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Law Enforcement Jobs

Comparing Local and State vs. Federal Level Jobs

Before getting to the details about different law enforcement jobs, it's important to note the basic differences between the local (municipal/county), state and federal levels of law enforcement. In addition to varying requirements which will be discussed as they apply to each job type, there are three key differences between the local, state and federal law enforcement fields: job types, pay scale and location.

On the following pages you'll learn about a wide variety of different careers available in law enforcement:

We have tried to identify many of the most popular, sought after positions, so you can learn about and personally assess employment options.

Types of Jobs Available at the Local and State Levels

Jobs at the municipal or county level are localized and officers work within specified city or county limits. Officers working at the state level have similar jobs but within a larger jurisdiction, meaning they may be working throughout the state or for state institutions, like a state court, not just within the limits of a specified city or county. Hawaii is the only state without a state law enforcement agency.

Show Me the Money: Salaries at the Municipal/County vs. State vs. Federal Levels

Federal law provides special salary rates for federal law enforcement agents, so jobs at the federal level are likely to pay more than those at the state or local level. In the field of detectives/criminal investigators, for example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2008-2009 Occupational Outlook Handbook cites median annual earnings at the federal level to be $69,510 versus $49,370 at the state level and $52,520 at the local.

Location, Location, Location

Another big factor for people considering a law enforcement job is location.

If you work at the local level, it is unlikely that you will be required to relocate or travel for work regularly. At the state level, you may do a bit more traveling or need to relocate to another city within the state.

At the federal level, however, you will be required to relocate wherever and whenever you are needed. If you get a CBP officer job, you may find yourself patrolling the Texas-Mexico border; if you join an organization like the FBI, your services may be needed in the nation's capital, Washington, DC.