page describes some legal careers. The information is based on the U.S.
Department of Labor's Occupational
Outlook Handbook. This book is an excellent resource for locating
basic information on all types of careers. Updated annually, the Occupational
Outlook Handbook contains information for each major profession on
the nature of the work, working conditions, qualifications and training,
job outlook, earnings, and related occupations, as well as additional
sources of information. The Occupational Outlook Handbook is usually
available in school and public libraries or on the Web.
Salaries for some legal careers are listed with the job descriptions.
These are average starting salaries. Salaries for all legal careers can
differ widely depending on the geographic location, the type of business,
and the experience and education of the candidate. Just click on any of
the careers listed below for salaries and other information.
($34,000 - 50,000)
Attorneys, or lawyers, who practice law, do two major things. First, they
advise individuals and organizations about ways of preventing legal problems
by informing them of their legal rights and responsibilities. Second,
lawyers provide counsel if their clients do get into legal difficulty.
In providing these services, attorneys do legal research, prepare documents,
write briefs, interview parties and witnesses to legal problems, and advocate
their clients' cases both in and out of court. (However, while many people
think of lawyers in terms of trials, few licensed attorneys are trial
lawyers are employed in private practice, although many work for government
agencies and corporations. Some have general law practices, which involve
matters such as writing wills and contracts. Others specialize in one
or two legal areas, such as criminal law, labor law, property law, family
law, contract law, environmental law, international law, or tax law. Still
others work with legal services programs representing poor people. A small
number of lawyers are judges, while some attorneys also use their legal
knowledge to teach classes in law schools and colleges. In addition, a
significant number of individuals in public life at the local, state,
and federal levels are attorneys.
To become a licensed attorney, one must attend four years of college and
receive a bachelor's degree and then attend a three-year college of law
approved by the American Bar Association. Years ago, some studied law
by working with certified lawyers instead of attending law school. Today,
this is extremely rare.
attorney candidate must also pass all parts of the bar exam in the state
in which he or she wishes to establish a practice. Finally, except in
a few states where graduation from the state's law school qualifies one
to practice law, an attorney candidate must also pass a national test,
the multistate bar examination.
classes helpful in preparation for the practice of law include writing,
speech, drama, foreign languages, logic, computers, philosophy, history,
government, mathematics, business, word processing and accounting, as
well as others.
The practice of law is an especially demanding profession. Among the essential
skills a person must bring to the profession is an ability to work efficiently
under pressure while relating in a positive manner to people. An attorney
must be a good listener as well as a good communicator. Attorneys must
be able to think and write precisely and logically and must be able to
give clear, concise directions to clients and co-workers. They must also
be able to meet strict deadlines and maintain the confidentiality of clients'
communications and have a good knowledge of computers.
The starting salary and benefits for an attorney differ widely depending
on the location of the practice and the size and type of the law firm.
Small town attorneys beginning their own practice may take in less than
$25,000 (and in some cases lose money) and may have to pay for their own
medical insurance, retirement, and business expenses. Most starting salaries
are higher, however. In 1998, the average salary for beginning attorneys
working in government averaged over $34,000 per year, while beginning
attorneys engaged with private firms averaged about $47,000. These attorneys
had virtually no overhead and had some benefits paid for by their employers.
First-year attorneys for large corporate law firms in large urban areas
may make as much as $85,000 and have medical benefits and retirement packages
paid for completely by their firms. Partners in large law firms can make
very substantial salaries.
Lawyers do their work in offices, libraries, and courts of law. They may
also visit businesses, government offices, prisons, and homes in the process
of doing work for their clients.
pressures of developing a practice are great in this profession. There
is a tremendous amount of paperwork. Documents must be finished in time
to meet deadlines. Many lawyers work more than 40 hours a week. In fact,
it is not unusual for attorneys to put in 50-, 60-, and even 70-hour weeks
in order to complete their work.
There are many lawyers-nearly one million- in the United States today.
Attaining a position in a law firm is extremely competitive, and getting
a job as an attorney in some areas of the country may be difficult. Nevertheless,
projections from the Occupational Outlook Handbook of the U.S. Department
of Labor indicate that there will be an increasing need for lawyers through
the year 2005, so job opportunities in the field remain good.
American Bar Association
750 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
ABA site has references for legal assistance, legal publications, legal
service plans and, for students, a special site containing educational
materials about the law.
of American Law Schools
1201 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 800
Washington, D.C. 20036-2605
Corrections officers, also known as prison guards, are responsible for
maintaining the security of the prison or correctional facility where
they work. These officers supervise prisoners as the prisoners work, eat,
sleep, attend educational classes, or participate in recreation. They
operate electronic security systems. Corrections officers are also responsible
for the security of the prison when the prisoners receive visitors and
when the prisoners travel to and from the correctional facility.
