Police salaries: A guide

Police officer salaries vary according to the location and the governmental agency for which officers work


By Police1 Staff

Police salaries are important to think about if you're considering a career in law enforcement.

Police salaries vary according to the location and the governmental agency for which officers work, but overall pay is generally average to slightly above average than it is for most jobs in the U.S.

Police officer salaries are expected to grow at 5%, faster than most other occupations.
Police officer salaries are expected to grow at 5%, faster than most other occupations. (Getty Images/kali9)

You should begin by investigating police salaries for the agencies in the various localities where you would like to serve.

What is the Average police salary?

According to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for police patrol officers and detectives was $67,290 as of May 2020. The lowest 10% earned less than $39,130, and the highest 10% earned more than $113,860.

Fish and game officers, which are mostly employed at the state level, averaged $58,040 annually. Transit and railroad police came in at a median rate of $72,580.

While the average patrol officer earned $65,540, detectives and criminal investigators brought home around $86,940 per year. 

By comparison, the median wages for all occupations in the United States was $41,950.

how much do rookie police officers make?

While this can vary considerably depending on agency type and location, in general, rookie police officers can expect a pay bump once they graduate from the academy and/or complete the probationary period for new hires. In some instances, it can be as much as a $10,000-$20,000 annual pay increase from the pay earned as a cadet. 

Many departments advertise this information online to help recruits plan ahead. The Austin Police Department in Texas, for example, offers trainees in the academy a $50,000 per year rate with a nearly $13,000 increase upon graduation. The LAPD likewise increases pay post-academy: The roughly $71,000 per year academy pay rate increases by $4,000 per year upon graduation, and then again to just over $80,000 after new officers complete their 12-month on-the-job training

How much money do Federal police officers make?

Federal special agents for the FBI and other investigative agencies averaged $92,080. Federal agents receive special Law Enforcement Availability Pay (LEAP) and locality pay that varies with the geographic area where the agent is assigned. LEAP generally adds 25% to the agent’s base pay, and locality pay can add 16% to 25%. 

By comparison, state government law enforcement wages averaged around $70,280, while local government police salaries averaged $65,850 per year.

What do Police supervisors earn?

Throughout the law enforcement industry, the highest wages were paid to police supervisors, with a median annual wage of $92,970. The lowest 10% earned $52,610, while the top 10% pulled in $152,090. 

Police chiefs can pull in even more, especially those working for major cities: San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr was the highest-paid cop in the nation in 2012, with annual pay reaching well over $300,000.

do police promotions increase salaries?

Police salaries increase with promotion and officers usually become eligible to move up anywhere from six months to three years after entering the force.

In bigger police departments, officers often move up to detective work or other specialties that garner higher salaries. Getting promoted to the higher positions of sergeant, lieutenant or captain involves moving up the ranks one rank at a time.

While a college degree may not be required for entry-level police work, you'll find that having one not only nets you more money right off the bat, but it also makes it easier for you to be promoted into a higher pay grade over the course of your career.

Police overtime pay, benefits and pensions

When considering police salaries, it's important to take into account police overtime, healthcare, sick time and vacation benefits, and police pensions.

Federal police receive much more generous health insurance and pension benefits than any other law enforcement personnel. Police officers usually work on holidays and have the option of receiving extra time off credits or overtime pay on those days. There may be other incentive compensation for fluency in a foreign language, holding an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree, and attainment of special training certificates.

Detectives in particular earn significant amounts in overtime pay because of the extended hours they work. Uniformed patrol officers earn overtime pay for cases that require working past their usual off-duty time and for appearing to testify in court.

Other benefits that should be taken into account with police salaries are whether or not the agency will pay for additional training and coursework if officers want to go back to school and further their education in law enforcement work.

Will police salaries increase?

Police salaries are expected to grow at 5%, faster than most other occupations. As of 2020, there were 813,500 jobs in law enforcement in the U.S. Roughly 80% of those jobs were with local governments. State police agencies employed about 11%. Most police jobs are in cities with populations over 25,000. Small towns usually have less than 25 police officers.

This article, originally published October 2011, has been updated. 

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