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Protecting the Public: Police Officer Salary in the USA

Updated on July 4, 2013
Police investigate an accident in Long Beach, California.
Police investigate an accident in Long Beach, California. | Source

The police officer salary is some of the highest for only a high school diploma. (Some departments prefer some college training or a four-year degree). The other is the chance to do some real good in the community. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, pass physical tests, and submit to background checks and drug screening.

No matter their education, recruits must undergo many weeks of training at police academies, where classroom instruction mixes with field experience. (Recruits usually receive pay for their efforts.) Among other subjects, they learn police procedures, use of firearms, self-defense, first aid, traffic control, constitutional law, local ordinances and accident investigation.

The US Department of Labor, which supplied all the information in this article, predicts that jobs for police officers will increase by nine percent from 2008 to 2018, which is average. This is due to population growth. Competition is strong at high-paying state and federal agencies. Jobs are easier to find in local departments, where police officer salary is also lower.

Police Officer Salary and Employers

Police officer salary is a mean annual $26.74 per hour or $55,620 per year. Median salaries go as low as $15.24 per hour or $31,700 per year, and rise up to $40.15 per hour or $83,510 per year.

  • Of the 644,300 police officer positions in America, over 549,000 work for local governments, where they earn a mean $26.76 per hour or $55,710 per year.
  • The highest paying jobs are with state government, where 63,190 positions receive a mean $27.98 per hour or $58,200 per year.

Annual mean wages of police patrol officers by state.
Annual mean wages of police patrol officers by state. | Source

Locations

Police officer salary in the USA varies by location as follows.

  • Ranking number one for employment, California contains 75,730 jobs that pay a mean $37.16 per hour or $77,290 per year. New York State is second with 55,480 positions paying salaries of $28.98 per hour or $60,270 per year, followed by Texas, with 53,490 jobs at $24.25 per hour or $50,440 per year.
  • The best police officer salary is located in New Jersey, where 22,830 positions receive a mean $38.13 per hour or $79,300 per year. California has the second highest wages, and the District of Columbia, which the Labor Department classifies with states, is third at $32.48 per hour or $67,560 per year.
  • For cities, Los Angeles offers the most employment, with 22,490 officers receiving a mean $40.50 per hour or $84,230 per year, followed by Chicago with 20,770 jobs at $35.49 per hour or $73,810 per year. Bringing up third is Houston, Texas, with 14,480 positions receiving $25.61 per hour or $53,270 per year.
  • The metro areas with the best pay are all located in California, but note the relatively low employment numbers. San Jose tops the list with 5,040 officers getting a mean $46.31 per hour or $96,330 per year. Oakland is number two with 3,610 positions at $41.66 per hour or $86,440 per year, and Orange County is third at $40.80 per hour or $84,850 per year.
  • Rural areas have far lower numbers of employment for police officers. The most jobs in non-metropolitan America, for example, are in rural Kansas, with 2,080 positions. Police officer salary here is also much lower than the national average at a mean $17.31 per hour or $36,010 per year. The highest paying rural employment is in the Eastern Sierra Region of California, where pay runs $33.44 per hour or $69,550 per year. But only 140 jobs are available for policemen and policewomen.

NYPD

The New York City Police serves as a useful example of police officer salary and employment in a specific department.

  • Police academy recruits start with an annual base pay equivalent to $44,744 per year. This increases to $46,288 after six months and then $48,173 per year. Pay reaches $90,829 after five years. These amounts include longevity pay, holiday pay, uniform allowances, and the night shift differential. But it does not include overtime.
  • Police officer salary also increases according to rank, which is awarded based on merit, experience and a promotional exam. Detectives, for example, get total compensation of $97,735 per year. Sergeants make $109,016, lieutenants earn $125,163, and captains receive $160,000. Amounts include base pay, longevity pay, uniform allowances, and holiday pay, but do not include overtime and the night shift differential
  • Benefits include from 10 to 27 paid vacation days; unlimited sick leave with pay; health insurance that covers medical, prescription, vision and dental; and a retirement plan that includes a pension, deferred compensation and an annuity fund.


To summarize, the main factors affecting police officer salary in the USA are employer and location.

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    • profile image

      Himanshu 

      3 years ago

      Are these pays and allowances are good for living a happy life

      And could they buy cars like camaro, BMW 5 series etc. with this sort of income

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      alocsin 

      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Thanks Gordon, those seem like reasonable salaries. Do UK policemen require a college degree? In most U.S. Departments, they don't.

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image

      Gordon Hamilton 

      6 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Hi, alocsin.

      The salaries vary depending on the particular force, as I am sure they do in the US. From their websites, the starting salary for a police officer in my local force (Strathclyde Police, incorporating Glasgow and West Central Scotland) is just over £23,000 (circa $35,000). In the Metropolitan Police (Greater London) the starting salary is nearer £29,000 (circa $45,000). These salaries obviously increase both with length of service and any promotions through the ranks.

      Hope the info is of use :)

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      alocsin 

      6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Thanks Gordon. Do you know how much officers make in the UK, especially compared to those in the U.S.?

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image

      Gordon Hamilton 

      6 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      I saw this Hub thanks to Peggy sharing it.

      I am in the UK and we are proud that our Police officers do not as a rule carry firearms but brave our increasingly dangerous streets armed only with their good sense and their (whatever they call them nowadays) truncheons.

      Policing around the globe is an increasingly dangerous job and one for which I have nothing but admiration. Whether we be talking about a cop in the meanest districts of New York City, or one on the quietest streets of AN Other city, in Quiet Country, makes no difference. They are all heroes and to be admired for the magnificent job they do.

      I have nothing but respect for their dedication to their jobs and all that they achieve...

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      While some of these salaries may seem high, one must also consider the cost of living in places you cited. The dollars don't go as far in New York or California for example because of the high cost of living.

      I personally think that police officers (and I will add firemen) who risk their lives for the sake of us all deserve the salaries that you mentioned and even more. They are dangerous jobs and more often than not, their life can be on the line. Even a simple traffic stop can end in tragedy if they are not on the defense all of the time.

      Voted up, useful and SHARED with followers.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 

      7 years ago from Thailand

      Voted up and useful,

      An interesting hub. I know many do not like the fire-service or police earning so much, but then we wouldn't get many volunteers running into burning buildings or gang gun fights for free ;-).

      Think the pay should be assessed on risk though, some quiet country town copper or fire-man is less likely to get in to serious trouble ...

    • CaroleGayle profile image

      CaroleGayle 

      7 years ago from Chicagoland

      This is an interesting hub. I am always surprised at the wages of public servants.

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