The hiring requirements for corrections officers are not as extensive
as for other careers in the legal field. All that is required in many
areas is a high-school diploma or a GED. Once hired, corrections officers
may participate in training programs that prepare them for their duties.
Corrections officers need strong observational skills to help detect changes
in prisoners' behavior that might affect the security of the prison. It
also helps to have good interpersonal skills in order to reduce tension
among the many different personalities found in the prison population.
Most corrections officers work for government agencies responsible for
operating jails and prisons. However, some now work for private companies
that have received contracts from the government to operate correctional
facilities. Most government employers provide health and retirement benefits.
According to a 1994 survey, starting pay at the state level averaged nearly
$19,500 per year, while average earnings were about $23,000. Beginning
pay for federal officers was slightly higher-about $20,000-and average
pay was about $31,500.
Correctional officers generally work 40-hour weeks, although they may
be required to work off-hour shifts. They work both indoors and outdoors
in correctional facilities, depending on the job requirements. The work
of a corrections officer may be stressful and even dangerous because of
problems in dealing with inmates.
Approximately 310,000 people work as correctional officers in prisons
across the country. With 10% to 20% of corrections officers leaving their
jobs each year and the number of prisons and jails increasing, the outlook
for employment of corrections officers through 2005 remains strong.
4380 Forbes Boulevard
Lanham, MD 20706-4322
Web site contains information regarding jobs in the corrections field
and publications concerning issues facing corrections officers.
2053 Day Road, Suite 100 (zip 21740)
P.O. Box 2158
Hagerstown, MD 21742
This Web site contains information about the AJA, its publications, and
hot links to the Corrections Connections Network, a detailed site with
links to state, federal, and international correctional information sites.
A court reporter keeps the record of the court proceedings. This means
that the reporter takes down every "official" word said in court.
Court reporters often take down what is said at speeds of up to 200 words
trial court record is the basis of all appeals to appellate courts. Lawyers
making appeals base their arguments on exactly what has been stated in
the trial court. Appeals court justices write their opinions based on
the transcripts of the trial courts as well as what has been argued on
appeal. Thus, the accurate work of court reporters is vital to an effective
reporters also take down depositions, interrogatories, and other parts
of pretrial proceedings. They are often called upon to take down what
is said at public hearings as well. About 90% of the 60,000 court reporters
in the U.S. use computers or computer aided transcription (CAT). This
work electronically ties a stenotype machine to a computer, which turns
the reporter's notes into readable print.
To become a court reporter, one must attend court-reporting school or
a similar program given by a community college or university. The duration
of these programs varies from two to four years, depending on the type
of degree or certificate offered.
a court-reporting program, students learn court-reporting language and
develop skill in using the court-reporting machine, or stenotype. Classes
in various types of law, English, keyboarding, computers, and medical
terminology form the core of the curriculum.
Persons who wish to attend court-reporting school should have an excellent
command of the English language, good hearing, general knowledge of computers
and extremely strong typing and keyboarding skills. They must be good
listeners since they must sit and concentrate for long periods of time.
Court reporters can work for the courts, freelance for different businesses,
or do both. Starting salaries for this position are generally between
$20,000 and $25,000 per year. Most employers offer medical insurance and
a retirement package. Because this position is vital and requires great
skill, the amount of money a court reporter earns can increase sharply
as he or she becomes more proficient. It is not unusual for court reporters
to earn at least $50,000 annually after five years.
Most court reporters who work for courts follow the schedule of the court.
This means most work 40-hour weeks, unless deadlines require that court
transcripts be ready at a certain time. In this case, the court reporter
must work overtime to get the work done.
reporters may work anywhere an official record is needed for a meeting
or conference. They work in courts, law offices, businesses, or public
buildings such as town halls and legislatures.
With the rising number of civil and criminal cases, the outlook for employment
for court reporters is good. Although technological breakthroughs, such
as voice-activated transcription equipment, may eventually cut down on
the need for court reporters, the job outlook through the year 2005 is
still good. People with court reporting skills can also find work as medical/legal
transcriptionists and in captioning.
National Court Reporters
8224 Old Courthouse Road
Vienna, VA 22182-3808
site contains a detailed account of the responsibilities of court reporting
including explanations about computer aided transcription (CAT), captioning
careers, cyber-conferencing, scopists, rapid data entry transcription,
medical and medical/legal transcriptionists.
Forensic scientists collect and analyze evidence found at crime scenes.
