Career Opportunities for Women in Law Enforcement

By Angie Devlin

In recent years, the law enforcement industry has been deliberately transforming itself. Once viewed as a misconduct-plagued industry filled with "tough guys", law enforcement was also seen as an occupation that offered little or no job prospects for women. However, with its current emphasis on teamwork, two-way communication, productive problem solving and job security, law enforcement is now becoming a fulfilling profession for thousands of women across the country.

Because of this metamorphosis, women are steadily being drawn towards law enforcement careers. The U.S. Department of Labor reported that employment of police and detectives is expected to grow by 7 percent from 2010 to 2020, slower than the average for all occupations. Continued demand for public safety will lead to new openings for officers in local departments; however, both state and federal jobs may be more competitive. While still viewed as a non-traditional career path for women, these increases demonstrate bright career futures for women in law enforcement.

Women And Non-Traditional Careers

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, non-traditional professions are occupations where women comprise less than 25 percent of the total employment. Today, law enforcement is still viewed as one of those professions. In fact, women have been enjoying success in non-traditional careers for years. In part, this is thanks to motivating factors like Rosey the Riveter, the World War II symbol who helped encourage more than 6.5 million women to reach beyond domesticity and home-keeping into ammunition, steel, aircraft industry, and military jobs. The National Center for Women & Policing cites "Yet despite this compelling research, women are severely under-represented in police departments, accounting for only 13.0% of police officers across the country, according to our latest survey on the status of women in law enforcement. The numbers of women in law enforcement are kept artificially low by widespread discriminatory hiring and selection practices."

Women In Law Enforcement

Women entering the law enforcement industry are experiencing career opportunities like never before. In addition to celebrating a record number of women holding police chief positions across America's major cities, women are also helping to reshape the industry's reputation and future. According to a recent study by the National Center for Women and Policing, women in law enforcement are less likely to use excessive force in intense situations, they are helping implement "community-oriented policing" and they are helping improve law enforcement's response to difficult social issues, such as violence against women and child abuse. In addition, with the increased presence of female officers, problems of sex discrimination and harassment are being reduced in police agencies and overhauls of officer policies are being conducted.

If you are interested in a law enforcement career, there are a variety of law enforcement positions available for consideration. From forensic analysts, private detectives, crime scene investigators, to parole officers, community service officers, and police chiefs, the law enforcement career opportunities for you to pursue are virtually limitless.

Starting your Law Enforcement Career

To start your career in law enforcement it is important to understand that most law enforcement positions, especially police officer careers, require in-depth and intensive training. This training can comprise of not only education elements but also physical elements, as well. It's these physical challenges, such as strength and endurance challenges, that have historically intimidated and discouraged women from the profession. Thankfully, though, today's physical requirements for police positions have been adjusted to more realistic and female-friendly standards.

The educational training associated with law enforcement positions can vary. Some law enforcement agencies require at least an associate's or bachelor's degree in this field. Also, many law enforcement agencies require formal training that can consist of hands-on training, classroom work, and written and oral exams. According to the National Center for Women and Policing (NCWP), education, and your personal and legal background can also influence if and how you enter a law enforcement career. Since career requirements in this field can vary, the NCWP recommends checking with individual agencies regarding their specific entry requirements.

While the challenges that come with law enforcement jobs can be significant, the benefits for women pursuing a career in law enforcement can be very rewarding. Whether you achieve your training through an agency or through an accredited educational institution, tackling these challenges will help you solidify your future as a successful law enforcement professional.

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