Career Overview: Deputy Sheriff

What They Do

A deputy sheriff is a law enforcement officer who works for a sheriff’s department. Typically, deputy sheriffs are “deputized” by the sheriff, who is often the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in a county. Sheriffs are generally elected officials, while deputies perform the duties that are prescribed to the department by the state. The idea of a “sheriff” dates back to feudal England, and in the American tradition, it has taken on new meaning and responsibilities. Because the sheriff is an elected official, a deputy sheriff sometimes plays the role of a representative of the sheriff. Therefore, understanding and being sensitive to laws and the community in which a deputy works is paramount to success in this position.


Some deputy sheriffs perform the law enforcement tasks that correspond with the local police department. Criminal investigations and specialized law enforcement activities are most often within the purview of a deputy sheriff. Responsibilities relating to government facilities in a county, which can include guarding courthouses and prisoners, being present in courtrooms and transporting inmates to and from jail and court are all tasks relating to this role.

Career Growth

The role of the sheriff’s department has been evolving in the last few years. New career opportunities for individuals with specific skills and knowledge are now available. Diving, piloting, boating, communication technology, emergency medicine, computer science and foreign language skills are all considered to be attractive qualities in a prospective deputy sheriff.

Salary Potential

A deputy sheriff generally makes around the same salary as a police officer, about $54,000 a year. Uniformed law enforcement officers are offered many benefits and often have a lower retirement age because of long hours and intense responsibilities. The lowest 10 percent of these jobs offer an annual income around $34,000 a year, while the highest salaries are about $64,000. A deputy sheriff’s salary is usually based on experience, job performance, time served and the reviews of higher officers. Incremental salary increases are awarded to deputy sheriffs who do well on the job and prove to be essential members of their department.


The educational requirements of a deputy sheriff depend on the locality of the sheriff’s department. Typically, the minimum requirement for a new recruit is at least a high school diploma or the equivalent. Passing a civil service exam is also a general requirement in the hiring process. Some sheriff training programs partner with colleges and universities to equip future deputy sheriffs with the required skills and knowledge via both academic study and hands-on training. A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can give distinction to an individual pursuing this career path.