Specifically, they analyze blood, saliva, semen, drugs, fingerprints,
and firearms and perform reconstructions on skeletal bones. Forensic scientists
also confer with law enforcement personnel and attorneys on evidence collection,
preserve evidence, write reports, and testify in court. The scientific
analysis of evidence often proves critical in determining the innocence
or guilt of a person accused of a crime. Thus, forensic scientists play
a vital role in the criminal justice process.
Entry-level jobs in forensic science require a four-year degree in one
of the following: biology, chemistry, physics, microbiology, genetics,
or medical technology. Communication arts and law classes are considered
helpful. Some crime labs also require laboratory experience.
A forensic scientist works with many different kinds of people, often
under stressful circumstances. Thus, it is essential for a person in this
field to have good "people" skills. Because forensic scientists
must complete many reports and make court appearances, they must be capable
writers and good speakers. Finally, forensic scientists must be able to
manipulate tiny bits of evidence under a microscope that requires excellent
Forensic scientists generally work for state or federal crime laboratories.
Because these positions are found primarily in government, some medical
and retirement benefits are paid.
At the state level, beginning forensic scientists are paid about $1,900
per month. Those who start with laboratory experience may receive as much
as $3,000 per month. Depending on the state, experienced workers may eventually
earn between $35,000 and $50,000 per year. Federal salaries are usually
As employees of the government, forensic scientists generally work 40-hour
weeks. However, because of increasing caseloads and the need to meet deadlines,
they may work extra hours.
Forensic scientists work primarily in the crime lab. However, they also
go to the scene of the crime to examine and secure evidence, and they
testify in court.
Good forensic scientists are always in demand. However, because of pressures
to reduce government funding, beginning positions are usually limited,
and competition for them is keen. The job outlook in this area is, at
American Academy of Forensic
P.O. Box 669
410 North 21st St., Suite 203
Colorado Springs, CO 80901
site explains the main disciplines of forensic science, as well as listing
a link to further reading on forensic science topics.
Judges interpret laws to resolve disputes between conflicting parties.
There are two basic types of judges: trial judges and appellate judges.
Trial judges rule on pretrial motions, conduct pretrial hearings between
parties to resolve points of conflict between the parties, and thereby
make for more efficient trials. Trial judges rule on points of law. In
bench trials, they are also called upon to render a verdict.
Appellate judges review possible errors of law made by trial judges and
write decisions, which then become part of common law, or judge-made law.
In addition, some judges, called administrative judges or hearing officers,
are employed by administrative agencies to make decisions about conflicts
involving the rules and regulations of particular government agencies.
Judges must have graduated from a law school accredited by the American
Bar Association and must have passed the state's bar examination. This
means that judges have had a minimum of seven years of education beyond
high school. In addition, because most judges are appointed or elected
to their positions, several years of establishing a reputation as a successful
practitioner of law is considered essential.
competition is usually great for judicial positions. Depending on the
type of position, a committee of the local, state, or national bar association
is asked to review the record of lawyer applicants and then make a recommendation
to a public official, who makes the appointment. In some areas, political
parties select candidates for judgeships. These individuals campaign on
a particular platform, and the voters elect them to office.
exception to these requirements exists. The office of justice of the peace,
which has some judicial responsibilities, need not be held by a lawyer
in some states.)
Judges must be both very knowledgeable about the law and highly skilled
in legal research. They must be excellent listeners and must have the
ability to quickly analyze areas of dispute between opposing parties.
Judges must have high ethical standards. They must also be able to write
well and give precise instructions to all parties in the courtroom. Above
all, they must be able to make sound decisions.
The amount of money a judge makes depends on the type and location of
the court where the judge presides. In 1994, federal trial court judges
averaged over $133,000 a year, while federal appellate judges earned about
$142,000. State trial court judges averaged about $91,000, with salaries
ranging from $64,000 to $131,000. State appellate court salaries averaged
over $94,000. Judges in state and federal systems have most of their medical
and retirement benefits paid for by the court system.
Judges work primarily in courtrooms, in law libraries, and in their chambers.
Like the attorneys who practice in their courtrooms, judges often work
much longer than 40 hours a week. In fact, because of the increasing amount
of litigation, it is not unusual for judges to work 50 hours or more each
week. The caseloads of trial judges in large urban areas have grown substantially
over the last few decades. Consequently, the responsibilities are enormous,
and the stress faced by judges in these areas is very great.
Currently, there are about 80,000 judges in the United States. Although
some judges have begun to take early retirement, tight public funding
limits the number of positions available. Also, there is always a long
list of candidates waiting to fill openings, so the compensation for positions
will remain great.
American Judges Association
Web site contains publications about issues concerning the judiciary.
NCSC 300, Newport Avenue
Williamsburg, VA 23187
Web site contains information about recent issues facing judges and a
section dealing with domestic violence and the courtroom.
