain language.  

Crime scene investigators will need a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a related field such as forensic science or biology.  Strong communication skills are also crucial for this role.

Evidence Technician

Evidence technician holding a blood sample in the lab.

Evidence technicians play a similar role to a crime scene investigator, but they are civilian employees, whereas crime scene investigators are sworn police officers.

They have expertise in preserving and interpreting the evidence that detectives and investigators find and provide. They usually work in laboratories with scientific tools and techniques. They may occasionally be required to attend crime scenes.

Evidence technicians assist in solving crimes without needing to carry a gun, track down evidence, or make arrests. An evidence technician is a good option for people who want to work in law enforcement without being on the front lines. The education requirements for an evidence technician are the same as the requirement for a crime scene investigator.

Victim Advocate

Victim advocate counselling a village boy.

Finally, we look at victim advocates. These special people assist crime victims in coping with trauma, helping them navigate the criminal justice system. They act as a liaison between the victims and the criminal courts.

See also  Job Fair Strategies

They will go to court with the victims, help them to file paperwork, and arrange for any necessary services.

After a trial, they will keep victims updated on the critical events related to the convicted criminals, such as parole hearings or appeals.

A victim advocate will need at least a bachelor’s degree and possibly a master’s degree in social work, psychology, or criminal justice.

References:

Rasmussen University: Behind the Badge: Examining 10 Types of Police Officers

Indeed: 12 Types of Police Department Jobs

The Balance Careers: Careers in a Police Department

Los Angeles Police Department: Sworn Police Officer Class Titles and Job Descriptions

Indeed: What does a Police Officer do?

ZipRecruiter: What Is the Difference Between Highway Patrol and State Police

Maryville University: How to Become a Fish and Game Warden

Union Pacific: Union Pacific Special Agents

U.S. Customs and Border Protection: What We Do

The Balance Careers: What Does an Evidence Technician Do?

The Balance Careers: What Does a Victim Advocate Do?