A Guide to Law Enforcement Career Paths

male police officer dressed in winter clothes stands back on to the camera

Contemplating a career in law enforcement? A career in law enforcement can be highly rewarding, enabling individuals to make an impact in their communities, earn a great salary and potentially save lives. There is also ample room for career advancement and jobs in this sector are available in nearly every city across the country.

Before choosing a career path, it is important to understand the levels of operation in law enforcement and the types of jobs available.

Levels of Operation in Law Enforcement

  • Local – Law enforcement professionals at a local level are responsible for enforcing the law in designated areas, such as towns or cities.
  • County – Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs are generally responsible for maintaining law and order at a county level. In cities, there are police officers.
  • State – Every state has troopers to enforce motor vehicle laws and patrol the highways.
  • Federal – Several law enforcement agencies operate at a federal level, including the FBI and specialized federal agencies, such as the Secret Service, Federal Air Marshals, U.S. Border Patrol agents, Custom Inspectors and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

Several Types of Law Enforcement Career Paths

police officer in interrogation room1. Police Officers

Police officers are responsible for ensuring laws are enforced in an effort to maintain public safety and protect their communities, as well as preventing and responding to local criminal activities. Police officers are often the first to respond to emergency situations and serve a role in investigating crimes, collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses and preparing detailed reports.

2. State Troopers

A state trooper is a type of law enforcement professional typically employed by a state agency. State troopers are responsible for enforcing criminal laws and traffic on state-regulated highways, as well as assisting with evacuations and detours. They may also respond to emergencies that occur on state highways that involve motorists.

3. Border Patrol Agents

Border patrol agents impose federal laws upon individuals and goods that cross international borders between the United States and Canada or Mexico. They are responsible for screening illegal immigrants who enter the country, countering potential acts of terrorism and preventing unlawful shipments and drug smuggling.

4. Fish and Game Wardens

Fish and game wardens are responsible for managing and monitoring wildlife, such as apprehending poachers. Their main priority is to protect wildlife, enforce hunting, fishing and boating laws, and patrol rivers, lakes, coastlines, wetlands, deserts, beaches and the backcountry for safety. A fish and game warden may serve a state or federal agency.

5. Criminal Investigators

A criminal investigator serves a critical role in the criminal justice system. These law enforcement professionals follow leads, interview many people, and collect evidence to help solve crimes. In some instances, a criminal investigator will specialize in a certain area, such as a specific type of crime or a particular area, such as forensic science. They usually begin their careers as deputies or troopers and become investigators as they gain valuable experience.

6. FBI Agents

The main objective of an FBI agent is to protect the security and political interests of the United States. Their agents often collect intelligence about threats to national security and investigate crimes and use a variety of tools to perform their duties, such as confidential informants, surveillance and online monitoring. The daily tasks of an FBI agent depend on their specialty such as cybercrimes and financial fraud.

7. Air Marshals

Air marshals serve an important role in keeping passengers safe on airplanes. These highly trained professionals are tasked with keeping crew and passengers safe from potential criminal or terrorist threats. They also participate in multi-agency task forces to proactively fight against crime in connection with aviation.

police officers in meeting8. Immigration Inspectors

An immigration inspector inspects and investigates individuals, common carrier goods and merchandise that arrives or departs from the U.S. or between states. The primary goal of these law enforcement professionals is to identify violations of immigration or customs laws and regulations.

9. Support Positions

Law enforcement has many different support positions that are generally a part of a larger agency or crime lab. Some of the most common support positions in law enforcement include crime analysts, firearms examiners, investigative assistants, evidence technicians, handwriting examiners and intelligence analysts.

IT Solutions for the Law Enforcement Industry

Regardless of the law enforcement career path that a person chooses to take, it is important to be aware of the systems and software used by local and state law enforcement departments across the U.S.

CPI OpenFox is a leader in modern law enforcement software and data-sharing solutions. Contact CPI today at (630) 547-3088 to learn more about our law enforcement solutions or schedule a consultation online.