County Sheriffs: Education Requirements & Occupational Outlook
Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a county sheriff. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and training to find out if this is the career for you.
County sheriffs are law enforcement officials who enforce laws on the county level and oversee deputy sheriffs who help to patrol and monitor prisoners. They typically need to complete a police academy or other state-approved training program and may need at least some college education. In many cases, a sheriff is an elected official, but this can vary by county.
|Required Education||High school diploma minimum requirement; associate or bachelor's degree in criminal justice or related field may also be required|
|Other Requirements||Completion of training program|
|Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)*||5% for police and detectives|
|Median Salary (2014)**||$99,998 for sheriffs and police chiefs|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **Salary.com
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that sheriffs typically need at least a high school education (www.bls.gov). High school students can prepare for a sheriff's career by taking beneficial elective courses such as criminal justice, criminology, sociology, psychology, legal studies and physical education.
Additionally, aspiring sheriffs may need to complete either a specific number of college credit hours or earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in a relevant discipline. Coursework or degree programs in law enforcement or criminal justice teach valuable information regarding criminal procedures, the legal system, criminology, sociology, corrections systems and constitutional law.
While those interested in becoming a deputy sheriff can find many training programs around the country, sheriffs have limited training options. The National Sheriffs' Institute gives new sheriffs training opportunities to give them a better understanding of their role as a leader in their community. They can learn about communicating with the media, manage staff and recognize their leadership abilities.
Those who wish to become deputy sheriffs can go to training academies to gain the skills they need to start their law enforcement career. Many county sheriff's departments and national sheriff's organizations offer training programs for individuals interested in becoming a deputy sheriff. Applicants often need to meet certain qualifications before gaining acceptance into the sheriff's training program. Some of these requirements may include:
- Age requirement
- No felony convictions
- No firearm restrictions
- Possess a valid driver's license
- Pass a background investigation
- Pass a medical examination
- Pass a physical fitness test
Each sheriff's training program varies in duration. During training, recruits participate in physical training and field instruction in defense skills, defensive driving techniques, mock scenarios and firearms training. Classroom instruction includes classes in first aid, the justice system, ethics, state and local laws, civil and criminal procedures, computer skills and patrol procedures.
According to the National Sheriffs' Association (NSA), there were 3,080 sheriffs in the U.S. as of January 2012 (www.sheriffs.org). Many of these sheriffs are elected to their positions, and 4-year terms are common, but these may vary by county or state. Three states do not employ sheriffs, the NSA reported. The BLS reported that job growth from 2012-2022 should be slower than average at five percent for all police and detectives.
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