Law Enforcement Officers make an annual average of anywhere from $58,190 ($27.98 hourly) to $90,370 ($43.45 hourly), depending on their law enforcement branch. However, as with all careers, some states pay better than others. There are several different branches of law enforcement. Still, this article will cover the main four: Fish and Game Wardens, Detectives and Criminal Investigators, Transit and Railroad Police, and Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers.
Below are the top paying states for each of these four divisions.
Fish and Game Wardens
Nationally, Fish and Game Wardens make a mean annual wage of $58,190. The top 90 % of Fish and Game Wardens can make as much as $78,330 annually. The top five paying states for Fish and Game Wardens are New Jersey, California, Washington, Illinois, and Hawaii.
New Jersey tops the list with its Fish and Game Wardens (or conservation officers), making an average of $82,400 annually. Because New Jersey is home to five regional animal and bird habitats, this law enforcement branch is much needed in the state.
California is next, with its Fish and Game Wardens making a mean annual wage of $82,120. Three of the four North American Desert habitats are in California, and wildlife officers have statewide jurisdiction to protect them and the 30,000 miles of rivers and streams in the state.
The remaining three top paying states are Washington at $78,080 annually, Illinois at $76,800 annually, and Hawaii at $72,530 annually.
Transit and Railroad Police
The main objective of transit and railroad police is to protect railroad and transit employees, passengers, and property. Nationwide, this law enforcement branch makes a mean annual wage of $69,570. However, the 90th percentile of earners can make up to $98,250 annually. The five states that pay transit and railroad police the most are Virginia, Illinois, Texas, California, and Florida.
Home of the Port of Virginia, the East Coast’s major rail port, Virginia is the top paying state for transit and railroad police, at an annual average of $84,410. Illinois follows with its transit and railroad police making an average of $80,690 annually.
The following three top paying states for transit and railroad police are Texas at $70,470, California at $69,930, and Florida at $69,500.
Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers
Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers are who most typically think about when thinking about law enforcement. While they aren’t the highest-paid law enforcement branch, they aren’t at the bottom of the food chain either. Patrol officers earn an annual average of $70,750, with the top 90 % making as much as $102,530 annually. The most lucrative states for Patrol Officers are California, Washington, New Jersey, Alaska, and Illinois.
California is at the top, paying its Patrol Officers an annual average of $102,920. Washington comes in second at $92,390, followed by New Jersey at $91,690 and Alaska at $87,510. Once again, making the top five, Illinois finishes off the list with its Patrol Officers making an average of $82,800 annually.
Detectives and Criminal Investigators
And the final branch of law enforcement that we will look at is the Detectives and Criminal Investigators. These are the ones who investigate and solve crimes and dig deeper to prevent crime from occurring. And out of the four branches of law enforcement covered in this article, they make the most.
Detectives and Criminal Investigators make an average of $90,370 annually, with the 90th percentile of Detectives and Investigators making as much as $146,830 annually. The five top paying states for Detectives and Criminal Investigators all pay over $100,000 annually. These states are Alaska, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Hawaii, and Washington.
Alaska is the leading state for highest paid Detectives and Criminal Investigators, where they make an average of $126,810 annually. Next on the list is the District of Columbia. This is not surprising since FBI and DOJ headquarters are both located there. D.C. pays its Criminal Investigators and Detectives $123,760 annually.
Maryland comes in third, with its Detectives and Criminal Investigators making a mean annual wage of $115,660. Following closely behind is Hawaii at $111,130 annually and Washington at $108,550 annually.
So, if you’re considering a law enforcement career but don’t want to be underpaid, don’t worry. These should give you a good idea of the highest paying states for law enforcement and the best branches to work in.