How to Become a Sheriff

To become a sheriff, it is best to chalk out a career in law enforcement or the criminal justice system. Most people who have become sheriffs earlier served in different positions within the criminal justice system--although there may be a few exceptions.

Election of Sheriffs

In most counties, sheriffs are not appointed but elected to that position. Being elected sheriff generally depends upon having an exemplary record of service in criminal justice. This is nothing surprising, as the nature of sheriffs' work is mostly similar to the duties of local police chiefs. Certain counties also entrust sheriffs with additional responsibilities like those of tax collector, prison warden and coroner.

Know the Requisite Qualifications of a Sheriff

If it is your ambition to become a sheriff, you must first know the qualifications required to apply for the position. Each state and county has its own set of qualifying conditions, but one essential requirement is you be a U.S. citizen. You must possess a high school diploma or GED and have an impeccable record of conduct with absolutely no convictions for even petty offenses. Most counties prescribe the minimum age qualification as between 18 and 21.

As some counties insist on additional certification from the police academy in subjects like prison security, civil laws and court procedures, it is preferable to obtain a diploma in law enforcement from the police academy. It is the norm for sheriffs and sheriffs at the deputy level to start their career as probation officers, police officers or members of a police patrol team.

Gain Experience and Expertise

You obviously cannot become a sheriff overnight. Instead, be prepared to work your way to that position. Your career path could commence with being a police officer; that could be followed by an elevation to deputy sheriff. The career path could be strenuous, as you will be required to pass the evaluation tests, such as a complete background check, a polygraph test and even psychological and medical examinations. You may also have to visit the various law enforcement facilities within the county.

The majority of sheriffs served as deputy sheriffs before getting elected to the higher office. Prior experience as a deputy sheriff with a degree in criminal justice will provide you a distinct advantage over others in the race to the position of sheriff.

Try to Excel in Your Career as Police Officer

Aspirants must try to rank higher in their careers and get recognized for their meritorious service. They must actively participate in safety campaigns organized by communities and other social activities. As sheriffs are usually appointed or elected, they must have an enviable track record to impress the electorate.

Understand the Job Profile

Before you set your heart on becoming a sheriff, you must thoroughly understand the job profile and satisfy yourself you can efficiently discharge the duties. Please bear in mind that the host of different tasks a sheriff may be called upon to perform will include probing crimes, serving summons on suspects or running a correctional home. Sheriffs are also responsible for identifying and preventing threats to public security and for detaining offenders.