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Saint Leo Blog

Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice Careers: What It Means to Be a Police Chief

What does a police chief do in his or her day-to-day duties? Find out everything you need to know about one of the most exciting and rewarding criminal justice career tracks.

A police hat to indicate the many criminal justice careers out there, including police chiefIf you’re interested in working in law enforcement, many options exist. However, one of the criminal justice careers that appeals to some is chief of police. But what does this particular role actually entail?

Job Duties of a Police Chief

Chiefs of police are the top officers within their departments. Therefore, if you’re looking for criminal justice careers that will place you at the highest echelon of your field, this is definitely one to consider.

Police chiefs—which can either be elected or appointed—are tasked with multiple duties associated with running their respective police departments, which are usually municipalities such as cities and towns since sheriffs are typically responsible for operating county-level police agencies.

On a large scale, these duties include analyzing the community’s policing needs and deciding how the department will fulfill them. Day to day, it also means overseeing all of the officers employed by that department, adhering to the designated budget, creating policy and procedure, developing community programs, and more.

As a chief of police, it is also your responsibility to update the public on major happenings in the area. Thus, a person in this role is often in direct communication with the media when big events occur.

Police Chief Salary Potential

In the United States, the average salary of a police chief is roughly $107,581, according to data collected by Salary.com. For comparative purposes, a police patrol officer earns half that amount, or approximately $55,678 annually.

That said, actual salary does depend on a variety of factors, some of which include your level of education and experience, any additional trainings and certifications you may hold, the geographic location of the municipality, and more.

Requirements for Becoming a Police Chief

If your goal is to become a chief of police, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, police administration, law enforcement, or some similar field is often required. In some cases, a master’s degree may be the minimum.

Depending on the specific municipality, there may also be a requirement that involves holding specific commanding roles (such as lieutenant or captain) for a set period of time. This helps ensure that the candidate has a certain level of leadership experience and skills.

The Life of a Police Chief

One way to determine whether police chief is the right criminal justice career for you is to consider what life is like for individuals who hold this high-level law enforcement position.

For instance, as police chief, you have to be ready 24/7 to respond to major incidents or events that occur in your area. Not that you can never go away on vacation, but being a top official does mean that you may get middle-of-the-night calls to respond to a particular crime scene.

Chiefs of police are also held to higher standards, even when they are off duty. So, any time you’re out to eat or running errands, for example, you are expected to behave in a way that is consistent with someone who holds a law enforcement position.

Perhaps one of the biggest things to remember is, as a police chief, you are constantly in the public eye. While this is great because it gives your community’s law-abiding citizens someone to turn to in their time of need, it can also be daunting because the criminals know who you are as well.

This can make you a prime target, potentially putting your family at risk. Therefore, being a police chief often involves always having a heightened level of awareness so that if a situation does occur, you can respond to it swiftly. It may also include teaching your family how to respond if they become targeted as well.

What It Takes to Succeed in this Role

What type of person does well in the criminal justice careers like police chief? GovtJobs.com shares that skills critical for success in this area include:

  • Strong communication skills
  • Critical and analytical thinking skills
  • Planning and organizing skills
  • Computer skills Individuals in this role also benefit from being physically fit and having a high level of proficiency with firearms and other equipment commonly used in the law enforcement field.

Ready for the Next Step?

If this sounds like the perfect career track for you, the first step is to obtain your degree and Saint Leo University offers a variety of criminal justice program options.

Among them are a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Criminal Justice, a BA in Criminal Justice with a specialization in Criminalistics (which involves crime scene investigation and forensic science), and a BA in Criminal Justice with a specialization in Homeland Security. Another option is to earn your major in a different area and minor in criminal justice.

Already have your bachelor’s degree? In that case, you may be interested in Saint Leo’s Master of Science in Criminal Justice. This higher-level educational program provides advanced instruction in areas related to computerized databases, human resource management, and fiscal resource management—all of which can help you succeed in your role as chief of police.

Criminal justice careers can be extremely rewarding. Now all you have to decide is whether they are the right career track for you.

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