Joseph Libowsky,
former Special Agent

The job of the police officer is rewarding and challenging at the same time, however, at some point, the person may decide that it is time to move on and pursue a different career path. Whether you have spent a couple of years or a couple of decades on the job, there are skills and qualities you have acquired while helping people and enforcing the law that you can apply in a whole range of fields.

So, if you are an ex-police officer or you are considering a change in your career, our short guide will help you realize how many good qualities, knowledge, and skills you can offer to your new employer, and which are the three main options you can choose from for your next job.

Unique skills and abilities ex-police officers posses

Being a police officer requires substantial physical fitness, the ability to make quick decisions and solve problems, communicate with people, keep calm and make the right decisions under quite unfavorable conditions. The more time you spend on the job, the sharper your instincts have become. The qualities that a police officer develops while on duty, however, are certainly not specific only for this job but can be applied to many other positions both within and outside the scope of law enforcement.

Here are some of the qualities and abilities a police officer acquires while performing their duties:

  • Excellent communication skills

A police officer deals with a large range of people on a daily basis. They need to know how to approach a hostile suspect and at the same time how to calm down a victim of a crime or treat a confused witness. Quite often police officers are approached by foreigners who ask them for assistance if they are lost or by children and elderly people who need some kind of help. All these encounters, teach them how to improve their multicultural and multinational communication skills. In addition to that, many police officers speak at least one foreign language, which is a huge plus both for a law enforcement career and for one in the civil sector.

  • Great sales abilities

Sales experience may not be the first thing that comes to your mind when talking about police officers, however, if you think twice, you will realize that “selling” is part of their everyday job. The truth is that the police officer has to sell us a few quite unpleasant things such as speeding tickets or court dates. When the police officers approach someone who deserves a speeding ticket, for example, they need to do it very carefully and be polite with the person. They should be ready to answer a few questions or clarify some traffic rules in a calm manner and being able to answer similar type of questions regularly is a great asset for any salesperson. So, if you are a police officer, who needs to list some of their skills and qualities, think of the numerous times you received a “thank you, officer” after handing that person with a fine, and put great sales abilities in your resume.

  • Outstanding approach to problem-solving and critical thinking

The job of the police officer includes solving all types of problems on a daily basis. In order to do that as efficiently as possible, law enforcement officers need to be able to think critically. As professionals, they have to analyze the situation very quickly and choose the best method to resolve it. It is true that in some of the cases the police officer needs to exercise power in order to prevent a crime or accident but in many situations, negotiations or more creative solutions are also efficient.

  • Team players

A police officer needs to be a great team player in order to do the job properly. Officers communicate with dispatchers, colleagues, and superiors all of the time. Generally, this means that law enforcement officers are patient, consistent and dedicated to their duties.

  • Independent and reliable

While working in a team, each officer is fully capable of making immediate decisions by themselves at the same time. So, listing yourself as an independent and reliable employee is an objective asset, that should be part of the abilities included in your resume.

  • Leadership and managing abilities

Police officers follow the orders they are given. However, there is a difference in simply making people do what they are told and inspiring them. Police officers with higher ranks know how to motivate their subordinates in order to perform their duties. Leadership and managing skills are very important in any sphere and will be a major plus if you are looking for a new job.

  • Strong attention to detail

Last but not least, police officers must have a strong attention to detail. They should be able to describe a suspect or a crime scene even if they had only a few minutes to cast a look on it. They should be able to notice things such as suspicious behavior and react immediately to prevent an accident. On top of that, police officers need to write reports on a daily basis and include as many details in them as possible, since they might be needed in court one day.

These are just a few of the numerous qualities and skills a police officer develops while on the job. Even though they are acquired in a specific environment, they are broadly applicable to any sphere of employment. Therefore, consider which of those describe you the best and then look at the three main options for career development for ex-police officers given below.

