No matter what your plans in the police force after you are hired, most states require new recruits to spend anywhere from a year to 18 months working as a patrol officer. Earnings for first-year patrol officers vary from state to state, and within those states, the pay scale may be slightly higher for first year officers working in metropolitan areas.
Patrol Officer Median Salary
The median salary for a patrol officer listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was $46,620 per year in 2008. Median salary compares the average earnings from each state and determines the overall average salary earned. The lower 10 percent earned approximately $31,400 per year. Most first year officers fall into the lower 10 percent, earning an average hourly wage around $15.09.
Earnings by State
A first year recruit may earn slightly higher wages if she is employed in a metropolitan area, such as New York City. Despite the high number of officers employed in New York, the median earnings for a New York officer average $28.93 per hour with an annual mean wage of $60,180. Officers in the state of Mississippi earned far less, with the mean hourly wage averaging only $14.99, and $31,170 per year. Among the top-paying states for police officers are California, New Jersey, Washington, Illinois and the District of Columbia.
During your first year as a new police officer, many departments will schedule you to work 40 hours per week. It is not uncommon to work overtime, especially during the first year, when your superiors are not only testing you to see what you are made of, but also helping you increase your level of experience. You may be given a set hourly rate and average annual salary, but working overtime can sometimes double your expected annual salary. As well as increasing your earning potential, it may also help you get promoted more quickly.
The income variant between officers employed at the federal, state and local levels include factors like hazard pay and educational reimbursements. Many federally employed officers, such as immigration and border patrol officers, work in dangerous situations that warrant hazard pay incentives for first year recruits. State and local police forces often offer education reimbursement, and if recruitment is low, they may offer recruitment bonuses for first year officers. Experience prior to employment is also a determining income factor. For example, if you were a military officer prior to hiring, you may fall into a higher pay scale based on your experience.