How to Become a

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.

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.:



    New Jersey








    District Of Columbia






    New York




    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
    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.