Transitioning from a career in law enforcement to a new sector can be both exciting and daunting. This enormous change in your life requires navigating a wide range of opportunities and challenges.
Many professionals who are considering a shift from being a police officer to a new industry often wonder about how you can effectively leverage the skills that you have worked so hard to refine in a new position. You may also have considered which career paths best suit your aspirations.
We’ll answer some of your most frequently asked questions about a transition from law enforcement to private sector careers, as well as the assistance available to make this life change go more smoothly.
There are a number of skills acquired in law enforcement that are highly transferable to various sectors and industries in the private sector. Some of these skills include:
These skills, among others, make law enforcement professionals adaptable to various roles in the private sector. Highlighting these transferable skills in resumes, cover letters and interviews is key to showcasing their relevance in the desired industry or profession, which we’ll further discuss below.
In addition to some of the career paths we highlighted above, here are a few key jobs for retired cops who are looking for new positions that best align with their skills as police officers.
Both the roles of a police officer and teacher require a strong sense of responsibility, effective communication skills and the ability to manage challenging situations.
As a police officer, you often diffused conflicts and worked with people from all walks of life. This experience can be invaluable in the classroom, where you may work with students who come from diverse backgrounds.
Your role as a cop serving in a police department also dictates that you have excellent organizational skills, attention to detail and strong communication abilities - all attributes principals or hiring managers look for in new teachers. As a teacher, you’ll also fill a great need in the community, as many school districts are experiencing teacher shortages.
Many cities and states allow their officers to be eligible for retirement as early as their 50s if they entered the department in their early 20s, which could mean they have school-aged children. Teaching offers compatible work hours with your children’s schedules, as well as extended breaks during the summer and holidays. This can help improve your work-life balance, something many current officers aspire to achieve.
Police officers possess strong investigative skills and a knowledge of criminal law. For many cops, this experience in law enforcement has helped them improve their evidence-gathering and analysis skills … perfect for a second career as a private investigator.
Investigators work in the private sector and are hired by companies or individuals to perform surveillance, background checks or investigations involving internal matters like corporate theft. They must have great communication skills and be able to work independently.
On the other hand, a security consultant takes a more proactive role, helping businesses and organizations avoid potential security threats and other forms of crimes. This makes serving as a consultant one of the top alternative careers for police officers.
Your experience handling emergencies and crisis management can help your transition from law enforcement to the private sector go more smoothly.
Examples of a career in this field may include working in private security or finding employment with a cybersecurity agency.
Becoming a paralegal or other type of legal consultant is a natural progression. Your experience and knowledge in criminal law, legal procedures and evidence handling will help you interact with other players in the legal system.
In these positions, you may help attorneys prepare cases, perform legal research or assist with building strong legal strategies while upholding ethical standards.
It depends on what second career path you choose to transition to after ending your career as a police officer.
For instance, if you’re considering becoming a private investigator, some states require that you become licensed. You may need to complete additional coursework specific to private investigations to earn this license.
If you want to enter private security, you should earn certifications like the Certified Protection Professional - CPP to enhance your credibility.
In Texas, if you wish to become a teacher, you must earn your Texas teacher certification. This certification involves completing coursework (either online, in person or both), taking exams and passing background checks.
Suppose you already have a bachelor’s degree. In that case, you can enter an educator preparation program (EPP), allowing you to earn your Texas teaching credential in four to six months on average.
Even if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, you can still qualify for an EPP, whether you have an associate’s degree or no college degree at all. You must have full-time wage-earning experience and have a current professional licensure to teach Health Science Technology, Criminal Justice or Cosmetology.
You can read more about these requirements in our article, Teaching As A Second Career In Texas: 3 Things To Know.
Transitioning from a career within a law enforcement agency to another career in the private sector requires effectively showcasing your transferable skills and experiences. Here’s how you can highlight your strengths in your resume and during interviews:
Remember, the transition from law enforcement to another career is not solely about the technical skills but also about showcasing your passion, adaptability and commitment to making a difference and fulfilling goals. Tailoring your resume and interview approach to highlight these aspects will significantly strengthen your candidacy for a position.
You can review some more tips to creating a stand-out resume in our article, What Should In Include In An Elementary Teacher Resume?
Transitioning from law enforcement to a new career involves careful planning and preparation. To facilitate a smoother transition, it’s important to understand the educational qualifications and certifications required of you.
Connecting with current professionals in the industry you are considering can also help answer any questions or concerns you have.
Other ways you can ease the transition process include:
By taking proactive steps, seeking guidance and preparing yourself for the demands of a new field, you can significantly ease the transition from law enforcement to a rewarding career.
Depending on the industry, many resources are often available to assist you with successfully transitioning to a new career. These resources range from specialized training programs and mentorship opportunities to industry-specific organizations offering guidance and support.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) also offers resources and programs to support law enforcement officers in various career stages, including those considering retirement or career transitions.
If you’re considering a transition to the education field, an educator preparation program can be an invaluable resource to those transitioning from law enforcement to the private sector.
Organizations like ECAP regularly work with law enforcement officers who are transitioning into the private sector to help them with the certification process and to connect them with school districts in need of their experience.
Doing research, seeking guidance and asking pertinent questions are essential steps to ensure a smooth transition to a second career. Reaching out to relevant organizations and resources can provide invaluable insights and support as you navigate the transition from law enforcement to a new and fulfilling career path.
Scott is the Deputy Executive Director and Program Consultant. Scott earned a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology from Texas Woman's University and a Master of Education from Texas Woman's University. Scott has extensive experience in both the classroom and as an administrator in districts in North Texas.