Working as a police officer in a K9 unit can be a fulfilling career move for law enforcement professionals who have a love of animals. Police dogs can help law enforcement in a number of ways, but handling police officers usually must undergo a course of training in working with their canine partners. Average salary levels for K9 cops are slightly greater than most entry-level police positions due to this extra training.
According to salary data published by the online database CBSalary, K9 cops working in the United States made an average annual salary of $58,974 as of July 2011. The typical salary range earned by police officers specializing in canine corps service spans from $55,000 per year to $96,000 per year, according to the police career website Police Employment.
Police officers must serve with a law enforcement agency for a few years before they can apply for a position with that agency's K9 force. Inexperienced police officers can improve their canine experience by volunteering at local animal shelters. When a police officer is accepted as a K9 cop, that officer is trained at a canine academy or training program that is usually provided through the law enforcement agency. National K9 cop training centers include the Canine Enforcement Training Center in Royal, Virginia, the National Detector Dog Training Center in Orlando, Florida, and the National Canine Facility in El Paso, Texas.
Canine officers are available in most police agencies, but job openings are most prevalent in cities with larger police forces, including New York City and Los Angeles. K9 cops are also employed in various federal law enforcement agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency, Customs and Border Patrol as well as the Transportation Security Administration. Salaries for K9 cops are typically higher when working for larger police agencies or federal agencies.
Other Police Careers
Canine cops earn a slightly higher average salary than most law enforcement officers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average salary among policemen and sheriff's patrol officers was $55,620 per year, or $26.74 per hour, as of May 2010. K9 cop salary averages were slightly less than the average for detectives and criminal investigators, who earned a median salary of $60,910 per year in 2008 according to the BLS. Minimum salary levels for police lieutenants and captains are also at least $5,000 per year greater than the average salary for canine police officers.
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