By Matthew Loux, Faculty Member, Criminal Justice at American Military University
This article is part of In Public Safety’s September focus on career transitions.
Before deciding to retire or leave a career in law enforcement, be sure to fully understand your financial needs. Start by contacting the human relations (HR) department to get a full explanation of any benefits you may be entitled to, including retirement salary and benefits.
[Related Article: How to Turn $10 into a Comfortable Retirement]
Be sure to ask about healthcare options. Many officers are entitled to healthcare for the remainder of their lives, which is a great benefit and something that can be considered in salary negotiations with your next employer. If you have any allotments for long-term care, dental or vision insurance, disability insurance, life insurance, or other items, be sure to factor that into your decision-making process as well.
Once you understand the financial benefits you will receive, calculate your monthly expenses. This difference between what you will receive and your expenses, either a surplus or deficit, will help you determine what you need to earn during retirement to live the lifestyle you want.
Once you have determined what you want to live on, you can then move into a more intense career fact-finding mission. Here are a few important steps to consider:
- Evaluate your strengths, skills, and training. Spend time evaluating your own personality and write it down so you can better understand what careers might be a match for you. Visit websites to help you determine your skills and your strengths.
- List potential careers that you are passionate about and go online to review the job descriptions and qualifications. Identify any gaps in your education or training that you may need to fulfill before pursuing that career.
- Consider the location of jobs. If your ideal job is located somewhere other than where you reside, you must consider relocating, which can complicate matters. Be sure to identify moving expenses and other factors of relocating, such as career obstacles for your spouse, school systems, and the cost of living.
- Talk to people who currently work in the field, and find out more about potential companies and if they’re hiring. Be sure to consider things like job security, work schedule, commute times, telework opportunities, and incentives such as fitness rewards, bonuses, paid training, and vacation and sick time.
- Once you narrow the list of locations, jobs, salary, and other factors, you can list your options and try to dig even deeper to make an informed decision. Be sure to talk it over with your family and make them part of the decision-making process.
- Consider part-time work. Can you work in your desired field on a part-time basis while you’re still employed? While this is depends on your current employer, it’s a great way to understand a new field.
Careers to Consider
As many law enforcement officers have supervision and teaching experience, you may consider education as a possible career choice. Take time to review the career websites for teaching positions at local universities as well as online. Don’t limit yourself to criminal justice programs; there are opportunities in education, computer science, and other specialties that may match your interests.
Another good option is starting your own business. There are many blogs, podcasts, books, and websites to help you determine if this is a viable option. You could be your own boss, work remotely, and have a flexible schedule. This option isn’t easy, but can often be very rewarding.
Plan well in advance and try to consider all the possible outcomes. You may find that you are not ready to retire due to your retirement salary or that the career you thought you would like isn’t actually a good fit for you. Remember, retirement or career transition will be difficult, but with proper planning you can make the transition much easier. Best of luck with your job hunt!
About the Author: Matt Loux has been in law enforcement for more than 20 years and has a background in fraud and criminal investigation, as well as hospital, school, and network security. Matt has researched and studied law enforcement and security best practices for the past 10 years.