Job and Industry Resources for
Law Enforcement & Protective Services Careers
Sticking it out in a law enforcement career takes guts, resolve and skill. Whether you’re protecting citizens on your local police force, screening airline passengers for dangerous items, hunting down criminals who dodge bail, investigating cases of arson, standing guard at a retail store or intervening at the scenes of medical emergencies, you can expect a life of split-second decision-making, long periods of waiting, unappreciative civilians – and, if you’re lucky, some excitement along the way. Here, we’ll explain how to track down the online resources that’ll help secure you the enforcement or protection career you want – and how to put the information you find to practical use.
Brush up on background
Before you start pouring your time and energy into a career in law enforcement or another protective service, you may want to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into. If the training requirements, or the daily demands, of your first choice turn out to be a little too steep for your taste, you may want to broaden your search a little – and if, on the other hand, you find yourself completely hooked by the ins and outs of a particular protective field, you’ll be all the more motivated to follow through on your career goals.
Once you’ve pinpointed the protective services career that’s right for you, the next step is to find out what kind of certification you’ll need in order to land an actual job in that field. Some protective career paths – like those of a security guard or an airport screening officer – require little more than a few weeks of training, a high school diploma and a clean criminal record. Others – like those of a drug enforcement agent or an emergency medical technician – may require months or years of specialized training, in both the physical and mental departments.
Aside from The Riley Guide’s salary guides (linked at the bottom of this article), you can find detailed information on a variety of protective services careers by searching Google for articles like "Do You Want to Be a Fire Investigator?" and "How Bounty Hunting Works." You can pull up loads of articles and info pages on your specialty of interest simply by searching for terms like "paramedic job description" or "FBI agent careers" – substituting your own interest where necessary. For detailed info on law enforcement careers, for example, DiscoverPolicing.org’s "What’s It Like?" page and FBIJobs.gov’s "Special Agent" page are great places to start learning.
Connect with colleagues
You may not have officially launched your protective services career yet, but that’s no reason to be shy about making connections with others who share your passion. Many of the social networking sites you scan every day are home to discussion groups dedicated to law enforcement, security, bail enforcement and similar careers. All you’ve got to do is track down a discussion that interests you, and jump on in.
Since you already use Facebook to stay connected with your friends, it’s a great place to begin your search for like-minded colleagues. Start with some search terms like (for example) "drug enforcement group" or "correctional officers," and click on "Find all pages named…" or "Find all groups named…" to see a list of groups or pages that might interest you. Facebook’s "Related Pages" suggestions at the bottom of some pages can also help guide you toward the groups you’re looking for.
The social networking site LinkedIn also hosts plenty of group discussions on law enforcement topics – and the site’s search features are, if anything, even more advanced than Facebook’s. You can narrow your search down to group pages (instead of personal ones), to groups that people you know have joined, and even to groups in your own geographical area. If you don’t yet have a LinkedIn profile, the benefits of the site – especially the fact that it focuses on professional connections in particular – are worth the few minutes it takes to set up an account.
As you browse through your Facebook and LinkedIn search results, a few simple criteria will help you sort useful pages from less-useful ones. The Facebook community "EMT/Paramedic," for example, hosts a wealth of active discussions among thousands of members – as does the LinkedIn group "Law Enforcement & Leadership Morale." Meanwhile, any group with only a few members posting – or without many recent posts – isn’t likely to be worth your time.
For understandable reasons, many law enforcement groups on Facebook and LinkedIn – particularly those focused on bail enforcement (commonly known as "bounty hunting") and investigative work – are private; but there’s no reason you can’t submit a request to join. After all, the worst the admins can do is ignore your request or say "no" – and if you do manage to get accepted to one or more of these groups, you may gain access to a highly exclusive source of up-to-date info on your dream profession.
Browse your job options
Once you’re nearing the end of your training for a career in law enforcement or another type of protective service – or if you’re contemplating an upward move, or a move to a new locale – the web is home to a variety of searchable job databases that cater to specific categories in the fields of protective services and enforcement. Even if you’ve already got your career on track, browsing a few sites like these can give you insights into the salaries your competitors are pulling, as well as job outlooks for your profession throughout the country and the world.
To give just a few examples, JobsInSecurity.org pulls together all types of security and loss prevention jobs, Officer.com focuses on professional law enforcement, The Blue Line monitors openings on local police forces, and – believe it or not – ShooterJobs.com lists job openings for high-risk overseas contractors, including armorers and snipers. And of course, you can track down sites that provide openings for your own specialty by Google-searching terms such as "security officer job board" or "arson investigator job listings."
If you’d rather let someone else do some legwork for you, a number of professional staffing firms specialize in placement with enforcement agencies and other protective services. The firms Pinnacle Placement and Security Management Resources, for example, both connect security professionals with job openings nationwide. Or if your main goal is just to get your name and resume into the right files, the U.S. Department of Justice is continually, actively recruiting for all their divisions, from prisons and drug enforcement to border security and immigration. The "Careers" section of their website lists all the contact numbers you’ll need to get started.
No matter what area of law enforcement or protection you choose, you’ll likely face stiff competition from your peers and intense scrutiny from your higher-ups. But if you stay up to date on the latest regulations and developments in your field, and take advantage of the information you gather from online discussion groups and career pages, you’ll have the tools you need to distinguish yourself. It’s up to you, though, to put those tools into practice.
DiscoverPolicing.org Extensive career information and job opportunity listings for those interested in police work.
International Association of Arson Investigators Training, certification, and job listings for arson investigators.
U.S. Department of Justice Careers Page Basic info and contact numbers for many divisions within the Department.
Visit our Career Research Center to learn more about jobs, salaries, and employment growth in Public Safety Fields.