California Occupational Guides

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Summary Guide for

Police and Sheriff Patrol Officers in California

May also be called: Law Enforcement Officers; City Police Officers; University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) Campus Police Officers; Deputy Sheriffs; California Highway Patrol (CHP) Officers; and U.S. Border Patrol and Customs Agents

What Would I Do?

People depend upon Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers to protect property, preserve life, enforce laws, and detect criminal activity. Their primary responsibility is to patrol their assigned geographical area and to provide services to the residents of the community.

Police work can be dangerous and stressful. In addition to the obvious dangers of confrontations with criminals, Officers need to be constantly alert and ready to deal appropriately with a number of other threatening situations.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officer will appeal to those who enjoy activities that involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people as well as activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

An Officer can expect a base salary; however, the salary may be increased for overtime. Total earnings for local, State, and special police frequently exceed the stated salary because of payments for overtime, which can be significant. In addition, specialized units, such as Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), Canine Handlers, or the Bomb Squad, receive higher salaries.

The salary of federal law enforcement workers is determined according to a General Service (GS) pay scale for law enforcement occupations. This is higher than the regular GS level for federal employees because of the dangerous nature of the job. Federal Agents start out at a GS-10 level and also receive locality pay.

The median wage in 2020 for Police and Sheriff Patrol Officers in California is $112,112 annually, or $53.90 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2020Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$86,999$112,112$130,736
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2020 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefit packages for Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers are very good. They usually include:

  • Medical, dental, and life insurance, and retirement plans.
  • Vacation, sick leave, family leave, and long-term disability pay.
  • Educational incentives and special training pay.
  • Bilingual allowances.
  • Uniform and equipment allowances.
  • Eligibility to retire at age 50.

What is the Job Outlook?

More opportunities are expected in local and special police departments than in federal and State law enforcement agencies. Because of attractive salaries and benefit packages, there is a larger supply of qualified applicants than there are jobs in federal and State law enforcement agencies, resulting in increased hiring standards and selectivity by employers.

How Do I Qualify?

Civil service regulations govern the appointment of Police Officers in California. Education and experience requirements vary, but most agencies prefer at least some college, while others require a four-year degree. Candidates must be able to pass an extensive background investigation and should enjoy working with people and meeting the public.

Finding a Job

Positions in Law Enforcement with federal, State, and local agencies are filled through civil service examinations. When openings occur, they are advertised in federal, State, county, and city personnel offices and on agency Web sites. Openings may also be advertised in local newspapers. Some agencies participate in job fairs held at colleges or universities. General information and employment applications may be obtained through agency Web sites.

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Most Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers work in local government, while some work for the State or federal government. Check for telephone listings under State, federal, county, and city government in your area or search for agency Web sites.
 Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).


Learn More About Police and Sheriff Patrol Officers