Law enforcement is a career field that offers the opportunity to earn a living while protecting fellow citizens. The term "cop" can describe any police officer; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics divides its income data on law enforcement officers into five basic categories based on the tasks and duties officers perform.
Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers
Police and sheriff's patrol officers are the policemen tasked with patrolling cities, enforcing laws and apprehending criminals. According to the BLS, there were more than 600,000 patrol officers employed in the U.S. as of May 2009 and they earned an average annual income of $55,180. Officers working for state governments made $58,860 on average while officers working for local governments earned $55,120. The top 10 percent of workers in the field earned $83,550 or more while the bottom 10 percent made $31,400 or less.
Detectives and Criminal Investigators
Detectives are law enforcement officers who investigate and solve crimes. BLS data show that the average annual income of detectives and criminal investigators was $65,860 in May 2009, while the median income was $62,110. The top 10 percent of income earners in the occupation made $99,980 or more while the bottom 10 percent earned $37,960 or less.
Transit and Railroad Police
Transit and railroad police make certain that passengers and cargo on trains and other transit systems are safe. The BLS reports that the average annual income of policemen in the field was $52,350 in May 2009. The top 10 percent of income earned made $75,180 or more while the bottom 10 percent earned $34,330 or less.
Fish and Game Wardens
Fish and game wardens are tasked with enforcing hunting and fishing laws, helping to control wildfires, and collecting data on the environment. The average annual income of workers in the occupation was $54,950 in May 2009; the top 10 percent of income earners made $89,130 or more while the bottom 10 percent earned $30,920 or less.
Supervisors and Managers of Police and Detectives
Police officers and detectives are overseen and managed by supervisors. Supervisors may be experienced former detectives or officers who have been promoted to managerial positions. BLS data show that the average annual income of first-line supervisors and managers of police and detectives was $78,580 in May 2009 and that 10 percent of workers in the occupation made more than $116,340, while 10 percent earned $46,780 or less.