How to Become a Sheriff in Illinois?

If you are an aspiring law enforcement officer with a passion for serving and protecting your community, a career as a sheriff in Illinois might be a great fit for you. Before considering this career, you should know that it requires a unique set of skills, knowledge, and qualifications that go beyond the standard requirements for other law enforcement positions. However, if you have what it takes, being a sheriff can be a rewarding and fulfilling career.

One great resource for Illinois Sheriffs is the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association. This non-profit organization is dedicated to promoting public safety and enhancing the professionalism of sheriffs and their deputies. It offers training, education, and networking opportunities to its members, as well as advocacy and support for the law enforcement community.

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If you want to become a part of this organization, you might want to continue reading.

How to Become a Sheriff in Illinois
How to Become a Sheriff in Illinois

Requirements to Become a Sheriff in Illinois

Disclaimer: These requirements vary from county to county. Check your county’s website for a detailed list of requirements.
To become a sheriff in Illinois, you will need to fulfill the basic eligibility criteria. For most counties, the following requirements would be applicable:

  • All candidates must be US citizens. You will not be eligible to apply if you are either not a citizen or are in the process of becoming one.
  • Candidates should be at least 18 years of age. Some counties might set this requirement at 21 or even 20 years, though 18 is considered to be the generally accepted age cut-off. Some counties might even set the upper age limit for Sheriff applicants.
  • Candidates should have at least a high school diploma or a GED. You may opt for a college degree at some point in your career, but having finished high school is the bare minimum.
  • Candidates need to be in a good physical and mental shape. This is important since the job of a sheriff can be very straining. You may want to start working out if you don’t already – this would help you clear the physical fitness exam at a later stage.
  • Candidates should be residents of the county they are applying in. Some counties might even require you to have been a resident for at least a year before applying.

Steps to Become a Sheriff in Illinois

Disclaimer: These steps may vary from county to county. To get a more detailed look into the exact requirements of your county, you can contact your local sheriff’s office.

Step 1: Pass a Police Training Academy:

A sheriff is responsible for the security of his/her entire county and its citizens. The element of responsibility involved in this job is huge; therefore, it is important that you are properly trained for it. Getting enrolled in a police academy is the ideal way to do so. A police training academy would teach you the basics of various security procedures, including the use of firearms, crowd control methods, arresting procedures, constitutional law, and high speed driving, etc.

Step 2: Get Some Experience:

Once you have cleared a police academy, you would have to work as an officer for a few years, before being eligible to apply to become a sheriff. The number of years of experience required would vary from county to county, but mostly it would be somewhere between one year to five years. You may need to obtain additional licensure and certification as well, so make sure you check your county’s exact requirements before applying.

Step 3: Get a Law Enforcement Degree:

While this is not a requirement in most counties, having a higher educational qualification than a high school diploma would give you an edge over your competitors. This would also make the voters feel more confident in your ability to lead and would improve your overall job prospects. Consider finishing a degree in either criminal justice or law enforcement to better equip yourself for the job of a sheriff.

Step 4: Fulfill the Minimum Requirements to apply for Sheriff – Set by the County:

Every county will have its own set of requirements for applicants. You are advised to visit the official county website or the courthouse in your county to get more details on this. As a general matter, the following requirements may be applicable in your county:

  • Clear a written exam that covers written and logical reasoning skills, along with some job specific questions
  • Pass an oral interview that will check your communication, critical thinking and problem solving skills, along with your reasons for wanting to become a sheriff
  • Clear a thorough background check that will check for any felony convictions, bad credit history and traffic violations
  • Pass a physical fitness exam that will check the stamina and proficiency of using various kinds of firearms
Step 5: Submit your Application:

Make sure you have met all requirements and are filing the documents before the deadline.

Step 6: Begin the Campaign for Sheriff:

This is the part of the process which would require the most effort and planning. Make sure you put together a solid team to help get your message across the entire area. Set up media interviews, pass around fliers and put up ads in newspapers and local television channels to talk about your agenda and future plans for the county.

Step 7: Get Elected and Assume Office

If you win, you will be required to take an oath and sign an official contract for a four-year term working as sheriff. Some counties may have smaller terms, but four years is the standard nearly everywhere.

Skills and Qualifications Required to Become a Sheriff in Illinois

To become a sheriff in Illinois, you must meet the following qualifications:

  • Be a U.S. citizen and a resident of Illinois
  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Have a valid Illinois driver’s license
  • Pass a background check, drug test, and physical exam
  • Meet any additional requirements set by the county or department you apply to

In addition to these basic qualifications, you should also possess the following skills and attributes:

  • Strong leadership and decision-making skills
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Knowledge of law enforcement procedures, criminal law, and court proceedings
  • Physical fitness and stamina
  • Ability to handle stress and work under pressure
  • Sound judgment and discretion
  • High ethical standards and a commitment to public service

Schools Offering Sheriffs Training Programs in Illinois

If you are interested in pursuing a career as a sheriff in Illinois, you may want to consider the following schools that offer training programs for law enforcement officers:

School Name


Training ProgramCourses/Skills TaughtDuration
Illinois State Police AcademyBasic Law Enforcement AcademyCriminal law, firearms, defensive tactics, emergency vehicle operations, investigations26 weeks
Cook County Sheriff’s Office Training AcademyBasic Law Enforcement AcademySame as above26 weeks
Lake County Sheriff’s Office Training DivisionBasic Law Enforcement AcademySame as above25 weeks

Career Outlook of Sheriffs in Illinois

According to data from O*Net Online, the projected job growth rate for sheriffs and other law enforcement workers in Illinois is 9% between 2020 and 2030. This represents a higher-than-average growth rate compared to other occupations. Sheriffs may also have opportunities for career advancement, such as becoming a chief deputy or moving into other law enforcement positions or related fields such as private security or criminal justice research.

Becoming a sheriff in Illinois requires dedication, hard work, and a unique set of skills and qualifications. However, if you have a passion for law enforcement and a commitment to public service, this career can be both rewarding and fulfilling. By pursuing training and education, networking with other law enforcement professionals, and staying up-to-date with industry developments, you can build a successful and satisfying career as a sheriff in Illinois.

How much does a Sheriff Earn in Illinois?

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual mean wage for sheriffs and other law enforcement workers in Illinois was $82,800 as of May 2021. In addition to their salary, sheriffs may also receive benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off. The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association offers additional resources and support to its members, including training and education programs, legal assistance, and networking opportunities.

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