Although there are many police officers who spend their entire careers in the law enforcement field, there are many others who move on to other careers. There are many reasons why police officers pursue different careers. Among these reasons are better job satisfaction and higher salaries. No matter the reason, a career change for police officers presents new possibilities.
The obvious direction for most professionals leaving law enforcement careers involves security and investigations. Law enforcement officers have a wide variety of skills that can be profitable in many different fields beyond security. If you’re looking to make a career change, consider our highlights of alternative careers for police officers, how much you’ll earn, and how to get a job.
Career Change for Police Officers: Overview
Police officers serve the public by protecting people and property and enforcing the law. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that there were over 795,000 police officers and law enforcement agents in 2020. The BLS also reported that the largest employer of police officers and detectives are government agencies.
Also according to the BLS, these professionals earn an annual wage of about $67,290. This is significantly higher than the national average for all occupations. However, if earnings are a big motivating factor, you should know that some alternative careers pay more.
Though being a police officer often comes with decent pay and solid benefits, there are many negative aspects of the job that make a career change for law enforcement more appealing. The very nature of the job is stressful, can be physically demanding, and is often dangerous.
What Can You Do with a Degree in Criminal Justice Besides Being a Police Officer?
A college degree in criminal justice covers a variety of different subjects including corrections in contemporary society, forensic psychology, and risk management. All these courses are designed to prepare you for different careers in law enforcement. Besides being a police officer, you can become a private investigator, criminal profiler, or crime prevention specialist.
Common Second Careers for Police Officers
Many law enforcement officers leave the task force and pursue other careers. Police work is an incredibly stressful job and it can take a toll on both the mind and the body. Fortunately, police officers have a ton of skills that employers in different industries are looking for.
Alternative career opportunities for police officers include jobs as victim advocates, forensic accountants, fitness trainers, fire inspectors, elected officials, and private investigators. In addition, those with experience working as an officer are well equipped to work in private security. Security guards may work in banks, malls, nightclubs, and private industries.
The Best Alternative Careers for Police Officers in 2022
Given the high-stakes scenarios and stress that law enforcement professionals deal with every day, it is no wonder that some leave active duty to start careers in tech or other criminal justice areas. If you are looking to apply your current skillset to a new position, consider some of the high-paying jobs for former police officers we’ve listed below.
High-Paying Jobs for Former Police Officers
|Job||Average Salary||Transferable Police Officer Skills|
|Cyber Security Analyst||$76,960||Problem-solving skills, attention to detail, analytical and computer programming skills|
|Intelligence Analyst||$72,256||Analytical, communication, project management, leadership, critical thinking, problem-solving, and research skills|
|Bodyguard||$65,752||Physical stamina, reliability, attention to detail, observation skills, and the ability to remain focused despite the environment|
|Fire Inspector||$62,938||Physical fitness, leadership skills, communication skills, critical thinking skills, and problem-solving skills|
|Fraud Investigator||$62,923||Forensic interviewing, data analysis, regulatory compliance, and communication skills, as well as attention to detail|
|Private Investigator/ Detective||$55,568||Communication skills, attention to detail, patience, inquisitiveness, resourcefulness, problem-solving skills, physical fitness, and decision-making skills|
|Postsecondary Teachers (in criminal justice and law enforcement)||$50,684||People management, knowledge of security policies and procedures, communication, organization skills, and planning skills|
|Background Investigator||$48,779||Written and oral communication skills, computer proficiency, analytical thinking, and attention to detail|
|Crime Scene Investigator||$48,607||Attention to detail, problem-solving skills, the ability to remain focused, and critical thinking skills|
|Victim Advocate||$37,667||Crisis intervention, communication skills, counseling skills, and case management skills|
Cyber Security Analyst
You should consider a career as a cyber security analyst if you have a knack for computer programming. Cyber security analysts use their skills to protect organizations from the ever-growing threat posed by cybercriminals. Cyber threats are becoming increasingly rampant, especially in business.
For this reason, cyber security analysts are constantly looking for ways to prevent cybercriminals from accessing networks and sensitive information. Federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation especially would be in search of these professionals.
Most cyber security analysts have a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, Information Assurance, and Cyber Security. However, you can pick up cyber security skills by attending online cyber security bootcamps. Tech bootcamps are famous for training people on computer programming and cyber security in the short period of about six to 18 months.
If you are looking to change careers but want to remain in the same field, you should consider a job as an intelligence analyst. These professionals provide high-level analytical support to other police officers to assist in preventing or solving crimes. As an intelligence analyst, your main job is to analyze data from multiple sources to assist in criminal investigations.
Police officers need a high level of physical fitness to perform many of their job duties. For this reason, you should consider a career as a bodyguard. A bodyguard’s main job is to protect VIPs from dangerous situations. They can work in clubs, embassies, and government agencies.
Many private bodyguard jobs pay more than law enforcement jobs, but that depends on the hiring agency that is hiring. Police officers are well trained in hand and firearm combat, making them ideal candidates for close protection and bodyguard duties without much additional training. A lot of the soft skills you’ll learn as a police officer will pay off as a bodyguard.
Fire inspectors analyze buildings and other establishments to detect, prevent, or contain fire hazards. They also ensure buildings have met the necessary local, state, or federal fire codes. According to BLS, most fire inspectors are hired by the government. As a result, this job is ideal for those looking for a different challenge or experience while still working for the government.
