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Alternative Careers for Police Officers

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Civilians join the police force to make a difference in people’s lives and see justice served. The desire to help others with the backing of the law is an admirable one, but the stress and pressure of the job can quickly grind someone down. For those who can handle their duties until retirement, they find themselves out of the force at an early age, and don’t enjoy early retirement. Both scenarios often have police officers, active and retired, looking for alternative careers for police officers that utilize their education, skills, training, and job experience in order to stay gainfully employed and active both mentally and physically.

Many fields of employment seek out employees with law enforcement experience, and provide great alternative jobs for police officers. These roles frequently offer the satisfaction of doing the right thing for society along with identifying criminals in order to bring them to justice. Some alternative careers for police officers are walk-on ready in that the officer goes from working for society to that of working as a civilian with their police experience and on-the-job training. Other positions may need additional education, such as IT certifications or college credits, in order to fully qualify. The following is a look at alternative careers for police officers that don’t come with the burdens of working in municipal law enforcement. 

1. Intelligence Analyst

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An intelligence analyst sifts through datasets to identify threats, help inform policy decisions, answer questions about a particular operation, create solutions for issues within an organization, or to predict future behaviors. Many associate this role with the FBI, but the intelligence analyst role is found in the government, public, and private sectors. The demand for intelligence analysts is increasing, and police officers who are looking to change careers are well-positioned to take advantage of the demand. The role of an intelligence analyst is one of the best alternative careers for police officers due to their investigative training and skills learned on the job. 

Average salary: $86,200

2. Private Investigator

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This is an easy job transition for a police officer, especially if they’ve worked in the detective division. A private investigator is essentially a private detective for a private employer. You can work as an independent agent, or you can work for an organization that assigns cases to its investigators. The type of work that you do ranges from following someone in search of evidence or establishing their patterns, or spending time at a computer in search of information that aids in a case. The job of a private investigator is almost the same as it is for working as an agent of the state, but you don’t have police powers to make an arrest and charge someone. 

Average salary: $53,320

3. Paralegal

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Paralegals support lawyers in their daily duties, prepare them with researched material for court cases, create legal documents for clients, and take depositions during discovery. The role of a paralegal is one of the excellent alternative careers for police officers because it requires a keen eye for detail, the ability to engage in different interview styles, and have foundational knowledge of the law. Paralegals have the option to work in any branch of law that appeals to them, but a police officer transitioning to the legal field is well-suited to work in criminal law as a paralegal. Their existing knowledge of the law and an understanding of how criminals tend to think can be advantageous in getting employment and advancement. 

Average salary: $52,920

4. Victim Advocate

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A victim advocate supports victims of crimes by offering emotional support, finding resources, helping them understand their rights, and supporting them through the judicial process. This is one of the alternative careers for police officers who want to make a difference in the world, but want to do more for victims than they could in the law enforcement field. The experience that comes from working as a police officer is advantageous when it comes to helping crime victims as an advocate when it comes to explaining legal processes and taking advantage of social services. 

Average salary: $35,960

5. Firefighter

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Firefighters respond to more than calls to put out a fire in a building. They also provide first aid, and are frequently called to scenes where someone is in need of medical attention and the ambulance is on another call. The job is similar to that of a police officer, but instead of enforcing law and order, the firefighter helps people in need. This is considered one of the good alternative careers for police officers who want to make a difference in people’s lives, but want to get out of the police force. Many municipalities allow what’s known as a lateral transfer from one department to the other, making it easy for a police officer to transition. The skills of a police officer are also useful for the role of arson investigator. 

Average salary: $52,500

6. Loss Prevention Manager

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The role of a loss prevention manager involves handling the civil detention of shoplifters and other disruptive individuals in a retail setting. They’re also responsible for creating and enforcing loss prevention procedures, and devising ways to protect company assets. A loss prevention manager hires and trains personnel, and oversees their working conditions, makes sure they’re performing to standards, and handling detainees in a proper fashion. The loss prevention manager role is one of the better alternative jobs for police officers due to its nature of securing a premise and managing staff. Police are trained to identify vulnerabilities, recognize suspicious behavior, and how to correctly detain people. They are also trained to work in concert with each other and use surveillance tactics while maintaining covert communication. 

Average salary: $116,350

7. Forensic Accountant

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A forensic accountant searches through financial documents in search of financial crimes and misdemeanors. Their job is to review financial worksheets and data to find money that’s gone missing, how much has been stolen, and where it’s gone to. Forensic accountants work for governments and private employers to perform detailed investigations and analyses of financial records. They also testify in court as expert witnesses to present their findings and show where money has disappeared from, and who is most likely to have been the recipient of the stolen funds. This is one of the great alternative careers for police officers because it draws upon their knowledge of how the criminal mind operates.

Average salary: $73,560 

8. Cybersecurity Analyst

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The cybersecurity analyst looks out for and prevents external threats to an organization’s IT infrastructure. They monitor internet traffic from inside and outside the organization, watch for signs that cybercriminals are working out how to break through security barriers, identify and fix weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and monitor the internal network traffic in real time. Cybersecurity analysts are responsible for the security of information stored in an organization’s databases. The role of cybersecurity works well as one of the alternative jobs for police officers as the job requires the ability to detect attempts by criminals to gain access to sensitive data on an intranet. 

Average salary: $103,590

9. Corrections Officer

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A corrections officer is in charge of individuals who are in jail or prison in order to keep them safe and under supervision. They oversee the daily movement of people in custody, inspect cells for contraband and weapons, restrain inmates as necessary, and enforce the rules of the facility. The corrections officer also monitors people coming in and out of the facility to make sure they don’t bring in illegal items that might reach inmates. This is one of the good alternative jobs for police officers who want to stay in the law enforcement field, but don’t want to work in the public sector, and are interested in a different career ladder. 

Average salary: $47,440 

10. Fish and Game Warden

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Fish and game wardens enforce the laws that protect game and fish from unscrupulous hunters and fishers at the state and federal levels. They are required to have weapons training and know how to handle a situation where the parties they approach are in possession of a weapon. Wardens check permits and licenses, have arrest powers, enforce the laws as they currently stand, can search vehicles in search of contraband in some states, and perform other enforcement activities as needed. A game warden is also required to observe wildlife and relocate troublesome animals when the need arises. 

Average salary: $57,810

What are Some Reasons a Police Officer May Change Careers?

The job of a police officer can be a stressful one, especially in locations where the government, public, and internal hierarchy are at odds with one another. Over time, a police officer can get burned out and start looking into alternative careers that take advantage of their training as a police officer. Sometimes it’s a lack of upward mobility in terms of promotions that makes it harder to get past the entry level of a patrol officer that causes a police officer to want out. Safety is another issue, especially for police officers who work in areas with residents who don’t fear the police or the law, and don’t hesitate to take matters into their own hands. A police officer can only handle so much stress before they’re considering leaving the force for another career. 

What are Important Skills a Police Officer Can Take Into a New Career?

A police officer possesses interpersonal and technical skills that translate well into roles that are excellent alternative careers for police officers. They include:

  • Investigative experience
  • Working as a team
  • Communicating with team members and the public
  • Ability to pay attention to small details that are part of a larger picture
  • Situational awareness
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Assertiveness in making their authority felt
  • Knowledge and ability to understand laws and how to properly apply them

These skills are valued in many career fields, but not everyone can walk into a role with them at their command. A police officer learned these skills as part of their training, and refined them while working in law enforcement. Combining these skills with the ones required as part of a job description can make a former law enforcement officer a highly valued member of a team. 

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