National Judicial College
Judicial College Building
University of Nevada-Reno
Reno, NV 89557
Assistant (Paralegal) ($16,000-24,000)
Legal assistants, or paralegals, work under the supervision of licensed
attorneys. They provide support services by drafting documents, interviewing
clients, reviewing and updating files, doing legal research, assisting
in the writing of legal briefs, and preparing trial notebooks.
Legal assistants have traditionally received their training "on the
job," but many receive training today from specialized legal assistant
programs at community colleges, business schools, and universities. These
programs range from several months to four years in length and usually
involve a combination of specific legal classes, related electives, and
general college requirements.
national certification is generally not a job requirement, the Certifying
Board of Legal Assistants of the National Association of Legal Assistants
has developed a two-day examination for those who are interested in receiving
Legal assistants must prepare documents under the same time constraints
as their supervising attorneys. Although they are closely supervised,
legal assistants need to be able to write logically and precisely. Because
they are often called on to interview clients, paralegals must also be
excellent listeners and be able to relate to people from many different
backgrounds. Knowledge of a foreign language can be useful. Legal assistants
must be able to maintain a client's confidentiality. Proficiency in word
processing, computers and "on-line" legal research is also important
in providing the legal assistant with the ability to assist attorneys.
Salary and Benefits
Salary and benefits for paralegals range widely, depending on the type
of law office, the location, and the job responsibilities. In smaller
towns and in smaller firms, legal assistants may start at salaries ranging
from $1,300 to $1,800 per month. However, most make somewhat more money.
Those paralegals hired by the federal government average between $20,000
and $25,000 per year, depending on their experience and training. In addition,
according to a survey by the National Association of Legal Assistants,
legal assistants had an average salary of nearly $31,000 in 1994. Although
the majority of employers contribute to medical and retirement benefits,
the amount of the contribution differs among employers.
Like attorneys, paralegals do most of their work at desks in offices or
libraries. They may also be called on to interview clients at homes and
businesses and to assist attorneys in the courtroom. They generally work
40-hour weeks but may be called on to put in extra hours to meet various
Statistics from the Occupational Outlook Handbook indicate that the career
of legal assistant is among the fastest growing careers in the United
States. Currently, there are over 111,000 legal assistants. Competition
for positions is increasing. However, the job outlook for paralegals coming
out of formal training programs seems excellent.
For More Information
Standing Committee on
American Bar Association
750 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
This is part of the American Bar Association's Web site where one can
find a brief explanation of issues facing legal assistants.
National Association of
Legal Assistants, Inc.
1516 South Boston St., Suite 200
Tulsa, OK 74119
This Web site explains the functions of legal assistants, explains the
national certification process and lists programs that are of interest
P.O. Box 33108
Kansas City, MO 64114
This Web site contains paralegal career information, qualifications for
becoming a registered paralegal, and links to sites that deal with researching
legal information and the availability of legal assistant jobs.
Legal secretaries apply traditional secretarial skills to specialized
legal work. Secretarial duties often differ from attorney to attorney.
Generally, however, legal secretaries prepare legal documents for attorneys
and their clients. They also set up appointments, maintain the court calendar,
handle client billing, manage client and office files, do general word
processing, handle receptionist and telephone duties, and make travel
arrangements for their employers. Under the supervision of a managing
partner, some legal secretaries handle bookkeeping, perform office management
tasks such as payroll and billing, maintain checkbooks and office accounts,
and manage other clerical personnel.
Traditionally, secretaries were prepared for their work by taking a variety
of typing/keyboarding, business, and law classes in high school. They
were then given more specialized training by their attorney-employers.
This path is still often taken by aspiring legal secretaries. However,
the complexities of legal practices now demand that secretaries come to
the job with skills in many other areas. Many legal secretaries attend
one- or two-year programs at community colleges with an emphasis on office
practices, shorthand, keyboarding, business machines, computer use, word
processing, legal terminology, and law.
The Certifying Board of the National Association of Legal Secretaries
gives a test to certify a legal secretary with three years' experience
as a Professional Legal Secretary. Exam applications can be received through
Legal secretaries need to be able to take dictation and to type and keyboard
accurately and quickly. They must be able to deal with clients from many
different backgrounds. They must have strong communication skills and
a good command of the English language. They must also be able to work
under pressure and maintain client confidentiality. Knowledge of a foreign
language can be exceptionally helpful in some locations.
Salary and Benefits
The starting salary for legal secretaries varies widely depending on the
location, the size of the law firm, and the amount of responsibility.
