Sheriffs are responsible for enforcing local, state and federal laws within their designated counties. These officers serve the public by deterring crime, through prevention and intervention, making arrests and supervising detainees. If you are interested in seeking a career in police and especially if you want to become a sheriff, there are a few simple steps you will need to follow.

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The Duties of a Sheriff

Before getting into how to become a sheriff, it is important to understand the requirements of the job. Here is a list of tasks you might be needed to perform as a sheriff:

  • Conservation Officer
  • Wildlife Control Agent
  • Wildlife Enforcement Officer
  • Wildlife Officer
  • Refugee Officer
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Become a Sheriff

How to Become a Sheriff?

To enter this field, you will need to meet certain criteria. The following table will give you an overview of everything you need to know before entering this field.

Minimum Education Required High School Diploma or Equivalent
Preferred Field of Study Criminal Justice, Law Enforcement
Training Required Police Academy
Job Growth (2014-2024) 4% (Police and Detectives)
Median Salary (2015) $59,680 (Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers)
Number of Jobs, 2014 806,400 (Police and Detectives)

*Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

5 Steps to Becoming a Sheriff

Even though the exact requirements vary from state to state, the overall process remains the same. Most counties will require applicants to have at least a high school diploma, a clean criminal record and a valid driver’s license. Getting a criminal justice degree along with a solid understanding of law and regulations relevant at local, state and federal levels, is considered a huge advantage for applicants. While each sheriff’s office will have its own set of requirements, the following 5 steps might be common to most:

  1. Get a High School Diploma or Equivalent

This is the minimum level of education that you will be required to have if you are an aspiring sheriff. Even while you are in high school, focus on relevant subjects such as physical education, problem-solving skills and communication skills. This would be the ideal time to get in touch with your local sheriff’s department and seek guidance on your potential future path.

  1. Graduate from a Police Academy

You will need to graduate from a police academy before you move on to becoming a sheriff. The training program would usually take around 3-6 months to complete and will include theoretical and practical knowledge on topics such as crime scene management, firearms training, criminal law, crowd control and vehicle operation. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, aspiring law enforcement personnel need to pass physical, background, written and physiological tests to enter this field. In addition to that, they need to be at least 21 years of age.

  1. Get Some Law Enforcement Experience

Getting into the field directly at the position of a sheriff might be a little difficult. Typically you would have to go through a certain hierarchy. While on your way to the ladder up, it would be wise to build a good service record. This would likely increase your chances of being elected for an open position.

  1. Consider Higher Education

While it is not an absolute requirement for sheriffs to have higher education degrees, it is certainly a huge plus point. You might want to consider going for a higher education degree in criminal justice. You can go for an associate, bachelor or even a master’s degree.

  1. Apply to a Sheriff´s Office

For this, you will need to do a little bit of research to see if the local sheriff’s offices are hiring or not. Bear in bear that the appointment or election of sheriffs is done based on the states laws. Be sure to regularly check the National Sheriff’s Association website for job openings and new information on the application process.

Industry Statistics for Sheriffs

If you want to consider a career in this field, you need to be aware of some industry statistics for it. Have a look at a few major ones.

Industry Employment Annual Mean Wage
Local Government 560,590 $62,680
State Government 60,380 $69,190
Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools 14,440 $52,920
Federal Executive Branch 12,060 $54,980
Elementary and Secondary Schools 4,500 $51,260

*Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Make sure you carry out the right amount of research before you enter into this field so you have a good idea regarding what is required of you.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: How to Become a Sheriff in California?

Ans: There are five different counties in California – Los Angeles County, Orange County, San Bernardino County, Riverside County and San Diego County.

Each county has defined its own set of guidelines and requirements to become a sheriff. Generally, the following requirements may be applicable:

  • Fulfill the basic qualifications (age, education, clean record, US citizen, etc)
  • Complete the application
  • Take the written exam
  • Appear for an interview
  • Clear the background check
  • Pass the physical fitness test, along with a medical and psychological exams
  • Attend an academy for Sheriff’s training
Q: How Long Does it take to become a sheriff in California?

Ans: This includes the application, written test, physical ability test, interview, documentation, background check, administrative review, medical and psychological test and the training academy. A maximum of three weeks are required in between each task for information processing and review. The timeline may vary from county to county, but generally, it remains within this range.

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