Although law enforcement is a well-paying job with a good pension, many police officers leave the profession in search of a more secure and balanced life. But, according to CNN, COVID-19, the great resignation, burnout, and a dramatic increase in crime rates across American cities make recruitment and retention difficult.
According to the police executive forum, which surveyed 200 police departments, there has been a 44% increase in police retirements and an 18% increase in cops quitting their jobs.Additionally, in a recent New York Post study, over 2,465 police officers have filed to leave the department this year (42% more than last year). Police officers who have had enough are starting to search for private-sector job opportunities.
Are you currently working in law enforcement, but ready to make a change? Keep reading for key insights on making the switch.
I want to leave law enforcement. What else can I do?
Although law enforcement can be very rewarding, it can also take a mental and physical toll on yourself and your family.
Policing is a dangerous job. Therefore, if you are considering making a career switch, it’s essential to evaluate your career path to date. Some key questions you can ask yourself before making the switch include:
- Q1. Are there any transferable skills you can utilize, from law enforcement to tech?
- Q2. Do you want to continue working in law enforcement or switch to a new industry?
- Q3. What soft and hard skills are you missing to make the transition into tech as smooth as possible?
- Q4. Are you able to upskill by joining tech bootcamps or online courses?
- Q5. What type of tech jobs are you interested in?
If you’re reading this, you are probably considering a career change but are of unsure where and how to start. Keep reading to discover what jobs are out there for police officers making the switch to tech.
From police officer to tech
James Smith had a successful law enforcement career serving 11 years as a police officer and ten years on the SWAT team. However, James had achieved every specialty position he wanted and hit the ceiling with his law enforcement career.
With no more career progression left in sight, James wanted to try something new. “I had nowhere else to go in my career at that point. I’d achieved everything I had set out to achieve,” he explained. So when his wife got a new job offer that required them to move across several states, it gave him the opportunity he’s been looking for to try something new and switch career paths.
While studying electrical engineering, James discovered programming “as soon as I took my first programming course, I was hooked.” After James found programming, he knew he needed to upskill to carve out a decent career for himself in tech. “I had heard incredible things about GA through friends, so I went for it, and I’m very glad I did.”
“My transition into tech was extremely smooth, thanks to General Assembly (GA). I tried self-studying, but software engineering is such a vast field I became lost almost immediately. However, GA provided a well thought out roadmap, excellent instructors, and relevant projects that allowed me to focus my efforts on the areas that mattered the most.”
When completing his programming course at GA in March 2022, James signed his first offer letter for an engineering role the day after graduation. Since then, he has joined the Express Scripts team as a Junior Software Engineer and has a thriving career in tech.
Fast-growing jobs in law enforcement tech
Switching careers can be a grueling and scary process. However, as a police officer, you are more prepared for a career change to tech than you might think.
As someone working in law enforcement, you naturally possess strong problem-solving skills. Check out any tech job spec, and you will find that critical thinking and problem-solving skills are the top requirements.
Additionally, the tech industry is booming now with no end in sight. As a result, tech recruiters are always looking for fresh new talent. Last year alone, there were over 3.6 million postings in the U.S. for tech jobs, and in Europe, during Q3 2021, 19% of all job postings were tech.
If you are also thinking about staying within law enforcement, there are lots of options for tech-based jobs that are highly in demand. Job search websites like Indeed and SimplyHired quote 55+ tech law enforcement jobs alone. Jobs range from Law Enforcement Records Technicians, Evidence Technicians to Software Quality Engineers.
6 alternative careers for police officers in tech
Understanding your options and the different paths you can take to kick-start your career in tech is a critical first step. Now it’s time to look at some of the most in-demand tech jobs police officers can pursue and what you need to get there.
1. Computer Support Analyst
What they do: A computer/IT support analyst’s primary responsibilities include supporting end-users in resolving technical problems. Other tasks include developing performance checklists for recurring issues and developing recommendations for procedures to prevent problems.
Average Salary: $70,000 per year (Glassdoor)
What you already have: Critical thinking and problem-solving skills and the ability to work independently.
What you need: Strong proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite (PowerPoint, Word, Excel). As well as strong knowledge of Patch management systems and end-user desktop support. To get up to speed fast, consider enrolling in a business/marketing bootcamp.