Beginning salaries for some secretaries in small firms can be as low as
$1,300 per month. In larger areas, beginning salaries average between
$20,000 and $40,000 per year. The average salary for all secretaries is
about $27,500, with some experienced legal secretaries/office managers
earning $45,000 or more. Medical and retirement benefits vary widely from
firm to firm.
Legal secretaries work primarily in law offices and work approximately
40-hour weeks. Given the demanding and diverse nature of law practices,
legal secretaries often juggle many different functions in the office
while trying to meet court deadlines. Legal secretaries must be able to
deal with stressful situations on a daily basis.
Jobs for legal secretaries should continue to grow as fast as or faster
than other types of jobs through the year 2005. Although many traditional
secretarial functions are being done by computers or other machines, increases
in the volume of legal paperwork should allow for continuing growth in
For More Information
National Association of
Legal Secretaries (International)
314 East 3rd Street, Suite 210
Tulsa, OK 74120
This site contains information about legal secretaries and lists the qualifications
to become a certified legal secretary.
Law Enforcement: Officers: Police Officer, Deputy Sheriff ($20,000-26,500)
Police officers and sheriff's deputies help enforce the law. They are
a community's primary defense against criminals. These law enforcement
officials investigate crimes, gather and secure evidence to help prosecute
criminals, make arrests, write detailed reports, assist citizens with
specific emergencies, and testify in court.
Police officers work primarily in cities or towns, while the jurisdiction
of deputies extends primarily to rural areas outside of cities where no
police department exists. In larger cities, police work can be quite specialized,
with officers specifically assigned to areas such as homicide, rape, or
traffic. In smaller towns and in rural areas, where the incidence of crime
and the number of law enforcement personnel are much lower, a police officer
or sheriff's deputy often becomes a "jack of all trades," responding
to a variety of emergencies.
The education necessary to become a police officer or sheriff's deputy
varies from area to area. In some larger areas, a four-year degree in
criminal justice is required. In some small towns, only a high-school
education is necessary. Increasingly, most areas are requiring some formal
training, often a two-year associate degree. Classes taken often involve
the study of criminal law, the criminal justice system, criminal investigation,
corrections, community relations, and administration. Once hired, a law
enforcement officer usually receives additional training at a state or
federal law enforcement academy.
A law enforcement officer must have excellent communication skills. He
or she must be able to speak clearly at the scene of a major accident
and be able to write precise, understandable reports that can be explained
in court. The officer must also be a good listener and decision maker
and be able to use good judgment in stressful, dangerous situations. A
background in foreign languages, accounting, business practices, and computers
can be helpful. Knowledge of weapons and special driving skills are also
important. Finally, law enforcement officers must be able to pass physical
examinations involving agility, vision, and strength.
Salary and Benefits
Most police officers' salaries start somewhere between $22,000 and $26,000.
In some locales, beginning salaries are as low as $18,000. The average
salary within six years is about $34,000. Most departments provide medical
and life insurance benefits, and many offer 20-year retirement plans.
The duties of a police officer or sheriff's deputy may take that officer
anywhere within his or her jurisdiction. This means an officer may patrol
a regular beat; visit businesses, courts, and jails; assist at community
functions; and write reports at the office. Law enforcement officers are
increasingly asked to work in schools where they are sometimes given the
title of school resource officers (SRO). Police generally work 40-hour
weeks but are sometimes called on to put in overtime.
The job of a law enforcement official can be quite stressful. Sometimes
the work can be physically taxing. In large municipal areas, danger is
ever present on some beats. Even in the smallest town, an officer must
live with the threat of unexpected violence.
With increasing crime, the job outlook for sheriff's deputies and police
officers is excellent. However, any forecast must take into account the
budget limitations that have beset government at every level.
For More Information
of Chiefs of Police
515 N. Washington St.
Alexandria, VA 22314-2357
National Association of Chiefs of Police
3801 Biscayne Blvd.
Miami, FL 33137
This Web site gives information about law enforcement careers and crime
National Association of
School Resource Officers
P.O. Box 2390
Rowlett, TX 75030
This Web site gives information pertaining to the training of school resource
National Sheriffs Association
1450 Duke St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
This site will give information about crime prevention, publications,
jail operations and research and development.
Private detectives and investigators work with attorneys, businesses,
government agencies and the public to gather facts, conduct investigations,
and locate people. About half of private investigators work in detective
agencies or are self-employed. Others work for private companies. Some
investigators specialize in a specific area such as infidelity, missing
persons, or developing financial profiles. Many investigators spend a
lot of time conducting surveillance in order to observe a person's behavior.
Often an investigator will spend a lot of time verifying facts about an
individual, which might include interviewing employers, checking data
bases, or videotaping an individual.
