How Do I Become a Sheriff?

If you are have leadership skills, make good decisions and understand and empathize with others, you might wonder how to become a sheriff. Sheriffs are elected officials that lead county law enforcement agencies. While their work is similar in some aspects to that of police officers and other law enforcement personnel, sheriffs operate on a county level and may also have responsibilities managing county prisons and court services. Aspiring sheriffs may have to meet certain physical fitness requirements to enter the field of law enforcement as police officers.

The most obvious difference between a sheriff and other law enforcement personnel is jurisdiction, or the area for which the professional is responsible. Sheriffs are dedicated to a county, while local police typically work within a single city and state troopers are responsible for entire states but spend much of their time patrolling highways. Because they are responsible for larger areas but typically work with a relatively small staff, sheriffs often have job duties that fall outside the range of most police officers’ tasks, like operating jails and performing court responsibilities. The length of a sheriff’s term serving the public varies by state, but can be anywhere from two to six years.

As an elected position in which there is typically only one role available per county, the path to becoming a sheriff is less clear-cut than the preparations for many other occupations. However, aspiring sheriffs can prepare for their later careers by joining a law enforcement agency. Requirements for becoming a police officer vary by state. Often aspiring law enforcement personnel will begin their career paths by earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or law enforcement, though a high school diploma may suffice in some areas.

Aspiring sheriffs should then apply for police officer or sheriff deputy positions. Once they are chosen for these positions, candidates will receive formal training at a police academy, where they will learn the laws they are required to enforce and how to patrol, handle emergency situations, and protect themselves and the citizens they will serve. Upon gaining years of experience and distinguishing themselves as exceptionally committed law enforcement officers, aspiring sheriffs can begin campaigning for office.

Being elected sheriff is a prestigious honor. The National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) reported that as of 2010, there were 3,083 sheriff positions in the United States. While this means that relatively few law enforcement professionals are able to be sheriffs at a time, aspiring sheriffs can appreciate the fact that the position is predetermined to open up at regular intervals. Most states consider sheriffs necessary and entrust them with a lot of responsibilities. The only states that do not have sheriffs are Connecticut, Alaska and Hawaii, the NSA reported. If you are a good leader, can handle the presser of an emergency and believe you have a calling to serve others, knowing how to become a sheriff could be your first step toward a fulfilling new career in law enforcement.

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