Law enforcement is one of the most important elements of a functioning society. Without law enforcement, the world would be far more dangerous. Law enforcement careers have a great deal of variety, meaning that people with a number of different talents and skillsets can be part of the solution. John Vinson, President of IACLEA, explains the most common career paths in law enforcement, showing how each one has a beneficial impact on the community.

Municipal Police Officers

Municipal police officers are on the front lines every day, protecting the public. With neighborhood policing initiatives, municipal police officers get to know their subjects very well. They build trust within the community through being accessible and responsible. They also help to give children a positive view of law enforcement through programs like DARE and special community events. Many municipal police officers are also stationed within schools as school resource officers.

Sheriffs and Deputies

The function of a sheriff is similar to that of a police officer, but they have a different jurisdiction. Sheriffs are generally assigned county by county. They may have more of an involvement with the court system than municipal police officers. Sheriffs also have subordinate officers called deputies.

State Troopers

Each state has a trooper program that ranks higher than municipal police officers. State troopers are often tasked with problems that go over town lines, like speeding chases, kidnappings, and serious community safety problems. State troopers are also often responsible for speed control on local interstate highways.

State troopers are held to a high standard, and many people who have been municipal officers for some time want to “graduate” to being state troopers. Being a state trooper is a trusted and prestigious job.

Customs Officers

Customs officers largely work at the country’s borders or at international airports or shipping ports. These officers are in charge of making sure that people do not bring hazardous or undeclared items into the country illegally. Customs officers have a difficult job when it comes to enforcing the proper declaration of people’s belongings and purchases. Many unscrupulous travelers want to avoid paying the proper taxes and fees for bringing certain items into the country.

Border Patrol Officers

In today’s political and social climate, the job of the border patrol officer is extremely important. Border patrol ensures that everyone in the country has permission to be there. They help to crack down on illegal immigration and create better border security. Sometimes border patrol officers are demonized by the public, but this job is crucial to the safety of the community as a whole.

Special Agents

The FBI, or Federal Bureau of Investigation, employs many different types of law enforcement officers. The training and expertise of FBI agents sets them apart from other members of the law enforcement community. When the FBI is called in, it means that the problem is severe and that the issue may cross state lines or be a federal crime. The FBI often comes in to supervise local law enforcement in the case of a serious disaster or terrorist attack.

The FBI includes investigators, criminologists, forensics professionals, and other job functions.

Court Officers

Court officers like bailiffs are responsible for maintaining order in the national, state, and local judicial systems. Court officers handle inmates when they come in for trial, and they also monitor safety in public court hearings where an upset family member or victim may attempt to cause trouble.


Criminal investigators and forensics specialists do the work behind the scenes when it comes to analyzing crime. They often work in state police labs, investigating drug crimes, murders, and other serious events. Investigators often testify in court to back up the findings of the state prosecutors.

Game Wardens

Game wardens are tasked with ensuring the safety of people when they enjoy the outdoors through hunting and fishing. Game wardens are an important environmental protection force, making sure that natural resources are not strained or exploited. When subjects poach, fish illegally, or find injured animals, the game warden will respond. Most game wardens are themselves avid outdoors persons, and they show a great deal of enthusiasm for their work.

Corrections Officers

Corrections officers are in charge of law enforcement within prisons and other detention facilities. They may work at the municipal, state, county, or federal level. Corrections officers have a difficult job managing the security needs of the prison population. They are often paid less than other types of law enforcement officers, and their jobs are usually more difficult. Corrections officers often put their safety at risk in the daily course of their work.

Career Paths in Law Enforcement

John Vinson encourages all interested individuals to explore law enforcement as a career. These common types of law enforcement officer give a good overview of the types of activities required in the community to preserve law and order. Law enforcement officers should be appreciated within the community because they are willing to put their lives on the line for the public every day.