Training requirements for private detectives vary widely from state to
state, although many states require private detectives to be licensed.
Usually most private detectives have a background in police work. Many
have been through two- or four-year law enforcement programs and law enforcement
academies. Others have served in the military where they received law
Although detectives employed by large businesses usually work normal hours,
some investigators, due to the necessity of conducting adequate surveillance
and the pressure of meeting deadlines imposed by their employers, may
work long and irregular hours. Places of work can vary widely from the
office to an automobile parked on a public street or to a public arena.
Private investigators must be persistent and, if necessary, confrontational.
They must be independent thinkers who can communicate clearly. Knowledge
of law enforcement procedures, computers, accounting, computer data bases,
and electronic and video equipment is important.
Salary and Benefits
Depending on experience and place of employment, beginning salaries can
range from $20,000 to $40,000 per year. With the exception of those detectives
working for large corporations, many investigators do not receive medical
and/or life insurance or paid vacations.
According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the employment of private
detectives and investigators is expected to increase much faster than
average for all occupations through the year 2005.
For More Information
Contact your local police department or state law enforcement agency,
or visit the Officer.com
This Web site contains links to several detective agencies within the
United States that explain specifically what they do. One link also lists
news relating to detective agencies.
Security Guard ($15,600-40,000)
One of the fastest growing career areas is that of private security. Private
security guards provide protection for private businesses and for individuals.
Security guards not only personally monitor what goes on in a particular
place, such as hospitals, banks, and department stores, but they also
work with a variety of electronic surveillance devices to insure the safety
of individuals, businesses, and their property. Some private security
guards work for private security services which then contract their services
to businesses, while others work directly for business organizations or
The education and qualifications of private security personnel are extremely
varied. Depending on the type of business, some security personnel are
hired when they complete law enforcement school, others from local, state,
and federal agencies. Others are hired with no experience. Usually a security
guard must be at least 18 years old and have no convictions for perjury
or acts of violence. The amount of education received varies widely from
several days of on-the-job training to several months and involves instruction
in protection, public relations, report writing, crisis deterrence, weaponry,
and use of electronic surveillance devises.
Working conditions for security officers depend greatly on the hiring
organization or individual. Some security guards work 35- to 40-hour weeks
on eight-hour shifts. Other guards are hired by the hour or the day. Some
officers work long hours outside, patrolling on foot under difficult conditions.
Others are stationed indoors, watching electronic security monitors. The
work of a private security can take a guard anywhere-to a client's home,
business, or a public event.
The skills needed to be an effective security officer are similar to those
of a policeman. Good communication skills, a willingness to adjust to
the personality of the client, good judgment, and good vision are important.
Also, an ability to work alone and deal with electronic surveillance systems,
photography, and computers can be critical in getting certain types of
Salary and Benefits
As with education requirements, salary and benefits vary widely. Some
security firms hire guards for as little as $7.50 per hour, where they
might make only $15,000 annually. Other firms pay officers (depending
on the responsibilities) $40,000 to $50,000 per year including medical
insurance, life insurance, and paid vacations.
The future of private security officers looks very bright. Private security
expenditures are presently about 1.7 times that of law enforcement and
over the next ten years the rate will increase to 2.4 times that of law
enforcement. The number of private security companies is expected to more
than double over the next five years. These statistics translate into
many more opportunities for those wishing to enter the field.
For More Information
Security Industry Association
635 Staters Lane, Suite 110
Alexandria, VA 22314
This Web site contains a variety of information relating to private security
including information on the training of security agents, the growth of
the security industry and problems facing the industry.
or Parole Officer ($20,500-28,000)
Probation and parole officers supervise two types of people: offenders
placed on probation (people who fulfill the terms of court-ordered sentences)
and parolees (people who are released from prison to fulfill parole-board-ordered
sentences). In fulfilling these duties, these officers ensure the public
safety while working to help rehabilitate their clients. Serving as links
to a variety of social services, probation and parole officers try to
help their clients secure the education, counseling, jobs, and housing
necessary to become fully rehabilitated. They also write presentence reports
for judges. Based on the officers' investigative work on the offenders'
backgrounds, these reports provide judges with important information necessary
to make an appropriate sentence for each offender. Probation and parole
officers testify at pretrial and parole board hearings to help explain
these reports. In addition, they are responsible for investigating any
violations of court-ordered sentences.
Generally, at the state level, probation and parole officers must complete
a four-year degree program in a social science area such as sociology,
criminal justice, psychology, or correctional counseling. Classes in writing
and other communication arts, as well as in law, are considered helpful.
At the federal level, the officer must also have at least two years of
work experience in the field.
