Sheriff Degree, Training & Job Guide

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement in the United States, you might have considered becoming a sheriff. But what does it take to become a sheriff, and what sets this role apart from that of a police officer? Becoming a sheriff involves a unique set of skills and qualifications, as well as a commitment to serving your community in a leadership role.

To become a sheriff, you typically need a combination of education and experience in law enforcement, as well as strong leadership and communication skills. Sheriffs are responsible for overseeing a county’s law enforcement department, which includes managing personnel, implementing policies and procedures, and ensuring public safety. They may also have responsibilities related to court services, such as transporting prisoners and serving legal documents.


Featured Programs and Schools

How to Become a Sheriff
How to Become a Sheriff

One key difference between a sheriff and a police officer is that a sheriff is an elected official, while police officers are typically appointed or hired by a city or town. This means that sheriffs are accountable to their constituents and may need to campaign for re-election, while police officers work under the authority of their department and city or town government.

Let’s take a look at these in detail.

What Does a Sheriff Do?

The duties of sheriffs depend greatly on the needs of the area they serve. They perform tasks of the following sort:

  • Allocate budgets to various departments within the local law enforcement branches
  • Arrest criminals and suspects
  • Investigate criminal activities
  • Maintain peace in their county
  • Make HR related decisions relevant to their department
  • Perform regular reviews of law enforcement guidelines and remain updated on the latest developments
  • Protect the lives and properties of citizens under their care

In some cases, sheriffs might even have duties additional to normal law enforcement procedures, such as helping in court activities and working in jails. Their duties can be very similar to those of high ranking police officers, such as police chiefs, since they are responsible for their entire county, just like police chiefs are responsible for their entire departments.

Requirements and Qualifications to Become a Sheriff in the US

To become a sheriff in the United States, there are specific requirements and qualifications that must be met. These can vary depending on the state and county in which you wish to work. Generally, a sheriff candidate must have a combination of education, experience, and personal characteristics to be considered for the role.

  • Education requirements typically include a high school diploma or GED, although some counties may require a college degree in criminal justice or a related field.
  • Experience in law enforcement is also important, and candidates may need to have worked as a police officer or in another law enforcement role for several years before being eligible to run for sheriff.
  • Personal characteristics that are valued in a sheriff candidate include strong leadership and communication skills, a commitment to public service, and a dedication to upholding the law and protecting their community.
  • Candidates may also need to pass a background check and meet physical fitness requirements.

Duration to Become a Sheriff

The duration of becoming a sheriff can vary depending on the individual’s level of education and experience. It can take several years of working in law enforcement before becoming eligible to run for sheriff. Additionally, the election process itself can take several months, including campaigning and participating in debates and forums.

Training to become a sheriff typically includes both classroom instruction and hands-on experience in law enforcement. This can include courses on topics such as criminal law, investigative techniques, and leadership and management skills. Sheriffs may also need to complete a training academy and undergo additional specialized training, such as for handling firearms or dealing with crisis situations.

Sheriff Salaries and Job Growth

When it comes to salary and job growth, sheriffs can expect to earn a competitive wage. According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual mean wage for sheriffs and other law enforcement officials was $70,750 in 2021. This can vary depending on factors such as location, experience, and education.

Job growth for sheriffs is projected to be modest but steady. O*Net Online data suggests a 3% growth rate between 2021 and 2031, with new opportunities arising as current sheriffs retire or move into other roles. Advancement opportunities within the field may include promotions to higher-level law enforcement positions or moving into administrative or management roles within a law enforcement agency.

Becoming a sheriff can be a challenging and rewarding career path for those with a passion for law enforcement and a commitment to serving their community. Whether you’re just starting out in the field or looking to advance your career, there are opportunities for growth and professional development in this role.

Steps to Becoming a Sheriff

Before you begin the application process to become a sheriff, it is important to ensure you meet the minimum qualifications criteria. Applicants must be mentally and emotionally capable of being in a leadership position and should be able to respond calmly to high pressure situations. Physical fitness is also a requirement since the job can be very demanding. Applicants should have clean criminal record and strong communication skills.

To become a sheriff, follow these steps:

Step 1: Fulfill the Education Requirements

The minimum educational requirement to become a sheriff includes a high school diploma or a GED. Some localities may require a two-year long associate degree in criminal justice or a similar field. Since sheriffs are elected, a college degree is not an official requirement. However, aspiring sheriffs who have a degree in criminal justice or any other law enforcement related subject might have a competitive advantage over their peers.

Step 2: Complete the Police or Sheriff Academy

To be eligible for the position of a sheriff, candidates must first become sworn police officers by getting admission into and successfully completing a police academy. This training program typically lasts around 3 to 6 months and contains multiple theoretical and practical exercises. You will receive extensive training in subject areas such as crime scene management, firearm training and physical training, among others.

Step 3: Get Relevant Experience

Becoming a sheriff would require you to work your way up. A lot of the time, sworn police officers get promoted to deputy sheriff, before eventually getting to the sheriff’s position. You might need at least three to five years of experience in law enforcement before you can go on to become a sheriff.

Step 4: Consider getting a Higher Education

Even though this is not an official requirement, having a higher education degree might be helpful in the longer run. Since you would be heading an entire department, taking care of the whole county, you will need more expertise than a sworn police officer. A master’s degree in criminal justice or a related subject might be the advanced credentials that come in handy.

Step 5: Apply to a Sheriff’s Office

For this step, you will need to do some prior research to check which departments are hiring. You will be conducting a campaign and various fundraising activities as part of your bid to get elected to the position of a sheriff. You will either be elected or appointed to the position, depending on the local law. However, most sheriffs are elected to their positions.

Once elected to the position of a sheriff, you might have to fulfill certain on-the-job training requirements, depending on the county you have been elected to. For instance, new sheriffs in Oklahoma are required to pass a compulsory training session at the sheriffs’ administrative school. The training requirements need to be cleared within the first year of appointment. To help you get into the work mode, there is a popular one-week long program called the National Sheriff’s Institute. This is designed to teach newly appointed members about training personnel and leadership styles.