There are few positions in law enforcement whose excitement level is as romanticised as members of the special weapons and tactics force (usually referred to as the SWAT team). Trained for high-risk situations that require a quick response using paramilitary tactics, SWAT officers' duties are among the most dangerous on a police force -- and police officers in general have one of the highest rates of on-the-job injury of any occupation, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Like any other profession, many variables affect the salaries of SWAT team members. Geography plays the highest impact on their salary base, with officers in areas with a higher cost of living earning more than those in more affordable parts of the country. Funding for local law enforcement also plays a significant factor -- some parts of the country simply have more money budgeted for police services, allowing them to pay their officers more. Salaries reported and indexed do not normalise earnings using the cost-of-living index.
Average Salaries - SWAT Projections
As of November 2010, nationwide average salaries for SWAT officers was £41,600, according to Simply Hired. That's 168 per cent of the average police officer's pay during the same sampling period.
Average Salaries - General Police Officers
The U.S. Department of Labor doesn't track the salaries of officers who serve on a SWAT team, although it has wide aggregate data about police officer salaries across the nation. Patrol officers, who frequently also serve on SWAT teams, made median earnings of £33,416 in 2008, the most recent year with adequate data, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Half of all patrol officers earned between £25,252 and £42,211. SWAT team members usually draw the same salary as a patrolman, according to Pearson Higher Education.
Requirements and Training
Before becoming a SWAT team member, an officer must be hired as a patrol officer, which requires a high-school diploma and, in some cases, some levels of secondary education or a college degree. SWAT officers must receive additional training beyond police-academy training, and are usually required to keep updating their training, a requirement similarly earning patrol officers don't face.
Average salary figures may not accurately represent the earnings of police officers and SWAT members, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Because many officers and SWAT team members work significant amounts of overtime or contracted for private security, their year-end earnings may be much higher than average-salary figures suggest in some areas.
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