10 Different Types of Police Jobs

Police badge

You regularly see cops in navy blue uniforms patrolling in their cars, with those red and blue lights flashing on roads. There are patrols stationed at the school, airport and store entrances, and squads appearing at road accidents. However, the type of police officers you see every day, are not the only ones there are. Let us just put it this way, police officers have a lot more to do than patrolling.

There are a lot more kinds of police than you can imagine. Each type is associated with a particular law enforcement aspect and the nature and location of duties vary significantly.

Let’s have a look at the different types of police jobs that exist:

Uniformed Officers

A uniformed police officer’s job is the most common post associated with law and order career. To get accepted for this position, you need a college degree or at least a high school diploma. Additionally, you’ll be required to attend a training academy for 12 to 14 weeks, appear for an assessment taken by the state or police department, and undergo a background check and drug screening.

Owing to the sensitive nature of the job, uniformed police officers are often required to work beyond their regular 40 hours per week. Working overtime and shift work are extremely common but they would also frequently sacrifice weekends, public holidays and nights. On top of that, they’d have to rush out immediately in response to emergency calls.

The salaries of uniformed police officers can range widely depending on the level. According to labor statistics, uniformed police officers have an average annual salary of around $55,000, while that of a police chief can be as high as $74,000. Besides the basic wage, uniformed police officers enjoy many other promotions and overtime pay.

As a uniformed police officer, you can work both in urban and rural settings. Regular police and traffic police are some familiar uniformed officers, each of whom has separate duties.

Regular Police

A regular uniformed police officer is generally responsible for addressing emergency calls and carrying out regular patrolling. Some common responsibilities include investigating robberies and other criminal activities, providing first aid to victims during emergencies and assisting ordinary citizens in need.

Police departments located in urban cities are often assigned to a specific area. They’ll normally be familiar with that area so they could sense any irregularities and respond to them proactively. Contrarily, officers in rural areas are normally responsible for the entire area because such areas tend to be smaller in size and carry lower crime rates.

In both urban and rural regions, regular police officers build up relationships with the people of their respective communities, promoting the need for the general public to fight crime.

Traffic Police

Traffic enforcers talking to drivers of private vehicles while stopping them over by the street.

Another type of uniformed police you must be aware of is the traffic police. Traffic police officers are primarily responsible for enforcing traffic regulations and responding to road accidents. Instead of dealing with other crimes, their prime focus is roads and the people on those roads.

Some common offenses associated with traffic include over speeding, violation of traffic signals, unauthorized lane changes, etc. A traffic police officer would follow an offender, flashing his overhead lights and with a running siren. The offender should stop, stay in the car, keeping hands in view. The officer would normally want to see your license, car documents, and insurance card. Also, depending upon the nature of the violation, the officer would either issue a warning or charge a big ticket.

Drunk drivers, however, would most certainly be arrested.



Detectives are investigators dressed in ordinary attire. Their primary role is to investigate and gather evidence pertaining to criminal cases. A detective would keep track of suspects’ actions and associations, conduct interviews with witnesses, suspects and all those connected to the assigned case, examine records, record detailed findings in the form of official reports and so on.

Detectives keep on investigating cases until they’re resolved. Cases are assigned to them on a rotating basis. Apart from this, they are under intense scrutiny by legal defense teams. Therefore, they need to be extremely cautious with handling evidence and taking decisions.

To become a detective, you first need to serve as a standard uniformed police officer or as a law enforcement officer in some other capacity. You may also need to go through an examination or continue some education before being promoted to the position of detective.

Federal and state agents, as well as local level detectives specialize in specific areas. Typical specializations include homicide, cold case, cybercrime and narcotics.

Homicide Detectives

Homicide detectives conduct investigations pertaining to death cases that involve suspicions. While most homicide detectives overlook one particular homicide investigation, there are instances when two or three detectives investigate a complex case together.

Investigations typically involve visiting and inspecting crime scenes and conducting interviews with witnesses, family members and friends of the deceased person. They may also have to work with local prosecutors, appear in courts and present evidence and testimonies.

Cold Case Detectives

Cold case detectives may either be former homicide detectives or new detectives who serve to investigate cold cases. Cold cases are criminal investigation cases that remain unsolved and are stopped being actively pursued due to lack of evidence and are filed away. However, these cases are open to cold case detectives who may choose to handle them on a volunteer or part-time basis.

Cold cases cover cases on state, federal and local level and pertain to issues like missing adults, children or unsolved murder cases. Certain high-profile cases are often handled by multiple cold case detectives who work collaboratively. Other cases are usually assigned to separate cold case detectives.

Since a cold case has been under investigation for a long time, the responsible cold case detective must thoroughly review the case history including original case files. They’d also conduct interviews with the detective previously working on the case, friends, family members and co-workers of the missing or dead person.

Cybercrime Detectives

Cybercrimes may not have been considered an issue until a few decades back, but it can easily top the list of crimes in today’s connected world. While this new high-tech era has brought about innovations such that we happen to come across something new every other day, it has opened up countless ways to carry out internet-based crimes. Cybercrime detectives are responsible for investigating criminal activity undertaken via the internet, or in other words, cybercrimes.

Some common forms of cybercrimes handled by these detectives include internet-based scams, hacking, identity data theft, financial information theft, infringement of intellectual property, children based crimes, unauthorized monitoring, surveillance or controls of other servers and so on.

In order to be able to penetrate deeper into cyber investigations, cybercrime detectives may be required to take necessary courses in computer processes and programs before they can be accepted on to the position. Previously, cyber experts were confined to intelligence departments only. However, rapidly spreading internet activity means that local police departments, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigations, employ cybercrime detectives to solve cases involving the internet.