Probation and parole officers must possess excellent communication skills
in order to write precise presentence reports and be able to defend them
in court. They must also be able to relate to people from a variety of
legal professions, as well as clients with different backgrounds. In addition,
probation and parole officers must be able to deal with the stress that
comes with large caseloads.
Salary and Benefits
Starting salaries at the state level vary from $20,500 to $28,000. Federal
starting salaries average about $28,000. Both state and federal governments
provide some health and retirement benefits.
Probation and parole officers work in offices, courts, jails, and prisons.
The nature of their work often takes them to both the places of business
and the residences of their clients. These officers usually work a 40-hour
week but may be called on to work overtime to investigate their clients
and to meet court-ordered deadlines.
The job outlook in this area is fair. The number of defendants is growing.
However, parole has been abolished in the federal corrections system.
Nevertheless, in some areas, the budgets for probation and parole officers
are growing along with the number of prisoners. However, because of budget
problems, it is still more common for probation and parole officers to
have more clients than for government to hire more officers.
For More Information
American Probation and
P.O. Box 51017
Salt Lake City, UT 84152
This site contains information on publications, position statements, jobs,
and training opportunities for probation and parole officers.
Law Enforcement: Highway Patrol Officer ($24,000-28,000)
The authority of state highway patrol officers or state troopers extends
past the major roadways of the state in which they serve. State patrolmen
have the authority to arrest violators of the law anywhere within the
borders of their state. Besides apprehending criminals their duties usually
include patrolling highways, investigating motor accidents, controlling
traffic, rendering aid in disaster situations, and enforcing commercial
In many states candidates need only a high school diploma or a GED equivalent.
Several states, however, require that candidates have an associate or
bachelor's degree. Successful applicants then go through a several-month
training program at a state law enforcement academy.
State troopers must be able to work within a chain of command, listen
and communicate well, drive skillfully, work alone and think independently,
and become proficient with a variety of weapons.
Highway patrol officers usually work alone. In large rural states their
area of responsibility might encompass more than 1000 square miles. They
can be far away from back-up if they are in the process of attending to
an accident or apprehending a criminal. For this reason they must be able
to think independently. Most highway patrol officers work 40-hour weeks.
Salary and Benefits
Highway patrol officers start between $24,000 and $28,000 per year. They
receive medical and life insurance. Some officers receive a uniform cleaning
allowance, as well.
The outlook for the hiring of highway patrol officers is good, particularly
in states experiencing a population increase or in states bordering Mexico.
For More Information
Contact individual state highway patrol offices.
Directory of State Patrol and State Police Sites
This site contains links to all 50 state highway patrol sites.
Government Law Enforcement Officer
The duties of law enforcement officers working for the U.S. government
are similar in many respects to those of local police officers. These
officers help their respective federal agencies enforce the law. In the
process of doing so, they investigate crimes, help preserve evidence,
write reports for government prosecutors, apprehend fugitives, and testify
However, the work of U.S. law enforcement officers differs from traditional
law enforcement in that their authority in dealing with federal crimes
extends throughout the United States and their work often relates to specialized
types of crimes. Also, with the exception of the officers of the U.S.
Marshal Service, the federal law enforcement officers discussed in this
section are officially designated as "special agents."
Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) Agent ATF agents work for the
U.S. Treasury Department. These agents enforce U.S. laws pertaining to
the sale and possession of alcohol, tobacco, and firearms. They participate
in investigations that involve conducting surveillance, making raids,
interviewing suspects and witnesses, making arrests, obtaining search
warrants, and searching for physical evidence. ATF agents work closely
with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and provide
assistance in the fight against crime and violence. ATF agents also review
all evidence at the conclusion of an investigation and prepare case reports
that aid the U.S. attorney in trial preparation.
Agency (DEA) Agent DEA agents work under the authority of
the U.S. Department of Justice in enforcing the federal Controlled Substances
Act. Agents are involved in the following: carrying out surveillance of
criminals; infiltrating illicit drug channels; identifying and apprehending
drug traffickers; confiscating illegal drug supplies; arresting drug law
violators; collecting and preparing evidence; writing detailed reports;
and coordinating activities with local, state, federal, and foreign governments
to prevent the flow of illegal drugs to and through the United States.
Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Agent FBI agents work under
the authority of the U.S. Department of Justice and deal with investigation
and apprehension of federal fugitives, investigation of civil rights violations,
and investigation of organized crime, white-collar crime, foreign counterintelligence,
sabotage, espionage, terrorism, and kidnapping. FBI agents coordinate
their activities closely with the U.S. attorney in their jurisdiction.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Agents work for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to maintain the security of the borders of the United States. Their duties include apprehending people who illegally enter the United States, preventing products from enterting the U.S. illegally, and enforcing the proper rules and regulations of employment of aliens in the United States.
