The editors of POLICE Magazine conducted a survey of more than 5,000 police officers to find out what you might expect from agencies across the country. With a very good 17-percent response rate and a cross-section of ranks represented, the following data should help to answer some of your questions about your career in law enforcement.

Almost 40 percent of respondents were officers, deputies, or troopers; 15 percent sergeants; and 15 percent chiefs, with various ranks rounding out the survey participants.

Much of the information gleaned from this survey is fairly straightforward. According to respondents' answers about their agencies, a high school diploma is the most common minimum educational requirement for a new recruit, and the average starting salary is $35,000. As your career progresses, you can expect to be eligible to join a tactical team within three years at 60 percent of the agencies represented. But when you might expect to get promoted to sergeant, lieutenant, captain, or chief is more difficult to pinpoint.

Although every department is different, the following should give you an idea of what lies ahead as you join the ranks of law enforcement.

What Equipment Do I Need to Buy?

Before you embark on your new career, you'll need an arsenal of supplies. How much and what type you need will depend on department policy-as will how much help you'll get in covering the cost. You might want to prioritize your equipment expenditures based on what will keep you safest on the job or by what you think is the coolest; it's up to you.

See "What Gear Do I Need?" for an in-depth look at the types of equipment you may need to purchase for your first year on the job.