Law Enforcement Careers

The field of law enforcement is large in scope and encompasses several specialized roles to be played at the local, state, and federal levels. From the police officers who patrol our neighborhoods to the federal FBI agent, all law enforcement roles require a combination of robust hands-on training with varying levels of college education. The path you choose should be aligned with your unique skills, interests, and ultimate career goals.

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Law Enforcement Specializations

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Police Officer – Police officers play a vital role in keeping our cities safe, responding to emergency 911 calls, enforcing laws, and patrolling our streets. If you are looking for a great place to kick-start a career in law enforcement, becoming a police officer is a smart and popular way to start. Learn what to expect from police officer training, read a police officer job description, , requirements, specializations, and degree recommendations.

Bomb & Arson Unit – Some law enforcement officers may undergo special training in detection and disarming of bombs and explosives. Bomb and Arson specialists are often called to assist in researching the cause of explosions and fires to determine if there was foul play or if the cause was due to natural events.

Community Relations Officer – The community relations officer acts as a liaison between the police department and the local neighborhood or community they are assigned to. They help establish neighborhood crime watch networks and meetings and provide tips for assisting one another in crime prevention efforts.

K-9 Unit – The Police K-9 Unit is made up of officers who work with specially trained dogs who can be beneficial when conducting searches for drugs, missing persons, or even to assist with crowd control. Canine units have been the key to finding bombs or criminals in hiding, which could not be done as effectively without the use of the dogs and their special skills.

law enforcement degree holder in K-9 Unit holding his dog.

Search & Rescue – While many search and rescue teams are voluntary, being a part of the program can provide you with a highly specialized set of skills that could open doors for you in your professional career. You may be trained to work with hazardous materials, basic first aid, flood victims, assist with individuals caught in natural disasters or accidents, or you may work in conjunction with the goals of a federal agency such as FEMA assisting victims of tornados or hurricanes.

S.W.A.T Team – Special Weapons & Tactics Team – Becoming a SWAT team member means possessing a highly developed set of skills in the use of weaponry in the pursuit of high risk and heavily armed criminal activities including counter terrorism, bomb plots, hostage scenarios, and riot control measures, just to name a few functions of this team. SWAT teams are formed at the state and federal levels by law enforcement agencies to be called to duty at a moments notice when high risk scenarios occur.

Helicopter & Air Patrol Team -Members of the air patrol unit are law enforcement officers who have undergone extensive training in the navigation of air units such as helicopters and small airplanes to be used for a variety of law enforcement tasks from simply monitoring traffic to seeking out criminals or stranded civilians.

Hostage Negotiation – Hostage negotiation experts are trained in the psychological aspects and strategies involving the safe rescue of hostages. Extensive criminal psychology training and education is required for this role.

Sex Crimes – Focuses on prostitution, child sex abuse and pornography, and internet sex crimes. A recent trend in female law enforcement officers and investigators in operations aimed at sex crimes has proven to be effective in apprehending criminals in prostitution or child sex crimes. See more about PI Moms.

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Administrative & Supporting Roles in Law Enforcement:

Internal Affairs – Internal Affairs (IA) is a special division within law enforcement agencies that investigate possible misuse of power, lawbreaking, and suspicious incidents among law enforcement officers. Due to the sensitive nature of the work, internal affairs investigators report directly to the highest in command such as the Chief of Police. Other names for this special unit are Inspectorate General or Office of Professional Responsibility.

Police Psychologist – As a police psychologist, you may be involved in assessing the mental stability of law enforcement officers in sensitive roles. For example, when a particular officer begins to show a pattern of excessive force, a police psychologist may be asked to assist and conduct a mental evaluation of the officer. Another function of a police psychologist is to make recommendations for improving law enforcement organizational structures, processes, and protocols. They may also be asked to assist with hostage negotiation tactics or to examine procedures for effectiveness. See our Interview with Officer Jeff Shannon, a California based police officer and Marriage & Family Therapist (MFT). Learn about his profession and his observations on the current status of mental health awareness and strategies within the law enforcement world.

DMV – Department of Motor Vehicles – Jobs are available assisting the public with motor vehicle registration, drivers license testing, motor vehicle inspections, tab renewals, and license plate issuance.

Department of Licensing – Jobs are available in state licensing agencies, issuing and renewing a variety of licenses including drivers, permits, and other licenses required by state or federal law.

Regional Passport Office – There are jobs available assisting with the application, issuance, and renewal of passports. It also involves assisting people who have had their passport stolen or who need expedited services.

Civilian Jobs with a Law Enforcement Degree

degree's for law enforcement careers

Animal Control Officer – As an animal control officer, you are employed by a specific municipality with the job of responding to reports of lost or stray animals, capturing the animals, and transporting them to an animal shelter where they can be located by their owners or adopted, and sadly, in some cases euthanized. In addition to finding stray animals, an animal control officer must also investigate reports of animal cruelty including dog and cock fighting. Usually jobs are found through local police departments, health departments, sheriffs offices, or parks and recreation offices.

Game Warden – A Game Warden is a state or local officer who enforces hunting, fishing, and trapping laws. Some game wardens have the power to arrest individuals for violations. Also called conservation officers, game wardens must investigate wildlife crimes, suspicious activity reports, boat accidents, wildlife damage claims from local residents, and other violations to habitat conservation. Learn more about game warden training.

Forest & Park Ranger – The primary job of a forest ranger is to protect and preserve our nations national forests and parks from potential abuse from visitors. They must also work to prevent dangers for the visitors. This involves providing information and safety tips to travelers, calling for additional help if incidents occur or if there are missing persons reports. The roles and responsibilities can vary greatly depending upon the unique terrain and type of park or facility you are assigned to.

How do I choose a law enforcement career?

With so many career choices with a law enforcement degree, it can be overwhelming to decide. Some enjoy the exhilarating role of responding to calls and apprehending suspects, while others may find the psychological or forensic elements of the job to be most rewarding and stimulating. Take some time to understand the specific job duties of law enforcement roles, the skills necessary, learn about the challenges and rewards for women in law enforcement, and explore education requirements.