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Deputy Sheriff: Career Guide

Deputy sheriffs, or sheriff’s deputies, enforce local, state, and federal laws within a county. Deputy sheriff officers serve the public through crime prevention and intervention, including arrests and supervision of detainees. Sheriff’s officers are sworn law enforcement officers. They work closely with other law enforcement agencies, social services, juvenile officers, court personnel, and other area agencies to protect the public from criminal activity. This guide provides information about what deputy sheriffs do, requirements for the position, and the career outlook for deputy sheriffs. Sheriff’s officers typically work for the county government. They may be able to move into positions of management, taking on roles such as sheriff or chief deputy sheriff, with enough experience.

Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

Sheriff’s deputies perform patrols of their assigned sectors, educate the public on crime prevention, arrest offenders, operate the county jail, prepare court documents, testify in court, and maintain safety and security in their assigned county overall. Deputies are also first responders for vehicle accidents, weather incidents, and medical emergencies, and they serve court summons, perform civil commitments in mental health cases, and enforce court orders to seize property. The sheriff’s office is also responsible for court security by providing bailiffs. In some areas, deputy sheriffs can be found performing search and rescue, leading maritime patrol, and monitoring US borders.

Steps for Becoming a Deputy Sheriff

Most counties require a high school diploma, a valid driver’s license, and a clean record to become a deputy. Military experience is valued. Take note that all sheriffs in our veteran Sheriff interview series strongly endorse a criminal justice degree. “Go to college. Get an education. Understand the law, this profession, and our constitution so that you understand your responsibility to the people, and to stay true to it,” says Veteran Sheriff Dave Brown. Though not required, a college degree can make deputy sheriff candidates more desirable to hiring agencies. Also, any prior law enforcement experience will be beneficial.

While each sheriff’s office will have its own hiring process, you can expect to undergo some version of the following general steps:

  1. Attend a degree program or gain experience in a related field.*
  2. Apply to become a deputy sheriff in your county of choice.
  3. Undergo a background investigation and be fingerprinted.
  4. Be interviewed.
  5. Get hired as a sheriff’s deputy.
  6. Receive on-the-job training as a deputy sheriff.

*A degree and prior experience may not be required to become a sheriff’s deputy, so check with your county for more details.

Deputy Sheriff Job Training

Deputy sheriffs’ training will depend on the hiring organization. Deputies hired in North Carolina, for example, must successfully pass a 12-month probationary period and complete a Basic Law Enforcement Training Course. Field training is also usually required. Deputy sheriffs in North Carolina must also complete mandatory in-service training.

Other Helpful Skills and Experience

Sheriff’s deputies should possess strong interpersonal skills, common sense, a sound moral character, and knowledge of the geographic area in which they work. Critical thinking skills, decision-making skills, and communication skills are also important for deputies. A prospective deputy sheriff with prior law enforcement experience may have a hiring advantage.

Possible Job Titles for This Career

  • Chief Deputy Sheriff
  • Deputy
  • Sheriff’s Deputy
  • Sheriff’s Officer
  • Sheriff’s Patrol Officer

Deputy Sheriff Salary and Job Outlook

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t break out deputy sheriff salaries, but it does provide salary information for police and sheriff’s patrol officers, which averaged $58,320 per year as of May 2015.1 Pay will vary depending on location, experience, and education. Benefits generally include a retirement pension, and unions in law enforcement are among the strongest. According to BLS projections, police and detective employment is expected to grow 4% from 2014 to 2024.1

Related Careers

Interested in a career similar to a deputy sheriff? Check out these related careers:

Police Career Advice

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What type of schedule do deputy sheriffs work?

Answer: Most deputies work 12-hour shifts. They may work either the day or night shift or may be required to work rotating day and night shifts.

Question: Is overtime required?

Answer: Deputies should expect to work overtime as necessary and should be prepared to work holidays, nights, and weekends.

Question: What does training typically entail?

Answer: A new deputy sheriff’s training may include such topics as constitutional law, civil rights, local ordinances, self-defense, first aid, and emergency response.

Question: What does the application process cover?

Answer: Aspiring deputies must submit to an extensive background check and generally to a polygraph exam.

Additional Resources

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Police and Detectives: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm
2. North Carolina Department of Justice: http://www.ncdoj.gov/About-DOJ/Law-Enforcement-Training-and-Standards/Sheriffs-Education-and-Training-Standards/Training-Requirements/Minimum-Training-Standards-Deputy-Sheriffs.aspx