CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a sheriff.

Step 1

Is becoming a sheriff right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do sheriffs do?
Career Satisfaction
Are sheriffs happy with their careers?
What are sheriffs like?

Still unsure if becoming a sheriff is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a sheriff or another similar career!

Described by our users as being “shockingly accurate”, you might discover careers you haven’t thought of before.

Step 2

High School

If you're interested in becoming a sheriff, there are a few courses that you might consider taking in high school to help prepare you for this career path. Here are some suggestions:

  • Criminal Justice: A course in criminal justice can give you an introduction to the legal system and law enforcement procedures. This can be a good foundation for a career in law enforcement.
  • Government and Civics: Understanding how government works and the rights of citizens can be helpful in a career as a sheriff.
  • Psychology and Sociology: A basic understanding of human behavior and social interactions can help you better communicate with the public and de-escalate situations.
  • Physical Education: Being physically fit and having endurance is essential in law enforcement, so taking classes that promote physical activity can be helpful.
  • Communications: Communication skills are important in any law enforcement role. Taking classes in public speaking or writing can help improve your ability to communicate effectively.
  • Foreign Language: Learning a foreign language can be beneficial for interacting with a diverse population and in certain situations.

It's also important to note that becoming a sheriff typically requires a college degree in criminal justice or a related field, as well as completing a law enforcement training program. High school courses can provide a foundation for these higher education and training requirements.

Step 3

Sheriff or Police Academy

A sheriff or police academy is a training program for individuals who are interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement. These academies are typically run by state or local law enforcement agencies and provide a comprehensive training program that covers a range of topics related to law enforcement.

The training typically lasts several months and covers topics such as criminal law, investigation techniques, firearms training, physical fitness, and defensive tactics. Students also learn about the ethics of law enforcement and the role of law enforcement in society.

In addition to classroom instruction, sheriff and police academies also include hands-on training, such as scenario-based exercises and simulations, to prepare students for real-world situations they may encounter on the job.

Completing a sheriff or police academy is typically a requirement for becoming a law enforcement officer. Upon completion of the academy, graduates may be required to pass additional tests or undergo a probationary period before being certified as law enforcement officers and beginning their careers in the field.

Step 4


The amount of experience required to become a sheriff can vary depending on the state and the specific sheriff's department. In some cases, a minimum amount of experience as a law enforcement officer may be required, while in other cases, it may not be a requirement at all.

In general, sheriffs are elected officials who oversee a county's law enforcement department, so the qualifications for the position are typically determined by state law and the requirements of the individual county. Some counties may require candidates for sheriff to have a certain amount of experience as a law enforcement officer, while others may prioritize other qualifications such as leadership experience or education.

That being said, having experience as a law enforcement officer can certainly be beneficial for a candidate seeking to become a sheriff. Experience in law enforcement can provide a foundation of knowledge and skills that can be useful in a leadership role. It can also help candidates gain the respect and support of their colleagues in law enforcement.

Ultimately, the best way to determine the specific requirements for becoming a sheriff in a particular state or county is to consult the relevant state and local laws and regulations, as well as the requirements of the individual sheriff's department.

Step 5

Election or Appointment

The process for selecting a sheriff can vary depending on the state and the specific county. In some states, sheriffs are appointed by a governing body such as the county board of commissioners, while in other states, they are elected by the public.

In states where sheriffs are elected, candidates for the position typically run for office during a general election. This means that any qualified candidate can run for sheriff, and the public votes for the candidate they believe is best suited for the job.

In states where sheriffs are appointed, the process for selecting a sheriff may involve a committee or board that reviews applications and makes a recommendation to the governing body responsible for appointing the sheriff.

Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. In an election, the public has a say in who is selected to lead their law enforcement department, which can promote accountability and transparency. However, it can also lead to the politicization of law enforcement, and candidates who are skilled at campaigning may be elected over more qualified candidates.

On the other hand, an appointment process may allow for a more objective and merit-based selection of a sheriff, but it can also be subject to favoritism and political influence.

Ultimately, the method for selecting a sheriff is determined by state law and the specific requirements of the individual county.

Step 6

Formal Education

In addition to a high school diploma, many counties require sheriffs to have some level of formal education, such as an associate or bachelor's degree. This education can be in a field related to law enforcement, such as criminal justice, or it can be in a related field such as public administration or business.

Having a formal education can provide candidates for sheriff with a broader understanding of the issues and challenges facing law enforcement, as well as provide them with critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are essential for leadership roles.

However, it is important to note that while formal education can be beneficial for a career as a sheriff, it is not the only factor considered in the selection process. Experience, leadership skills, and other qualifications are also important considerations. In some cases, experience may be given more weight than formal education.

Ultimately, the requirements for becoming a sheriff are determined by state law and the specific requirements of the individual county. Prospective candidates should review the specific requirements for their state and county to determine what education or qualifications are needed to become a sheriff.

Step 7

Specialized Training Programs

There are many different types of specialized training programs available for sheriffs, depending on the specific needs of their community and jurisdiction. Here are a few examples:

  • Crisis Intervention Training: This type of training is designed to help sheriffs and other law enforcement officers handle situations involving individuals with mental health or substance abuse issues. It covers techniques for de-escalating situations, identifying signs of crisis, and communicating effectively with individuals in crisis.
  • Community Policing: Community policing is an approach to law enforcement that emphasizes building relationships with community members and working collaboratively to prevent crime. Sheriffs can attend specialized training programs on community policing to learn about strategies for building trust with community members, implementing problem-solving approaches to crime prevention, and promoting positive interactions between law enforcement and the community.
  • Homeland Security Training: Homeland security training programs are designed to help sheriffs and other law enforcement officers identify and respond to threats to national security, including terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and cyber threats. Training may cover topics such as emergency response planning, intelligence gathering, and communication strategies.
  • Investigative Training: Investigative training programs can help sheriffs and their deputies develop skills in criminal investigation, including techniques for gathering and analyzing evidence, conducting interviews, and building cases for prosecution.
  • Cybercrime Training: As technology continues to play a larger role in our lives, sheriffs may need specialized training in cybercrime investigation and prevention. This can include training on computer forensics, cybercrime law, and techniques for investigating online fraud and other digital crimes.

These are just a few examples of the many specialized training programs available for sheriffs. It's important for sheriffs to stay up-to-date with the latest training opportunities in order to effectively serve their communities.