Option 1 for ex-police officers: Continue work in the sphere of law enforcement

Naturally, one of the first options for ex-police officers is to continue their work in the sphere of law enforcement. In order to that, the best is to review the various job openings and see which one fits your interests best. You have the option of jobs which are sworn ut also those that are non-sworn as well. Here are just a few examples of positions that are suitable for ex-police officers:

  • Crime scene investigator – this is perfect for those who are former law enforcement officers as they already have experience in this area. As an ex-police officer, you will stand a better chance to get the position and receive a higher salary and more job advancement opportunities compared to civilians. Strong attention to detail is an absolute must, since dealing with evidence is a highly responsible job. You may need to take a course in photography to get a professional certification.
  • Drug and Alcohol Compliance and Enforcement Inspector – this is a job offered by many federal agencies and as such, you will be doing both office work and on the spot visits. Basically, your responsibilities are to determine industry compliance with the drug and alcohol testing regulations, hence knowledge of federal drug and alcohol testing regulations is required. If you love traveling, then the position is perfect for you, since checks on the spot will be about 50% of your work.
  • Fire inspector – if you would like to continue with a job that involves investigation, this is the career path to follow. As a fire inspector, you will have to determine what caused the fire and whether it was an arson or not. In addition to that, fire inspectors check sites for compliance with fire safety regulations, for any hazards or to see what the flammable liquid and chemical storage practices are. They also give consultations on whether new constructions meet the fire codes and safety requirements. Ex-police officers and firemen are preferred candidates for this position.
  • Background Investigator – Many government agencies, local, state, and federal, have decided background investigators. Sometimes these are full time positions with the agency, sometime they are contract positions. Being a former law enforcement officer puts you in line with exactly what agencies are looking for to fill these positions.

Option 2 for ex-police officers: Move to the private sector

A natural continuation of the career of police officers is in the private sector, where they can apply the skills from their law enforcement job. Once again, there are many opportunities but here are a few to have a look at:

  • Security guard/bodyguard – as a police officer you were responsible for protecting the people in your precinct and now you can use the same skills for serving one particular client. You can start work at an agency offering such services or open one of your own. As a bodyguard, you will need to protect a famous figure, a politician or a celebrity. As a security guard, you may be entrusted with looking after a certain area or staying in front of an entrance screening the people who come in.
  • Private detective or investigator – with this position you may work for yourself, or as part of a company. As a private detective or investigator, you will have many of the same duties as a police officer. You will have to follow suspects, gather evidence and question witnesses. In order to do the job, you need to get a license. It is a profession for those who love the responsibilities of law enforcement officers but prefer working with private clients and face a lower level of risk.
  • Postsecondary Teachers in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement – this is ideal for ex-police officers who would like to pass the knowledge they have. Often a master’s or doctoral degree is needed to become a postsecondary teacher but in some institutions the job experience is sufficient. If you want to use your practical skills and years of experience to prepare the next generation of law enforcement officers, then this is the perfect job for you.

If you have chosen the private sector for your future career development and you like computers and new technologies in general, then the third option may be the one to attract you.

Option 3 for ex-police officers: Consider cybersecurity as a great option for development

Cybercrime is increasing every year and according to the reports it is going to cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021, which is a significant rise from the $3 trillion in 2015. Hence, there is a growing need for cybersecurity specialist to counter cybercrime.

As per the information cited by Forbes in their article “Are Ex-Police Officers The Next Recruits To Help Fill 1.5 Million Cybersecurity Jobs By 2019?”, there were one million job openings in the sphere of cybersecurity in 2016 and the forecast for 2019 is for them to grow by another half million. CyberSecurity Ventures predicts even a larger number of jobs in the field – 3.5 million vacant jobs by 2021.

It turns out that ex-police officers may be the answer to fill in these vacancies. As a police officer, you possess a lot of the necessary skills to do a great job in the field of cybersecurity. You have the passion to serve and protect and the ability to detect crime, investigate it, look for patterns and evidence. The combination of education and experience is a good start for this career path. Good computer skills, naturally, are a must for the job.

So, if you are a tech-savvy, who is a bit tired of chasing criminals on the streets but not tired of the overall idea of fighting crime, you can shift from offering physical security to people to cybersecurity. No need to say, that jobs in the field are usually quite well paid and there is an opportunity for advancement.

As you can see from the above-written, there are numerous career opportunities for ex-police officers in state, federal or private entities. Think carefully about your best strengths and preference and choose a career, where you can apply the knowledge and skills you have while enjoying the job.