Law Enforcement Careers

Information Last Verified: September 2, 2021 by Jordan Fabel

Working in law enforcement isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a challenging yet rewarding field to consider. Our cities need dedicated law enforcement officers to serve, protect, and uphold the constitution.

There are many different careers in law enforcement to choose from. Each one has its own specific duties depending on the position, jurisdiction, or organization.

Most law enforcement officers serve at the local level. But there are many good jobs at the state and federal levels as well.

Here’s a look at some of the many careers in law enforcement.

Careers in Law Enforcement

Uniformed Officer

Uniformed officers hold the most common law enforcement jobs. Their role is to patrol communities and respond to calls for help.

Other duties include:

In small towns, uniformed officers may work alone. In larger cities, they often work with a partner.

As a uniformed officer, you can work in urban or rural areas. Effective officers need to be part of the community. They often enlist the help of community members to watch out for suspicious activity and provide information.

Some Uniformed police do investigative work. A promotion to an investigator is possible with the right training and service record.

Investigator

Police investigators or detectives usually work in investigation divisions. Uniformed officers with experience are often promoted to these positions.

These plainclothes officers investigate crimes, collect evidence, gather data, and assist with criminal prosecution. They investigate crime scenes, conduct interviews, interrogate suspects, conduct raids, examine the evidence, and testify in court.

They may work at the local, state, or federal levels. They normally specialize in one area of crime such as homicide, white-collar crime, drug crimes, or others.

Homicide Detective

Homicide detectives investigate suspicious deaths. They may work alone or with other detectives on homicide cases.

They visit and inspect crime scenes. They conduct interviews with witnesses, family members, and persons of interest in homicide cases.

They work with prosecutors and have to testify in court and present evidence. Homicide detectives often work on complex cases that can take weeks, months, or even years to solve.

Some detectives focus solely on cold cases. They take a look at previous investigations of the case and conduct a fresh investigation into unsolved murders.

Sheriff

Community members elect sheriffs to run county-level law enforcement. A sheriff’s role is similar to a police chief.

They focus on county-level cases that are outside of the boundaries of the local police departments. Sheriffs often start their law enforcement careers as uniformed police officers.

Sheriffs play a prominent role in their local community. They work their way up over time and run for sheriff. Good rapport with community members is essential in this position.

Fish and Game Warden

The role of a fish and game warden is to protect wildlife and habitats. There are many federal regulations in place to protect wildlife. Fish and game wardens enforce these regulations and watch for suspicious activity in the area.

They often work for federal or state conservation departments. These include the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Fish and game wardens monitor fishing and hunting in their territory. They investigate suspicious activity and relevant complaints.

They patrol their assigned areas and conduct research, respond to accidents, and undertake rescue operations. For this job, you should enjoy the outdoors and be able to operate boats and off-road vehicles.

The field is competitive. You need a strong educational background and relevant experience for this position.

Cybercrime Detective

In today’s digital world, cyber crimes are at an all-time high. As technology advances, criminals are finding new and inventive ways to commit internet-based crimes.

Cybercrime detectives investigate all types of cybercrimes, including scams, hacking, unauthorized monitoring, child pornography, identity theft, and much more.

Cybercrime detectives must have advanced computer training and be computer-savvy. Once confined to intelligence departments, cyber experts now work at the local and federal levels too.

Cybercrime detectives are in demand. And the need for law enforcement in this area is only expected to grow in the future.

Border Patrol Agent

The job of a border patrol agent is to track and prevent illegal entry into the United States. Their duties include enforcing the existing immigration laws of the country.

Border patrol agents protect the country from terrorists trying to cross the borders. They try to stop the smuggling of weapons and drugs into the country, which occurs every day.

They deal with the dangers of terrorist organizations, drug smugglers, and human traffickers. They also play a role in regulating international trade.

Border patrol agents play an important role in protecting the country from foreign threats of all kinds.

Secret Service Agent

A secret service agent’s role is to protect the President of the United States. They are also responsible for protecting U.S. currency and securing the nation’s treasury.

Not all secret service agents will work with the President. Many agents work to protect other high-ranking U.S. officials and visiting diplomats. The field is competitive and considered a prestigious assignment.

Candidates train at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia and in the D.C. area as well.

ATF Investigator

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives falls under the Department of Justice. These investigators work across the country, handling cases of terrorism, organized crime, arson, and illegal trafficking of alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and explosives.

Investigators work in one of three units: Alcohol and Tobacco, Explosives, or Firearms. To apply for these jobs, you must be at least 21 years of age and no older than 36 at the time of job placement.

You must have a high school diploma, although a bachelor’s degree offers an edge. Applicants must pass a background investigation, medical assessment, drug screening, and a polygraph test.

Department of Defense Police Officer

The U.S. Military and the Pentagon hire civilian police officers to work with military police units. Their role is to serve and provide law enforcement on military bases and installations.

They may serve as a guard at various checkpoints, assist investigative units, and conduct investigations. They also enforce traffic regulations and respond to calls for help on base.

Their jurisdiction is limited to their assigned base and under the control of a branch of the military. Some bases allow officers to conduct enhanced patrols within the local community as well.

FBI Agent

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the most well-known federal law enforcement agency. It falls under the Department of Justice and investigates crimes that threaten domestic security.

This includes:

FBI agents work from field offices throughout the country and the world. A bachelor’s degree is a requirement. Candidates with advanced degrees have an advantage.

Candidates attend FBI training in Quantico, VA. Upon graduation, they transfer to a field office to begin service.

There are many career paths within the FBI. These include general law enforcement, law, financial crime, and computer fraud.

U.S. Drug Enforcement Investigator

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration diversion investigators enforce federal laws and regulations dealing with illegal drugs. This includes chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and street drugs.

The DEA is under the authority of the Department of Justice. Some DEA agents are diversion investigators, while others focus on law enforcement.

A bachelor’s degree is a requirement, although an advanced degree is preferred. Candidates must have unimpaired hearing and vision and pass a background investigation.

Deputy U.S. Marshal

The U.S. Marshals Service is the oldest law enforcement agency in the country. And there’s a long history of tales to tell regarding this agency.

Deputies’ duties include witness protection and court security. They enforce federal court orders, organize prisoner transports, and provide detention for individuals with pending federal court trials.

The U.S. Marshal’s Service assists with capturing escaped fugitives. They also oversee the Federal Witness Protection Program.

Deputy marshals train in Glynco, GA, at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

Careers in Law Enforcement

Choosing a career in law enforcement is a big decision. It takes someone with strong character and a real dedication to public service.

Many outstanding men and women work for the common good and have rewarding careers in law enforcement. There are numerous career opportunities in law enforcement at the local, state, and federal levels.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path. I, personally, am the high school dropout son of two teacher parents. So how did I get here? That story takes more time. Coming soon!