How To Become a Sheriff

The role of a sheriff is usually an elected position, i.e. you will need to contest and win the local county election in order to be appointed as sheriff. Terms may differ from state to state, but are usually between two to six years.

A sheriff is a law enforcement officer who usually manages law enforcement activity in a prescribed jurisdiction, usually small towns, rural areas or counties. Within that jurisdiction, the sheriff is responsible for maintaining law and order, managing administration of the local jail system, as well as taking care of civil administration within the local court circuit or system. In large towns and cities, these jobs are managed by separate departments on account of size and multiple demographics.

Here’s some helpful information on how to become a sheriff.

Job role/duties

  • Enforcement of law to protect life and property;
  • Administration and enforcement of traffic laws;
  • Civil administration of local penal and court systems;
  • Carry out criminal investigations and apprehend suspects;
  • Implement town/county ordinances.

Eligibility criteria
Candidates must pass the following eligibility criteria:

  • Be a US citizen, aged 21 or above;
  • Minimum educational qualifications are a high school diploma or a GED equivalent, though an associate or graduate degree, preferably in criminal justice, is highly desirable and helps in climbing up the career ladder.
  • Attend a sheriff or police training academy, pass the prescribed civil service examination, clear physical and endurance strength tests, attend an interview and clear background checks.

Once accepted in a sheriff’s training program, candidates undergo a rigorous training program where they receive both theoretical and practical training, covering the following subjects:

  1. Legal: Civil, criminal and constitutional law; state and local laws and ordinances;
  2. Investigative techniques, forensics and interrogative training;
  3. Patrol, traffic control, crowd management, first-aid and emergency response;
  4. Firearms training, handling explosive devices, self-defense, etc.

Training programs can last for up to 12-14 weeks, depending on state policies and procedures. On successful completion of training, you will be sworn in as a sheriff and you then need to look for openings within the state; if it is an elected position, you must file your nomination papers and win the election to be appointed as sheriff. More information on becoming a sheriff, career path and opportunities for promotion is provided by the National Sheriff’s Association at their official web site  You can also improve your chances of becoming a sheriff by obtaining additional credits in criminal justice by taking continuing education courses online.


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