Learn About the Dangers of a Law Enforcement Career

How Policing Compares to the Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs

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The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases a National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries each year, outlining the most dangerous jobs in America. The census produces a "fatality rate," detailing the number of individuals fatally injured per 100,000 workers. It also provides a raw number of fatal on-the-job fatalities.

Although police officers do make the top 10 list of most dangerous job sectors, they're in sixth place with several more occupations being more deadly.

The Most Dangerous Jobs in America

A hard look at the data shows which jobs are the deadliest in the United States. No matter where policing ranks on the census, law enforcement careers remain dangerous. In fact, on-the-job fatalities for law enforcement officers are again on the upswing following a historic low of line-of-duty deaths in 2010 at the close of the last decade.

Making the top 10 list most dangerous profession sectors in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, are:

  1. Trade, transportation, and utilities: 1,426 fatal injuries
  2. Construction: 1013 fatal injuries
  3. Natural resources and mining: 697 fatal injuries
  4. Professional and business services: 545 fatal injuries
  5. Manufacturing: 303 fatal injuries
  6. Public administration (including police and fire protection): 291 fatal injuries
  7. Leisure and hospitality: 274 fatal injuries
  8. Education and health services: 236 fatal injuries
  9. Financial activities: 102 fatal injuries
  10. Information, publishing, and communications: 47 fatal injuries

Of course, these classifications cover multiple professions within each sector. For example, transportation includes airline pilots. And some sectors are subject to more media exposure than others, so you might feel like you hear about deaths all the time.

The Bigger Picture

Numbers don't tell the whole story. The simple fact is that there is one glaring difference between law enforcement officers and every other occupation on the list. Of all the jobs listed, only police officer deaths include a significant number of murders as opposed to accidents. It can be presumed that not many criminals are trying to kill fishers or loggers or refuse collectors.

While traffic-related deaths do make up a large portion of police fatalities, they don't make up the majority. The bulk of line-of-duty deaths are attributable to firearms and other felonious causes. Law enforcement professions are the only careers in which being murdered is actually an occupational hazard. 

This isn't to diminish the dangers that are inherent in these other professions, but a distinction must be made. Despite the hundreds—and in some cases thousands—of hours that police officers spend in academy training, law enforcement careers remain among the most dangerous professions no matter how they're ranked.

Criminal Justice Careers Are Still Worth the Risk

Despite the danger, careers in criminal justice are both fun and rewarding. In fact, an argument can be made that it's precisely the element of danger that entices many to the profession to begin with.

But you don't have to be a thrill seeker to enjoy or succeed in law enforcement. Despite the risk, it takes all kinds of people and personality types to make a police department work and to keep a community safe. With proper and diligent training and a survival mindset, police officers can greatly reduce their risk of injury or death and live to enjoy a long and rewarding career.