Before you decide to make a run for sheriff, make sure you are actually qualified to run. Contact your secretary of state or county clerk for specific requirements needed to run.
This article will give you the basics on the skills and qualifications you need to become a sheriff.
Common qualifications for becoming a sheriff
There are many ways to be qualified to be a sheriff. The most common way is through experience as a police officer in another organization or position. Another way is by working within law enforcement and gaining experience in all levels of policing such as patrol, corrections, investigative work and management positions.
To be an eligible sheriff candidate, you must generally meet the following requirements:
- Minimum age of 18 or 21.
- U.S. citizen / residing in the county or state.
- Education requirements: High school diploma or GED.
- Certain professional certifications or job training.
- No felony convictions.
- Certified law enforcement officer, corrections or other police experience.
- Certain physical requirements of stamina and strength.
- Leadership, empathy, good judgment.
Sheriff job skill requirements
Sheriffs are in charge of protecting and overseeing law enforcement in the United States, and the skill they should emphasize to be successful are leadership, public speaking, experience, and management skills.
Leadership is extremely important for sheriffs because they need to make sure that their team is working together well and that their subordinates know what to do in tough situations. Experience with law enforcement or other related fields is crucial because it will help them understand current problems that people face. Management skills are needed too because sheriffs need to organize the other members of their team so that they can get things done.
They also need public speaking skills to communicate with people who are upset or angry. It is also important for sheriffs to have experience in law, police work and community outreach.
Law enforcement experience also helps. Sheriffs may be required to work in a variety of settings and under different circumstances. This often includes working with individuals experiencing mental health crises or substance abuse issues. Or it may involve working in challenging environments such as correctional facilities or remote rural areas.
Regardless of the settings, sheriffs must maintain a professional demeanor while keeping the safety and security of citizens their top priority.
Sheriff salary and employment outlook
Sheriff salaries can vary greatly depending on location and experience, but it typically falls between $50K-$70K per year before benefits.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for police and detectives was $67,290 as of May 2020. The job outlook for law enforcement careers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, which is faster than the average for all occupations.
There are more than 13,000 sheriffs in the United States and they all come with different levels of responsibility based on their location and jurisdiction. For example, sheriffs of larger counties may supervise various departments (e.g., civil process, corrections) while sheriffs of smaller counties may only enforce traffic laws.
How to become a sheriff
Exactly how you can become a sheriff will depend on your local laws. For example, in some areas a physical fitness test is not required; in other areas, it is. Not every requirement is necessary to qualify for the role.
Some job requirements are more helpful than others. For example, a degree in criminal justice or law enforcement experience can go a long way toward becoming a sheriff.
Not every working sheriff is elected by the public. But if your position is selected by voters, then what it takes to get the job another dimension.
Campaigning for the position
In the political world, money is the blood of campaigning. That means fundraising is a necessary evil. Consider how you will raise money and advertising early on. If you are running against an incumbent, you will have an idea of what monetary goals you are up against. You will want to match – and hopefully exceed – your opponent’s fundraising efforts.
More and more sheriff candidates are using social media and campaign websites as a way to raise campaign donations. Social media is also important in getting name recognition out to the voting public.
Writing checks used to be the golden standard for donation gathering. Today, online donations taken over as the preferred payment method. An analysis by The Campaign Finance Institute shows that the average online supporter gives less than $200 per donation – but they more likely to donate multiple times over the duration of the campaign.
Make sure that you know and follow any local election fundraising requirements. At the very least, there are probably single-person contribution limits.
Grow your political backing
Gaining the support of local organization can help tap into potential votes from its members. Backing can also come from personal, professional and business contacts. Can you tap into business groups, labor organizations or ethnic communities?
Getting the support of an organization will likely be the culmination of a relationship. If you are planning a sheriff candidacy in the future, start making contacts and building relationships today.
Get a thick skin
Sheriff campaigns are notorious for being nasty affairs. Personal attacks, attacks on family, ethics, business and personal matters are the norm. If you don’t think you can handle the stress on yourself or your family, you may want to reconsider being a candidate.
Read on to learn more on how to run for sheriff.
- The United States Deputy Sheriffs’ Association: National organization dedicated to the support of law enforcement, their families, and their communities.
- National Sheriffs’ Association: A professional association dedicated to serving the Office of Sheriff and its affiliates through law enforcement education and training.