A sheriff is the main law enforcement officer for a county. The office of sheriff is an elected position in most counties, usually for a four-year term, but many sheriffs are appointed to the post.

To run and serve as sheriff, candidates must meet a minimum age requirement (usually 18), have residence within the jurisdiction, U.S. citizenship and no criminal record. Some physical requirements will also be required to assure the candidate’s ability to perform the job.

Degrees for Sheriffs

The position of sheriff is most often an elected office. While there are no formal degrees dedicated to or required for the post, a degree in criminal justice or related area of study is often preferred. Earning a degree online or on campus can provide a candidate with both the credentials and the training necessary to be an effective sheriff.

Sheriff Job Description

The sheriff and his deputies have all the powers and responsibilities of police officers, plus the authority to summon private citizens to various judicial duties. The duties of a sheriff vary from county to county and from state to state, but usually they include the following:

  • Patrol a specified jurisdiction
  • Investigate crimes or suspicious behavior
  • Make arrests
  • Perform activities outside city limits
  • Appoint and hire deputies for long-term employment
  • Summon citizens into a temporarily deputized posse to hunt for fugitives, search for missing persons or maintain the peace

Other sheriff responsibilities can include operating the county jail, controlling and transporting prisoners, providing courthouse security, and dispatching county emergency agencies such as fire and ambulance services.

As an officer of the court, a sheriff is subject to the court’s orders and direction. He or she can serve writs, processes and summonses issued by county and state courts, conduct auction sales of foreclosed property and seize chattel property to satisfy court judgments.

Sheriff Salary

Earning a degree in criminal justice can help advance the career options and salary of a sheriff. Figures released by indicate that a sheriff’s pay scale is similar to that of an urban police chief, but wages can vary widely depending on location and experience. The median expected salary for a sheriff averaged out to $92,305 per year.

Related Careers

  • Deputy Sheriff

    A deputy sheriff provides support for sheriffs in enforcing law at the county level, fulfilling similar responsibilities to officers in urban police departments. Learn more about deputy sheriffs here.

Get Matched With Schools