SWAT Team Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a SWAT team career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary information to see if becoming a SWAT team member is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a SWAT Team Career

A Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team is elite squad of law enforcement officers of a local, state or federal police force or agency. Check out some of the details of a career as a SWAT team member at a glance:

SWAT Team Member
Career Overview SWAT team members deal tactically with emergency and life-threatening situations that call for extraordinary measures.
Education Requirements High school diploma and graduation from police academy
Program Length Duration varies for police training academy programs and SWAT training
Experience Required Experience as a conventional officer; duration determined by the individual department
Job Outlook for 2012-2022 Slower than average (5%) compared to all occupations*
Median Annual Salary (2014) $56,810*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

SWAT Team Member

As a member of a SWAT team, you're in the assault vanguard of a force designed to confront circumstances that threaten citizen's lives and property. As a part of a well tuned paramilitary arm of a police force or agency, you're specially trained and conditioned to handle extremely dangerous, stressful situations. SWAT team duties can vary according to training, the nature of the occurrence and departmental jurisdiction. Some SWAT members are trained in specialized tasks, such as sniping and crisis negotiation. Along with using lethal and non-lethal weapons to protect the public, these workers write up reports of incidents, testify in court and often serve other roles within the police force, such as detective or traffic patrol.

Requirements

Becoming a SWAT member takes extensive experience as a police officer. To become a police officer, you'll generally need to be 21 years of age and hold a high school diploma or its equivalent. Some departments require a certain amount of postsecondary education or an associate's degree in a major like police science or law enforcement. Federal agencies require their officers to hold bachelor's degrees. Once accepted by a department or agency as a recruit, you must graduate from its police training academy and pass a background check, as well as meeting physical fitness, psychological and medical standards. After academy training, you'll likely be assigned to a unit for a probationary period, after which you'll become a full-fledged law enforcement officer.

The amount of time you'll have to serve as a police officer before qualifying for promotion to SWAT depends on the department and the availability of open SWAT positions. Additionally, throughout your career as a SWAT member, you'll be required to undergo continual, year-round training, including practicing firearms use, self-defense tactics and crowd control.

Since SWAT team members are selected from a pool of experienced police officers, employers generally don't advertise publicly for SWAT team openings. In light of that, below are examples of police officer job listings available in December 2012:

  • A police department in Texas was looking for officer candidates between 20.5-45 years of age who are U.S. citizens with no more than two traffic violations in the previous 12 months. Candidates were to either hold a high school diploma or GED with an additional 12 college credit hours, all with at least a C average. After one year of patrol work, candidates could apply to the SWAT team.
  • The federal army sought a civilian police officer to work at its military installation in Alaska and participate in SWAT. Candidates were to have at least one year of qualifying work experience at the federal level or nine months of specialized experience and have completed a civilian police academy program. Candidates who held a bachelor's degree in an area such as police science were also considered.
  • A police department in California was seeking a candidate for police officer who was between 20.5-70 years of age and held a driver's license and high school diploma or GED and. Candidates must have completed at least 60 college credits or hold an associate's degree. Candidates must also have uncorrected 20/40 vision and not have any convictions for a felony or similar offense.

Standing Out

In order to increase employment mobility from local to state to federal departments or agencies, you may want to earn a bachelor's degree in police science or a related area. In addition, while accumulating required job experience on patrol, you may find it to your advantage to volunteer for extra training classes in areas that are pertinent to SWAT operations. By keeping yourself in top physical condition and honing your marksmanship skills to perfection, you can further stand out from your competition and be ready for any SWAT team openings. Becoming qualified on a number of different weapons may also serve to increase your chances for team selection.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Criminal Justice
      • MSCJ: Leadership & Executive Management
      • MS in Homeland Security and Emergency Management
      • MSCJ: Corrections
      • MSCJ: Global Issues in Criminal Justice
    Bachelor's
      • BSCJ: Law Enforcement
      • BS in Corrections
      • Bachelor: Criminal Justice
      • BSCJ: Homeland Security
      • BSCJ: Juvenile Justice
      • BSCJ: Crime Scene Investigation
    Associate's
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
      • AAS in Public Safety and Security
      • AAS in Criminal Justice and Criminology
  • Online Programs Available
    2. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Forensic Science
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Corrections and Case Management
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Generalist
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Homeland Security and Crisis Management
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Homeland Security: Leadership & Policy
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Criminal Justice
      • PhD in Business Admin - Homeland Security: Leadership & Policy
      • PhD in Business Admin - Criminal Justice
    Master's
      • MBA - Homeland Security
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Criminal Justice
      • MBA - Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Criminal Justice - Federal Law Enforcement Track
      • MS - Criminal Justice
      • MS Criminal Justice with Homeland Security Specialization
      • MS in Criminal Justice - Intelligence & Crime Analysis Track
      • MS Criminal Justice with Behavior Analysis Specialization
      • MS in Criminal Justice - Behavior Management Track
    Certificate
      • Post-master's Certificate in Criminal Justice - Behavior Analysis
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
      • MS in Leadership: Disaster Preparedness & Executive Fire Leadership
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Public Safety and Emergency Management
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
      • Undergraduate Specialization - Criminal Forensics
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Criminal Justice
      • B.A. - Homeland Security
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
      • Associate of Arts - Homeland Security
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Certificate in Government Analytics
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor - Management - Criminal Justice
      • Doctorate: Management - Homeland Security
    Master's
      • M.S. - Criminal Justice
      • Master: Management - Homeland Security
      • Master of Science in Homeland Security - Emergency Management and Public Health
      • Master of Science in Homeland Security
      • Master of Science in Criminal Justice - Homeland Security
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Criminal Justice
      • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Cybercrime and Security
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Public Administration - Criminal Justice
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. Criminal Justice
      • B.S. General Studies - Criminal Justice
    Associate's
      • A.S. Criminal Justice
      • A.S. General Studies - Criminal Justice
    Certificate
      • Undergraduate Certificate - Criminal Justice

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Criminal Justice
  • BSCJ: Law Enforcement
  • Associate: Criminal Justice

Which subject are you interested in?

American InterContinental University

  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
  • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Forensic Science
  • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

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Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Homeland Security: Leadership & Policy
  • Doctor of Business Admin - Criminal Justice
  • MBA - Homeland Security
  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Criminal Justice - Federal Law Enforcement Track
  • MS - Criminal Justice
  • Post-master's Certificate in Criminal Justice - Behavior Analysis

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • MS in Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
  • MS in Leadership: Disaster Preparedness & Executive Fire Leadership
  • Bachelor: Public Safety and Emergency Management

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
  • BS - Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Admin
  • Undergraduate Specialization - Criminal Forensics

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Criminal Justice
  • B.A. - Homeland Security
  • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts - Homeland Security

What is your highest level of education?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Certificate in Government Analytics

What is your highest level of education?