One of the main reasons to consider this profession, especially as a former police officer, is because this career field is expected to generate a lot of jobs in the years to come. However, you should know that fire inspectors and investigators have some of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses out of all the occupations in the United States.
Fraud investigators investigate suspected and confirmed fraudulent activity. They use their skills to research and analyze data from fraudulent cases and activities. This includes financial records, legal documents, and identity inconsistencies. You should consider this profession if you have extensive experience as a detective in criminal justice or law enforcement.
Private Investigator / Detective
Private investigators research to find more information regarding legal, financial, and personal matters. They are hired by clients looking for private investigation services. Such services may include finding missing persons, verifying people’s backgrounds, investigating employees for theft or sexual harassment, and proving infidelity in a divorce case.
The BLS estimates that the demand for private investigators and detectives will increase by 13% over the next decade, creating thousands of jobs in the process. Most professionals in this field learn through on-the-job training, much of which former police officers already have.
Postsecondary Teachers (in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement)
If you are looking for a career far from the risks and dangers of law enforcement, you should consider a career as an instructor, lecturer, or teacher. These professionals prepare and deliver lectures to students on topics involving criminal law, investigation techniques, and defensive policing.
Your knowledge in law and government as well as your life experience is crucial to pursuing a successful career in this field. Working at a university as an adjunct professor will allow you to enjoy a good work-life balance while training others for a career in law enforcement.
A background investigator performs background checks by interviewing a wide variety of people including employees, law enforcement officials, and military officials. They also obtain records from different government bodies to determine if a person is a victim, witness, or perpetrator of any crime.
You should consider this career if you understand confidentiality and privacy laws. In addition, this career is ideal for former police officers as most employers prefer people with experience in law enforcement or firefighting.
Crime Scene Investigator
Crime scene investigators discover, examine, record, and preserve all the evidence details in a crime scene. As a crime scene investigator, you’ll work in a police department. Crime scene investigators also collaborate with other law enforcement agents to secure and preserve the crime scene to ensure it is not tampered with or contaminated.
Victim advocates assist victims of crime by providing a wide range of services including crisis intervention, assistance with compensation claims, case status updates, and community referrals. They may also host community awareness programs. This profession is best suited for professionals who have some social work experience and strong interpersonal skills.
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One of the reasons why you should consider this profession is because of the satisfaction you’ll get from directly helping victims of crimes. Although it doesn’t pay high salaries, this career is a step away from the dangers and risks involved with police work. This job requires professionals to have extensive knowledge in criminal and juvenile justice systems, which police officers have.
How to Make a Career Change from Being a Police Officer
As much as career changes are common these days, they are also challenging. Life after law enforcement comes with various difficulties. For this reason, you should take time to carefully plan before you make any moves. Before you leap, consider the steps listed below.
1. Evaluate Your Career Goals
You may choose to shift careers because you are dissatisfied or unhappy. However, it would be best to find out what is causing such feelings in your current workplace. Whatever the reason, you should spend some time on self-reflection to gain clarity before making the leap. This will help you determine what direction you want your career to go in.
2. Fill Your Skill Gaps
Different roles have different job responsibilities as well as education and skill requirements. Learn about the skills that are required to work in your preferred role and work towards bridging any gaps. You can do this by completing related training and educational programs.
3. Network and Meet People in Your New Field
Building a strong network plays a vital role when searching for jobs, especially in a new field. You should use social media platforms such as LinkedIn to create a professional profile detailing your new role. Attending events, seminars, conferences, and shows is also a great way to make valuable connections.
4. Get Work Experience However You Can
Work experience is vital, especially during the early stages of your career. Remember that many employers prefer working with experienced professionals. For this reason, you should try to get job experience however you can, including volunteer and internship programs. This will help you build out your resume towards your new career path.
5. Look for Career Advancement Opportunities
Career advancement is important as it generates a sense of purpose and upward movement. Such opportunities typically come with higher salaries, better working conditions, and higher job satisfaction rates. Continue learning and developing your skills to take advantage of such opportunities in the future.
Is It Time to Make a Police Officer Career Change?
You should make a career change if you no longer find your job rewarding or satisfying. Police work involves high-risk situations such as conflicts with criminals and people can easily get burned out doing this work.
If you’ve decided it’s time for a different challenge, you’ll be pleased to know that police officers have many transferable skills that can make a resume stand out when applying to different careers.
Police Officers Career Change FAQ
As a former police officer, you can use your transferable skills to pursue different careers as a private investigator, victim advocate, fire inspector, bodyguard, or crime scene investigator.
Yes, you can be a police officer and have another side job. Side jobs are a great way for individuals to earn extra income while developing professional knowledge and skills. Some common side jobs for police officers include security guard, private investigator, and personal trainer.
Yes, a career as a police officer is worth it for many people for multiple reasons. For one, police officers earn more than the average national salary. Secondly, the job demand for police officers is expected to grow by 7% over the next decade, meaning you’ll have many employment opportunities in the future.
Police officers pursue a wide range of careers in law enforcement as they gain more experience. Such roles include private investigator, victim advocate, and postsecondary teacher. Police officers need to stay in good physical shape which becomes challenging as professionals age, which is why many officers transition to different careers.
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