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Career ProfileDeputy Sheriffs

What They Do

The role of a deputy sheriff is to enforce local, state and national laws within a county. Much like police officers in urban areas, deputies are appointed officers responsible for overseeing police duties such as patrolling their jurisdiction, making arrests and responding to emergency and non-emergency calls. Deputies, however, may also be tasked with running the county jail or ensuring courtroom security. Many times, especially in rural areas, the sheriff’s department is the main law enforcement agency.

Work Environment

Most deputy sheriffs work 12-hour shifts; some work alternating day and night shifts. Since round-the-clock public safety is the primary concern of a sheriff’s department, a deputy may be asked to work double shifts and should expect overtime pay. They should also be ready to work holidays and weekends as needed, especially at the beginning of their career.

Career Advancement and Salary Potential

Salaries vary greatly by department size and location. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report specifically on the salaries of deputy sheriffs, but a comparable salary is that of police and sheriff’s patrol officers. The average salary for those careers is $56,810. Pay will vary based on location, experience and education. This career is expected to grow five percent by 2022.

Sheriffs with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a master’s degree in criminal justice leadership are eligible for higher wages and will find more job opportunities. With the right education and experience, a sheriff will easily move into management roles such as chief deputy sheriff.

Education and Training Required

Not unlike many careers in law enforcement, the minimum education required to become a deputy sheriff is a high school diploma or GED. However, sheriffs who hold a B.A. in criminal justice or a M.A. in criminal justice leadership will increase their attractiveness to employers. They will also likely earn more money and have greater opportunities for advancement.

To effectively provide services like law and traffic enforcement, emergency response and criminal investigation, deputy sheriffs must complete intense training requirements. The strict selection process for this training ensures the best-suited candidates receive a chance to compete for positions as deputy sheriffs. A written test to assess reading, writing and math skills is also typical. Physically, candidates will be evaluated for stamina, strength and dexterity. One of the final requirements is that candidates pass an interview and psychological exam with senior officers. This is to ensure the applicant is fit to handle the mental trials of law enforcement work.

Depending upon a department’s location, there may be a civil service exam a candidate must pass before they earn eligibility to enter a training program.

Special Skills and Qualifications

Those interested in pursuing careers as deputy sheriffs must be U.S. citizens with no felony or domestic violence convictions and no recent DWI or misdemeanor convictions. Before an applicant is offered a job, they must pass a thorough background check. Background checks explore a candidate’s:

• Criminal record
• Employment history
• Military record
• College experience
• Past drug use
• Traffic violations
• Financial history/credit
• Social relationships and reputation

In some instances, a polygraph exam may be required to verify all information gathered during a candidate’s interviews and background check.