Career Spotlight: Police Officer

How A Sociology Degree Can Prepare You For A Career As A Police Officer

Police Officer Using Computer Tablet A mid...
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A sociology degree is a very useful and relevant degree for any career in the criminal justice field. Police officers are one great example of this. As a career that is present in every city, town, and community across the country, becoming a police officer does not usually require relocation and is it is usually always in demand.

One way that a sociology degree is especially helpful to a police officer is that it allows one to examine situations with knowledge of the structural issues that surround a society. For example, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, and age are all especially important for understanding specific conflict situations. It is always important to understand the effects that stereotypes have in how people perceive a community problem. Witnesses to a crime, for example, might believe a stereotype about the criminal and will therefore bias the true events. By understanding this and asking very specific questions, the police officer may be able to get an accurate depiction of the crime without any stereotyped influences.

In conducting police work, it is also important to understand that communities are composed of relational networks. These networks can be especially important in both investigating crimes and in preventing criminal acts.

Since police officers are constantly interacting with community members, education on how to interact with and deal with certain types of people is crucial. In fact, it is often the case that less than half of police academy training has to do with laws, legal codes, and weapons, and the majority of training is spent on human interaction. This is where a sociology degree is extremely helpful. Role playing, modeling people’s behavior, and understanding group dynamics is crucial to be a successful police officer.

An understanding of cultural diversity is also important. Those going into a career in law enforcement need to learn that there are other patterns of living and officers need to learn to adapt to those patterns when they enter certain situations.

Job Description

The primary duty of police officers is to enforce the law. They help the community fight crime by making arrests, assisting people with emergencies, investigating crimes, helping prosecute crimes, collecting evidence, testifying in court, and writing detailed reports of crimes.

Educational Requirements

The educational requirements for police officers vary by city and community. Larger cities often require four-year degrees while some small communities only require a high-school diploma. However, the majority of places are now requiring formal job training, commonly an associate’s degree. Additional training is provided at a federal or state law enforcement academy after an officer is hired.

Salary and Benefits

Police officers entering the field can expect to earn on average between $22,000 and $26,000, however some areas pay as low as $18,000. Salaries vary by city and region. After six years of service, police officers earn an average of $34,000 or more. Benefits are offered by the majority of police departments, which typically includes life insurance, medical benefits, and retirement plans.

Other Recommendations

For those thinking of entering a career as a police officer, there are some other recommendations that will help you during your career. First, it is important to understand cultural diversity and be able to adapt to different cultural contexts. Foreign language capability, especially Spanish, is nearly essential. Other languages might be emphasized according to local needs. For example, Southeast Asian languages (Vietnamese, Cambodian, Chinese etc.) are needed in parts of California. Computer literacy is also a must, as officers compose written reports that are transmitted directly and immediately to the department for analysis. Finally, oral communication skills are essential to conduct good community relations.

Search for jobs in law enforcement or other sociology careers in your area.

References

Stephens, W.R. (2004). Careers in Sociology, Third Edition. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Criminal Justice USA. (2011). Police Officer. http://www.criminaljusticeusa.com/police-officer.html