2. Data Analyst
What they do: A Data Analyst’s main responsibilities include collecting, interpreting, and analyzing big chunks of data to find trends and patterns of information to optimize company performance. After analysis, you are responsible for reporting the results to your team and other company stakeholders.
Average Salary: $72,000 per year (Glassdoor)
What you already have: Ability to work under pressure and efficient multi-tasker. Strong presentation and communication skills.
What you need: A firm grasp of at least one statistical program such as SQL or SPSS. A portfolio showcasing your work is also a plus. To get up to speed fast, consider enrolling in a data analytics bootcamp.
3. Software Developer
What they do: A software developer’s primary responsibility is to aid in the innovation and creation of company software and programs. Software developers work alongside a team of programmers to code programs that meet the need of the company or client.
Average Salary: $102,000 per year (Glassdoor)
What you already have: A proactive approach to problem-solving and the ability to work independently and on a team.
4. UX/UI Designer
What they do: Daily, UX/UI designers focus on creating user-centered designs by understanding business requirements and user feedback. UX/UI designers are also responsible for designing UI elements for apps/websites, such as input controls, navigational components and informational components.
Average Salary: $101,000 per year (Glassdoor)
What you already have: Detail-oriented and strong team player who can collaborate effectively with different stakeholders.
5. Product Designer
What they do: On a high-level overview, Product Designers are responsible for creating design concepts and drawings to determine the best product. You also work closely with the engineering team to brainstorm and develop new product improvements.
Average Salary: $109,000 per year (Glassdoor)
What you already have: Excellent written and communication skills and good attention to detail.
What you need: A firm grasp of at least one graphic design software such as Figma or Adobe InDesign. A portfolio showcasing your work is also a plus. To get up to speed fast, consider enrolling in a product management or user experience design bootcamp.
6. Web Developer
What they do: On a day-to-day basis, Web Developers create well-designed websites and user interfaces that include mobile and responsive site design. Web Developers also focus on testing websites and addressing all browsers and devices to ensure various computers can access the content.
Average Salary: $74,000 per year (Glassdoor)
What you already have: Project management and organizational skills.
5 steps to starting your career transition from law enforcement
1. Age is just a number
It’s important to remember that career changers come from all ages. The average age a person changes careers is 39 years old, so don’t worry age is just a number.Finding the work you love can come at any point in your life. It’s important that you surround yourself with people that will be your support system to make the transition easier.
2. Take some time to learn
Chances are that you will need to reskill in one way or another to begin your career in tech. This is where you have two choices. You can either go back to full-time education at a university or choose a shorter, more affordable option like an online course or bootcamp from a trusted TechEd provider, like General Assembly.
It’s essential to choose the option that best fits your schedule and offers practical, real-world knowledge and resources you can utilize in your new job as soon as you graduate.
3. Highlight your transferable skills
As mentioned earlier in this blog, your transferable skills are a gold mine, especially for someone who is changing careers. The key to making your career change as smooth as possible is to build on the existing skills you’ve gained in law enforcement.
As a police officer, you already possess many excellent skills that will make your transition to tech easier. Some of the key transferable skills we recommend you highlight on your résume include:
- Communication skills
- Teamwork skills
- Ability to work independently
- Project management skills
- Critical thinking skills
- Problem-solving skills
4. Be patient
Patience is key. Changing careers takes time. Ensure that you are prepared to dedicate 3-6 months to getting yourself ready for your new tech gig.
The amount of time will also depend on the tech career you wish to pursue. For example, some tech jobs, like Web Developer, require more in-depth coding language knowledge, which may take more than six months to learn.
Regardless of how long it does take, remember to plan out your journey using SMART goals that will help to keep you on a steady path to a career in tech.
5. Build out your network
Last but not least is network building. Nobody likes facing new challenges alone. This is why it’s crucial to find people going through a similar experience.
Reach out to other students in your course or university. Remember to attend virtual or in-person networking events and build rapport with your instructors and teachers. Remember to utilize online networking tools like LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Telegram and Discord to connect with other career changers.
Getting out of law enforcement: take the first step today
Life is too short not to go after a career you will love t. Whether that means staying in a law enforcement-adjacent field or discovering your dream tech job, don’t be afraid to take the first step, it will be worth it.
Want to learn more? Download the ebook “Career Changers Guide to Doing Something Different” to start your career change journey.