Narcotics Detectives

Narcotics detectives are responsible to investigate trading activities for illegal narcotics at state, federal and local level, as well as to conduct undercover operations pertaining to them. They look out for drug dealers who may be somehow engaged in the sale or purchase of illegal drugs. Part of their investigation involves tracking drug-related offenses that could reveal possible connections with illegal drug merchants.

Narcotics detectives would also try and identify drug trafficking groups and often appear in court trials to provide testimony related to drug business and associated undercover operations.


County sheriff car parked on the side of a road.

Sheriffs are senior police officers elected to the county-level position by members of the community. Although their duties are similar to those of a police chief, what sets them apart is the elections that determine the sheriff. Even though their approach is no different from local uniformed police officers, they deal with county-level cases that lie beyond the boundaries of local police departments.

Sheriffs normally begin their career as regular uniformed police officers and spend a considerable amount of time in law enforcement, working their way up to becoming deputy sheriffs before finally running for the sheriff’s office. The challenge then involves contesting an election for the sheriff office.

Fish and Game Wardens

When considering jobs pertaining to law enforcement, people often overlook the fish and game warden jobs. Fish and game wardens aim to protect the wildlife of their assigned area, as well as the habitats of various animals. They enforce the regulations that are in place for the protection of wildlife.

Fish and game wardens normally work for federal agencies or state conservation departments such as the National Park Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

They monitor fishing and hunting activities in their territories and are responsible for addressing relevant complaints. Not only do they enforce the regulations, but also patrol in the assigned areas to conduct research, investigate accidents and undertake rescue operations. Moreover, they’re also and often use boats and other off-road vehicles depending upon the type of territory they cover.

The criterion for selection for fish and warden jobs is pretty competitive. You certainly need a strong educational background as well as relevant experience to be accepted for this position.

Remember, it’s the federal or state level position that you’re applying for. Make sure you possess an undergraduate degree in subjects like wildlife management, ecology, natural resource management or biology. A degree in criminal justice may also be acceptable.

Up to 2 years of work experience as a certified police officer would make up for a strong application. Besides this, the job involves hiking through dangerous rocky landscapes so you’ll have to pass a physical agility test to prove your extraordinary physical fitness. You may also be required to exhibit your survival knowledge such as first aid skills.

Fish and game wardens spend most of their time in remote areas, piloting boats and hiking. Hence, If you like adventures, you’ll love the job. However, staying outdoors also means extensive exposure to heat, cold, snow and other extreme weather conditions throughout the year. To make things even more challenging, there’s always a threat of being attacked by wildlife animals when working as fish and game warden.

However, fish and game wardens are heavily compensated for the risks. They’re among the top ten percent income earners with an average annual salary of around $71,000 besides other comprehensive benefits.

As far their work schedule is concerned, fish and game warden roles are often characterized by flexible working hours, depending upon the nature of tasks assigned and duty locations.

Border Patrol Agent

Border patrol agent badge

The primary mission of border patrol agents is to track and prevent illegal entrants into the United States. Their role is to enforce the immigration laws that are applicable in the country. Thus, you may watch a border patrol agent apprehending aliens who violated the regulations.

In addition, border patrol agents also protect the country from terrorism by identifying and banishing foreign terrorists trying to enter or smuggle weapons of mass destruction into the US. Thus, they are routinely under threat from terrorist confrontations and other dangers. Border patrol agents also regulate legal international trading activities and travel across the country. Apart from this, they’re sometimes responsible to protect agriculture throughout the nation.

In this way, the role of a border patrol agent is pretty diverse as well as gratifying. Serving to protect the US from foreign threats, the agents have a sense of achievement and a feeling of satisfaction. Regular working hours add up to around 40 hours for a typical week but overtime of 9 to 10 hours isn’t uncommon in such work settings, making up to 60 work hours per week. The median annual salary of a border patrol agent is approximately $56,810.

Impressive moral characteristics, integrity, and professionalism are some key elements for this profession. To be eligible for this position, you should possess work experience that clearly demonstrates outstanding leadership and decision-making abilities. Your accomplishments should also prove you as a dynamic team player.

Alternatively, you should hold a 4-year bachelors degree in any discipline. However, no less than 12 months of law enforcement training or experience is mandatory for getting accepted for certain levels of hiring.

Other requirements to become a border patrol agent include being a US permanent citizen for at least 3 years with no criminal history, less than 37 years of age, holding a valid driving license, passing an entrance exam, appear for an oral interview and possess high moral behavior.

Once accepted, you’ll be required to attend the CBP Border Patrol Academy to complete a basic resident course for 55 days.

Military Police

Back profile of a military police

Military police officers are employed by the US military department who regularly engage in crime investigation, law enforcement, safety and security of the country as a whole. Like many other law enforcement personnel, their role is subject to emergency calls at any point during the 24 hour-day. They’re required to work 7 days a week with an 8-hour shift.  Apparently, their role is stressful as well as risky.

Depending upon experience and tenure, the pay scale of military officers ranges between $36,000 and $193,000 for different departments. Military officers receive free accommodation, food, medical and facilities. Other military benefits include allowances for tuition and travel.

However, military police officers have to comply with decisions made by senior military officials such as where they are to be stationed. If you’re looking to join military police, be prepared to stay thousands of miles away from home and family and in some cases, away from your country.

Educational and professional requirements for the job vary from one branch to another but one thing is for certain: you need to be a US citizen holding a high moral turpitude.  Visit and inquire about the requirements of the specific branch you wish to choose.

While the pre-requisites may sound insignificant, the hiring process for being admitted into the US military is pretty rigorous. You first need to complete the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery and then pass a medical examination.  If you’re successful, you’ll have to complete basic training and then finally take the Military Police Basic Officers course.

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