Why Millennials Should Love Law Enforcement Careers

How Jobs in Policing Can Meet the Expectations of the Next Generation

Police departments around the United States have long faced challenges in recruiting well-qualified candidates for vacant law enforcement positions. At the same time, agencies struggle to keep up with attrition as more and more members of the baby boomer generation retire. A 2015 study, though, may show a silver lining.

The Accenture corporation took a look at what 2015 college graduates were looking for in a job and whether prior years' graduates' expectations were being met. Their findings suggested that, with the proper articulation, law enforcement agencies can send a message to young people entering the workforce to let them know that policing careers may be exactly what they're looking for.

What Millennials Want in a Job: Bad News for Law Enforcement?

Key findings of the study indicated that, while the vast majority of new graduates researched job prospects before choosing a major and served in internships in order to gain relevant experience prior to looking for a job, many feel that they are underemployed, earning salaries far below what they expected, and not receiving the formal training they think they need to do their jobs well.

They also say they would prefer to forgo a higher-paying job with a large corporation for a smaller company with a more positive work environment and opportunities for continuing education and advancement.

At first glance, those results may look like bad news for police departments. But with the right perspective, law enforcement recruiters can use the information to show millennials why they should want to become a police officer.

Accentuating the Positive

At its core, the survey respondents essentially said they want what most people want in a job: a decent salary, an enjoyable job with supportive bosses and coworkers and opportunities to learn and to move up the chain. Which is exactly what careers in policing can offer.

Though too often seen as a rigid, structured and stagnant career choice, in truth law enforcement jobs come with a lot of flexibility with regards to working hours and job duties.

Okay Pay?

While starting salary wouldn't be considered high, most departments offer some measure of step payment plan where officers earn more based on years of service. The salaries are also often in line with what many other college graduates earn - sometimes even more.

Education Equals Advancement

And while police jobs are one of many paths in criminal justice that don't necessarily require a college degree, those college graduates will soon see how their education can help them find even more success in their careers.

Training Options Abound

With regards to formal training and continuing education, few professions offer the same level of training that is given to police officers.

Candidates spend 6 months or more in a police academy, and then move on to an extensive field training program - where they put their classroom learning into practice - before being placed on the job and onto solo patrol. And once the real job starts, police officers have the opportunity to attend training throughout their careers that can help them advance and specialize.

Positive Environment

There're a couple of poorly kept secrets within law enforcement. The first is that many times, policing can be fun. Dangerous? Yes. Important? Absolutely. Noble? Of course. But also rewarding and enjoyable, largely because of the intrinsic rewards that come with helping others. 

The other secret is the camaraderie that comes from being part of the law enforcement community. There are few professions that offer the same sense of belonging that a job in policing delivers.

Clear Path to Success

Finally, careers in law enforcement typically offer clearly defined paths toward advancement. There are rules and policies that usually articulate exactly what officers must do receive promotions, allowing workers to advance at their own pace.

The Right Choice for the Next Generation

The bottom line is that careers in law enforcement actually offer exactly what many new college graduates are looking for. The trick  - and the challenge - for police departments is to get the message out to the new generation of workers.