How to Become a
Sheriff

Officer wearing a bullet vest with the word Sheriff

Choosing a career takes research. If you’re considering becoming a Sheriff, you’ve found the right place to get the information you need. This helpful guide provides everything you need to know about what it takes to become a Sheriff, including training, experience and more.

What Does a Sheriff Do?

A Sheriff is responsible for enforcing the laws, apprehending and containing suspected criminals and protecting the life and property of citizens. Sheriffs are the chief law officer within a county and often operate the county jail.

Sheriffs are tasked daily with obtaining information from relevant sources, detecting changes in circumstances or events, analyzing information and evaluating results to make the best decisions, working directly with the public and negotiating with others to resolve conflicts.

Being a Sheriff requires knowledge of law and government, familiarity of public safety policies and procedures, unwavering decisiveness in a variety of stressful situations and strong problem-solving skills.

Some common Sheriff duties and responsibilities include:

  • Supervision of sworn officers within the county to monitor their daily tasks

  • Delivering warrants to citizens who have failed to comply with the court

  • Emergency scene management to control further accidents

  • Preparing testimony and testifying in court about matters in which the sheriff has knowledge

 Sheriff Skills

Knowledge of the law and the ability to follow procedures are an important part of working as a Sheriff, but that’s just part of what the career demands. Being a Sheriff means working with county employees and the general public. A Sheriff can also expect to be faced with various sensitive situations – sometimes involving dangerous criminals – every day.

First and foremost, Sheriffs should be able to consider the relative pros and cons of each decision they are faced with, even when under pressure. The ability to manage stress and stay calm is also paramount. Often relied upon to achieve the county’s law enforcement goals, Sheriffs should also possess a large amount of creativity and resourcefulness.

Other key Sheriff skills include:

  • Active listening

  • Critical thinking

  • Effective communication

  • Social perceptiveness

How Do You Become a Sheriff?

Education and Training

According to our analysis of online job postings, employers are looking for Sheriff candidates who have at least a high school diploma. Some job postings required a prospective Sheriff to have at least an associate degree or certificate in the field of criminal justice.

Additionally, the job postings we reviewed required prospective Sheriffs to have graduated from a police academy and have law enforcement experience. The amount of law enforcement experience required will vary according to location.

Certificate programs usually take about a year to complete, while it takes approximately two years to complete an associate degree. Law, criminology, psychology and procedural information are a few of the subjects covered in a criminal justice education. Crisis communication, critical thinking and ethics are also courses that are offered by some criminal justice programs.

Finding a job

Demand for Sheriffs is lower than average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts 5 percent growth for the position through 2024, amounting to a total of 34,200 job openings for Sheriffs during that period. The projected job openings will be due to the growth of certain counties and positions that are eligible for replacement.

Every successful Sheriff’s job search starts with crafting a high-quality resume that highlights your skills and experience. For help creating a resume, take a look at our library of Sheriff resume samples.

Once your resume is ready, search online for Sheriff job opportunities. As you search for openings, be sure to utilize your professional network, including contacts you made during internships.

When applying for Sheriff jobs, create a cover letter that expresses your interest in the position and highlights your qualifications and what you can bring to the role. Need some inspiration for your cover letter? Check out our collection of cover letter samples.

Insights from a Sheriff

A sheriff is a well-respected profession. To understand just how important it is we committed to getting some answers to the most asked questions with regards to this profession. Take a look.

What should someone consider before becoming a Sheriff?

It would be a good start to understand that the hiring process is fairly long and you will not be hired as soon as you submit your resume. The process can sometimes take from 4 to 12 months. A background check is also noteworthy to acknowledge and be sure you are clean. In some cases, you may be subjected to a polygraph exam which there is no way to prepare for it just so you know. Be prepared for the academy training program as well which to many is considered tough. Field training is even tougher which is why you should prepare before the actual training process. Another important aspect related to the daily life of a sheriff is that you are probably going to see things you wish you had not seen and it is important to be tough in this aspect.

What is the common career path for a Sheriff?

In some jurisdictions, aspiring sheriffs are required to first become certified or licensed police officers. Police officers are required to complete a high school diploma and complete a police academy training program. In some cases depending on the law enforcement agency sheriffs can be required to hold a degree in a relevant field such as law enforcement or criminal justice. It would be a good idea to participate in a sheriff internship program after completing your police academy training program or during your undergraduate degree program. Then after you have met all these qualifications it is sometimes necessary to file paperwork with the county to officially certify that you are running for the position of sheriff.

What type of person excels in this job?

Sheriffs tend to lean to a enterprising personality as well as being realistic in every aspect of the word. Sheriffs can be inspiring and leaders innately.

What are some of the most important skills for Sheriffs to have?

A sheriff's most important skillset is the ability to have awareness of the intentions of others and react accordingly. These skills allow you to foresee situations before they happen or actually allow you to prevent them from happening. So, in other words, you are great at solving problems that have not yet happened. A good sheriff also knows how to convey a message clearly so everybody understands and genuinely is a helper to everybody. A sheriff is also good at identifying patterns that are also related to awareness.

What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of being a Sheriff?

The most rewarding aspect of being a sheriff is the ability to impact someone's life even if it's helping someone change a tire or giving someone a lift. Helping someone without judging their background, only for the sake of bettering someone's situation and having the trust of the community around me is the most satisfying part of my job.

How Much Do Sheriffs Get Paid?

Sheriffs are typically paid on an hourly basis, with the median hourly wage in the United States being $28.04. The lowest-paid Sheriffs make about $16 per hour, while the highest-paid can earn more than $46.

Top 10 States for Sheriff’s Salary

Sheriffs in the following states make the highest median hourly wage in the U.S.:

    California

    $44.98

    New Jersey

    $42.87

    Alaska

    $37.13

    Washington

    $35.66

    Florida

    $35.26

    District Of Columbia

    $34.62

    Illinois

    $33.61

    Massachusetts

    $33.30

    New York

    $33.24

    State

    $28.23

    Sheriff Resources

    Need more information? We put together this list of extra resources to assist you as you continue exploring a career as a Sheriff.

    On the Web

    Officer.com
    Leading source for law enforcement news

    Industry Groups

    National Sheriffs’ Association
    Offers a blog and a career center

    Sheriff Books

    Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs
    An introduction to the role of a sheriff

    Introduction to Criminal Justice
    Current issues in the criminal justice system

    Information sources for this article include the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job postings and other online sources.