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How to Become Deputy Sheriff

If you'd like to learn how to become a Deputy Sheriff, this article will guide you through the requirements as well as career pathways and salary information.

Deputy Sheriff Job Description

A Deputy Sheriff works for the Sheriff's Department overseen by a head Sheriff or High Sheriff. Each county has its own department.

Many Deputy Sheriffs work in the field, responding to 911 calls, assisting in disputes, or regulating traffic. The Sheriff's Department also has court duties such as working corrections in the county jail, providing courtroom security and prisoner transport, serving warrants, and serving due process, whereas police officers generally do not.

VIDEO: Deputy Sheriff Ride Along

Watching this video is close to going on a real ride-along, and it will give you a good idea of what a deputy sheriff does. Many of the officers state how much they enjoy helping people, helping to solve problems, and giving people closure.

Deputy Sheriff Duties

Duties of the deputy sheriff may include:

  • Making arrests
  • Subduing suspects
  • Employing defensive maneuvers
  • Use of handguns, tasers and other non-lethal weapons
  • Pursuit of suspects on foot and by car
  • Assisting in the search and seizure of evidence in conjunction with investigations
  • Assisting in search and rescue operations
  • Performing complicated physical tasks during patrol, such as jumping over fences, climbing through tight spaces, or moving heavy objects
  • Preparing reports
  • Responding to radio communications
  • Conducting surveillance, including the use of audio and visual equipment
  • Maintaining the ability to accurately handle firearms in a variety of physical positions
  • Maintaining emotional control under extreme stress
  • Conducting law enforcement investigations, including:
    • protecting crime scenes
    • directing traffic at accident scenes
    • conducting witness interviews
    • conducting interviews with suspects
    • maintaining detailed written records
    • preparing accurate reports
    • processing evidence
    • appearing for civil and criminal court proceedings

What is the difference between a Sheriff and a Police Officer?

A Sheriff is an elected position within a state's county and is usually the highest law enforcement in a county, though this is not always the case in every county. County needs and laws vary from county to county, even within the same state.

The officers that serve under a Sheriff are "Deputies" that have been deputized in the service of the Sheriff. Deputies are also called "Deputy Sheriff" or "Sheriff's Deputy", or simply "Deputy", and occasionally even "Sheriff". Every four years when there is a new elected Sheriff, all of the Deputies must give their oath to the new Sheriff.

In some cities, a Chief of Police may or may not be a Police Officer and could be a civilian administrator appointed by the Mayor that oversees Police Officers. Every time there is a change to the Chief of Police, the current Police Officers do not need to be sworn in again and continue their service to the department.

The Sheriff's Department has county wide and in some cases, state wide jurisdiction. While a police officer is limited to having jurisdiction or power within their patrolling city (unless a state has otherwise vested powers beyond just the city--and all of this varies from city to city, county to county, and state to state).

In general, a Sheriff is thought to be slightly higher in rank than a police officer, but this does not apply in places where police officers are given state wide authority. In this case, police officers and sheriffs then have the same rank and authority.

There seems to be a social comradery among sheriffs and deputies, as there is for police officers and their units. Depending upon where you are, there may be some competition or tension between Sheriffs and police officers.

Deputy Sheriff Qualifications

Qualifications for deputy sheriff positions will vary by county. Here are some general qualifications that are fairly standard across counties.

  • U.S. citizen
  • High school diploma or G.E.D.
  • 21 years of age
  • Valid driver's license
  • Strong moral character
  • Honorable discharge for those who have served in U.S. Armed Forces
  • No felony convictions
  • No history or pattern of drug abuse
  • Ability to work rotating shifts, weekends, and holidays

Deputy Sheriff Education Requirements

A minimum of a high school diploma or GED is required, as well as the appropriate academy training that your county requires. Be sure to check with a local Deputy Sheriff and ask them what their experience applying to the department was like, what type of training they did, and what they recommend for you to prepare for academy training.

Experience Requirements

At the time this article was written, there were several entry level positions as a "Deputy Sheriff", requiring the appropriate education (listed under the Education heading above). Prior experience was not necessary. Any previous law enforcement or military background is a bonus, however not required.

Salary Information

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here is salary information for Deputy Sheriff.

Percentile Hourly Wage Annual Wage
10% $15.71 $32,670
25% $20.15 $41,910
50%(Median) $26.99 $56,130
75% $35.44 $73,710
90% $43.60 $90,700

Deputy Sheriff Jobs

There are many job sites that you can search for deputy sheriff jobs. However, one of the best ways to search for deputy sheriff jobs is to take a look at county government sites. These will generally have a list of jobs available related to law enforcement, including the minimum requirements for the job, as well as information on training, salary and benefits. In many cases, you may be able to speak with a sheriff or deputy sheriff before you begin your application process in order to get a better idea of what is involved with the job of deputy sheriff. Many officers will allow you to go on a ride along, so you can get a first hand look at what the job entails.

VIDEO: Deputy Sheriff Jobs at the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office

Here's a video that shows you what the job of deputy sheriff is like in one particular county.

Deputy Sheriff Training

Training for the position of deputy sheriff will vary by county. Most counties have formal training programs which will include basic Law Enforcement Academy and some form of advanced training. Once you complete academy training, you will likely go through a period of field training, where you will be partnered with another law enforcement officer with experience and placed in real situations that test your academy training. It is also highly likely that after you complete your training, you will go through a probation period, after which you will go through a full and formal evaluation in order to remain in the position of deputy sheriff.

VIDEO: Sheriff's Orientation Training

Are you ready for this? Not all deputy sheriff training will be exactly like this, but this video will give you an idea of what to expect, and how difficult the training can be.

Other Resources

Bureau of Labor and Statistics Employment Statistics for Sheriffs