Although many law enforcement officers spend their entire careers working in the field, just as many move on to different careers for a variety of reasons. In fact, employers in many industries seek out individuals with a background in law enforcement or criminal justice, making the transition from officer to civilian a lot smoother.
One obvious destination for those leaving law enforcement is a career in security or investigations, and many former LEOs do opt to move into these roles; however, the wide range of skills developed while working in law enforcement, including leadership, interpersonal communication, critical thinking and problem-solving, lend themselves to many different fields beyond security. < Click to Tweet
If you are thinking about life after law enforcement and what you might want to do, it’s worth considering the following career options.
From management roles to sales, law enforcement officers are often well-suited to business roles. Police officers develop leadership skills in their roles that translate well into the business environment; after all, their primary function is to be a positive influence on others’ behavior and provide guidance and support during often challenging situations. Combined with the communication skills honed by working with diverse populations and their problem-solving skills, these leadership skills make former law enforcement officers very attractive as managers. Although they may not have the hard skills required for many management roles, such as finance and accounting, those skills can be gained via a graduate degree.
The soft skills gained working as a police officer translate well into a career in sales also. Communication, in particular listening and empathy, as well as problem-solving abilities, are vital to successful sales. In fact, many companies in the security and protection industries actively seek former law enforcement to be a part of their sales force, as they have both the real-world knowledge and experience of criminal justice and great people skills. The writing skills developed in criminal justice are also useful in the business world. Again, some additional training in the technical aspects of business and sales may be in order, but sales is a viable option for many former LEOs.
Cybersecurity is a big issue these days; in fact, the Department of Homeland Security has deemed cyber threats a greater risk than physical threats to the U.S. Every single American is at risk when it comes to cyber warfare, with everything from our banking information to our refrigerators a potential target for criminals.
The problem, though, is the shortage of cybersecurity professionals to catch and stop these criminals. It’s estimated there is a shortage of 1.5 million cybersecurity professionals, and the number is only growing. Who is most qualified to go after cybercriminals than those who have experience dealing with them already? Some experts suggest that former law enforcement officers are the ideal candidates for cybersecurity jobs, as they have a unique understanding of criminal behavior and experience hunting down bad actors as well as college degrees and experience with the legal system. Additional education in computer science and cybersecurity may be in order, but cybersecurity is ripe with opportunity for former officers who want a change.
Public Administration and Emergency Management
Police departments and officers are typically on the front lines of emergency response, and they have a real-world perspective on how to plan and respond to emergency situations. Who better, then, to be leaders in emergency planning and management than former law enforcement officers? Their experience and skills in communication and problem-solving are ideal for managing both manmade and natural emergencies, from response planning to actual fieldwork.
Emergency management isn’t the only realm of public administration well-suited to law enforcement professionals. The purpose of public administration is the same as law enforcement, to solve problems in society and ensure that policies, procedures and programs are developed and managed for the greatest possible benefit to everyone. Knowledge of criminal justice and the real issues facing any given community has immeasurable benefits to any public administrator, making this field a natural fit for a smooth career transition, especially into roles related to public safety.
Finally, it may not feel like too much of a stretch, but there are plenty of opportunities in homeland security for former law enforcement officers. In fact, some roles actually require experience in law enforcement, making this a natural fit for those looking for a change. From work apprehending criminals to cybersecurity to policy planning, the field of homeland security is ripe with opportunity for experienced law enforcement officers.
Life After Law Enforcement
Becoming a member of the police force doesn’t mean your entire career needs to be spent in law enforcement. The skills and experience you gain as an officer can be easily applied to a wide range of fields.
To learn more about degree programs that can help you transition to life after retirement from law enforcement, visit ColumbiaSouthern.edu/Degree.
The original version of this article was published on The Link, the official blog of Columbia Southern University.