Types of Police Departments and 12 Police Department Jobs

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 25, 2022 | Published March 1, 2021

Updated July 25, 2022

Published March 1, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Police departments hire many types of professionals to help keep the public safe. Each job is within a particular police department and has specific functions that assist the public in different ways. If you’re interested in a position within a police force, learning about the different departments and the jobs available within them can help you make a more informed career choice.

In this article, we explore several departments within a police force and take a look at 12 police department jobs to consider pursuing with average salaries and common duties.

What are the different types of police departments?

There are various police forces, with some of these including local police, state police, highway patrol and special jurisdiction police. Each police force varies in size, jurisdiction and mission. Within each police force, there are departments that help separate the roles and responsibilities of employees. These departments often include:

  • Administration: This department often employs police staff such as the chief of police, the deputy chief and the chief’s administrative assistant.

  • Patrol: This department focuses on patrolling the force’s assigned location and includes roles such as division commander, K-9 handler teams and patrol division administrative assistant.

  • Investigative services: The investigative services department provides a variety of specialized services and may hire employees such as a division commander, a special enforcement unit and a marine patrol unit.

  • Services: The services department provides police services to the public and may include a communications unit and a police records unit. This department hires employees such as division commanders, 9-1-1 dispatch operators and school crossing guards.

Related: 13 Types of Federal Law Enforcement Jobs (With Tips)

12 careers in police departments

Just as there are different police departments, there are also various careers you can pursue within each department. The following are 12 police careers to consider in a variety of departments. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, visit indeed.com/salaries.

1. Air marshal

National average salary: $37,617
per year

Primary duties: Air marshals are part of the Transportation Security Administration department of the US federal law enforcement agency and work to defend the public and other crew members against harm during flights. They sit aboard commercial flights, monitor passengers for potential threats and take action when necessary. Air marshals also participate in investigations and work with other government agencies to identify potential travel issues.

Read more: Guide for How To Become an Air Marshal

2. Park ranger

National average salary: $50,081 per year

Primary duties: Park rangers enforce park rules, regulations and state laws to conserve natural resources, protect wildlife and ensure the safety of visitors. Most rangers work in a state park or state forest division where they patrol park grounds. They also conduct search-and-rescue missions, protect people from wildlife and investigate accidents and visitor complaints.

Related: Learn About Being a Park Ranger

3. Victim advocate

National average salary: $50,495 per year

Primary duties: Victim advocates help victims of crime cope with trauma and typically work in the services department of a police force. They attend court with victims, offer emotional support, inform victims of their legal and protection rights and assist victims when submitting files to the court. They also keep victims updated after the trial on important upcoming events, such as hearings and appeals.

4. Detective

National average salary: $52,446 per year

Primary duties: Detectives examine crime scenes to gather information for an investigation. They collect physical evidence, interview suspects and witnesses, search records in databases and analyze findings to display them in court. Detectives can also outline the chronological events of a crime during proceedings.

Read more: Learn About Being a Detective

5. Highway patrol officer

National average salary: $54,630 per year

Primary duties: Highway patrol officers, who work in the state police department, ensure people's safety and security when using state highways and roads. They assist during accidents, enforce traffic laws and make arrests when needed. These officers observe and report damaged roads and perform investigations to determine the cause of accidents.

6. Police officer

National average salary: $55,587 per year

Primary duties: Police officers have general law enforcement responsibilities, such as patrolling areas and responding to emergency calls. They also direct traffic and administer first aid. Other responsibilities include investigating potential crimes, apprehending suspects and completing written reports on events. They are mostly assigned to specific areas in a community in which they familiarize themselves with the area and build a good relationship with the residents.

Read more: Learn About Being a Police Officer

7. Crime scene investigator

National average salary: $57,780 per year

Primary duties: Crime scene investigators, also known as forensic scientists, critically and analytically search for evidence, which they gather and document to conduct laboratory tests. After processing the evidence, they protect it against tampering or theft. They also appear in court as professional witnesses for cases they worked on.

Related: Learn About Being a Crime Scene Investigator

8. Sheriff

National average salary: $58,086 per year

Primary duties: A sheriff is an elected official authorized by the state to enforce the law at a county level. They cover areas outside of local police departments and are part of the sheriff’s department of a police agency. Sheriffs also manage local jails and ensure security in their area, respond to emergency calls and perform all the responsibilities of a local uniformed officer.

9. Public safety officer

National average salary: $68,440 per year

Primary duties: A public safety officer, often part of the public safety police department, keeps the peace and enforces the law in public areas. They respond to calls, patrol designated areas, control traffic, maintain order at public gatherings and assist the public with civil and criminal issues. They also operate firefighting equipment and emergency vehicles.

10. Resource officer

National average salary: $75,789 per year

Primary duties: Resource officers are school safety agents that protect students and teachers in schools. They closely work with school administrators to develop safety strategies and ensure a habitable environment for staff and learners. They conduct investigations on any potential criminal activity in and around a learning institution and may also perform internal dispute mediation.

11. Border patrol agent

National average salary: $78,633 per year

Primary duties: Border patrol agents secure international land and water borders. They patrol these borders, check that people entering the country have proper documentation and direct immigrants to the proper authorities for processing. These agents could monitor specific checkpoints or patrol large spans of land or water.

Read more: Learn About Being a Border Patrol Agent

12. Chief of police

National average salary: $89,445 per year

Primary duties: Police stations often hire chiefs of police to oversee and manage a particular department. These professionals may keep track of their department’s success rates and make changes when needed to enhance productivity. Duties include training and testing new police officers, performing administrative tasks and performing officer evaluations.

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