Service (IRS) Agent IRS agents work for the U.S. Treasury
Department. Their duties involve investigating people for tax violations,
money laundering, computer fraud, and illegal tax shelters. In fulfilling
these duties, the agents interview witnesses and principals, write reports
for trial preparation, and participate in surveillance, undercover activities,
and searches and seizures.
Secret Service Agent
Secret Service agents work for the U.S. Treasury Department. Their primary
responsibility is to protect the president and vice president of the United
States and their immediate families. Secret Service agents also protect
past presidents of the United States, foreign heads of state, and official
representatives of the United States performing special missions abroad.
In addition, Secret Service agents are responsible for investigating currency
counterfeiting and various types of fraud and forgery that violate federal
Deputy U.S. Marshal
Every deputy U.S. marshal works under the authority of a U.S. marshal.
There are 94 U.S. marshals, each appointed to manage a particular district.
Service is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Deputy U.S. marshals are involved in conducting fugitive investigations,
protecting U.S. courts, protecting federal witnesses, seizing and managing
assets acquired from criminal activities, providing prisoner custody and
transportation, and providing law enforcement support in national emergencies.
FBI Agent People can enter the FBI in one of the areas listed below with
the following qualifications:
Law: J.D. degree from an accredited law school.
Accounting: B.S. degree with a major in accounting
and eligibility to take the CPA examination.
Engineering/Science: B.S. degree in engineering, computer
science, or one of the physical sciences. Additional experience may be
Language: B.S. or B.A. degree in any discipline and
proficiency in Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, or another language
that meets the needs of the FBI.
ATF, DEA, IRS, and INS, Secret Service Agents, and Deputy U.S. Marshal
Entry requirements for these careers generally include a four-year college
degree. And, with the exception of IRS agents, some law enforcement experience.
Those preparing to become IRS agents should emphasize accounting and business
while in college.
Backgrounds in foreign languages (particularly Spanish for prospective
INS agents), computers, and business are extremely helpful on the job.
Additional training is provided at one of the federal law enforcement
academies for each entering agent.
All federal law enforcement officers must pass rigorous physical, vision,
and medical examinations in order to be hired. They must be able to maintain
the confidentiality of their work and relate effectively to people from
different backgrounds. Like local and state law enforcement personnel,
agents must be able to listen carefully, speak articulately, write proficiently,
and exercise good judgment in dangerous situations.
Salary and Benefits
FBI agents are hired at a salary of about $33,500 per year. However, beginning
agents often make more money because of the large amount of overtime necessary
for the job. Additionally, within a few years, FBI agents progress up
the government pay scale to salaries above $50,000. Other agents generally
enter the salary schedule at about $25,000. However, within five years,
agents can be earning over $50,000. Medical and retirement benefits are
provided for all U.S. government law enforcement employees.
Law enforcement agents at the federal level work in offices and courtrooms
but may travel extensively to do their jobs. They often put in a lot of
overtime. The potential for physical danger always exists. Thus, special
agents carry weapons and must be ready to use them.
The job demand for federal law enforcement officers through the year 2005,
according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, should increase as fast
as the demand for other legal occupations because of a more security conscious
society which appears determined to reduce crime and illegal immigration.
However, the availability of jobs could be limited by the government's
For More Information
of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
650 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Room 4100
Washington, D.C. 20226
This government Web site explains the history of the ATF, duties of ATF
agents, and the ATF's strategic plan and programs.
Attn: Special Agent Recruiting Unit
1405 I Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20537
This Web site explains the background of the DEA, as well as the responsibilities,
qualifications, salary and benefits of DEA agents.
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Attn: Applicant Unit
Department of Justice
935 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20535-0001
These detailed Web sites include the history of the FBI, the qualifications
and responsibilities of FBI agents, as well as addresses of FBI regional
U.S. Immigration and Customs Agent
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Immigration and Naturalization Service
Washington, D.C. 20536
This detailed site answers frequently asked questions about the Citizenship and Immigration Servies and lists detailed career information.
Department of the Treasury
Division of Criminal Investigation
1111 Constitution Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20224
This site explains IRS career paths, salary and benefits, and also responds
to frequently asked questions.
Secret Service Agent
United States Secret
1800 G Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20223
This site contains detailed information about the role, responsibilities
and purpose of secret service agents, as well as job requirements for
Deputy U.S. Marshal
Employment and Compensation Division
Field Staffing Branch
600 Army Navy Drive
Arlington, VA 22202-4210
This Web site explains the history of the Marshals Service, as well as
the responsibilities and qualifications for becoming a U.S. Marshal.
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Last Modified: February 28, 2001