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Working as a Records Officer

What Does a Records Officer Do

Police officers protect lives and property. Detectives and criminal investigators, who are sometimes called agents or special agents, gather facts and collect evidence of possible crimes.

Duties

Police officers, detectives, and criminal investigators typically do the following:

  • Enforce laws
  • Respond to emergency and nonemergency calls
  • Patrol assigned areas
  • Conduct traffic stops and issue citations
  • Search for vehicle records and warrants using computers in the field
  • Obtain warrants and arrest suspects
  • Collect and secure evidence from crime scenes
  • Observe the activities of suspects
  • Write detailed reports and fill out forms
  • Prepare cases and testify in court

Police officers pursue and apprehend people who break the law. They then warn, cite, or arrest them. Most police officers patrol their jurisdictions and investigate suspicious activity. They also respond to calls, issue traffic tickets, and give first aid to accident victims.

Detectives perform investigative duties, such as gathering facts and collecting evidence.

The daily activities of police and detectives vary with their occupational specialty, such as canine units and special weapons and tactics (SWAT). Job duties differ at the local, state, or federal level. Duties differ among federal agencies because they enforce different aspects of the law. Regardless of job duties or location, police officers and detectives at all levels must write reports and keep detailed records that will be needed if they testify in court. Most carry law enforcement tools, such as radios, handcuffs, and guns.

State and Local Law Enforcement

Uniformed police officers have general law enforcement duties. They wear uniforms that allow the public to easily recognize them as police officers. They have regular patrols and also respond to emergency and nonemergency calls. During patrols, officers look for any signs of criminal activity and may conduct searches and arrest suspected criminals.

Some police officers work only on a specific type of crime, such as narcotics. Officers, especially those working in large departments, may work in special units, such as horseback, motorcycle, canine corps, and special weapons and tactics (SWAT). Typically, officers must work as patrol officers for a certain number of years before they may be appointed to a special unit.

Some agencies, such as public college and university police forces, public school police, and transit police, have special geographic and enforcement responsibilities.

State police officers, sometimes called state troopers or highway patrol officers, have many of the same duties as other police officers, but they may spend more time enforcing traffic laws and issuing traffic citations. State police officers have authority to work anywhere in the state and are frequently called on to help other law enforcement agencies, especially those in rural areas or small towns.

Transit and railroad police patrol railroad yards and transit stations. They protect property, employees, and passengers from crimes such as thefts and robberies. They remove trespassers from railroad and transit properties and check IDs of people who try to enter secure areas. 

Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs enforce the law on the county level. Sheriffs’ departments tend to be relatively small. Sheriffs are usually elected by the public and do the same work as a local or county police chief. Some sheriffs’ departments do the same work as officers in urban police departments. Others mainly operate the county jails and provide services in local courts. Police and sheriffs’ deputies who provide security in city and county courts are sometimes called bailiffs.

Detectives and criminal investigators are uniformed or plainclothes investigators who gather facts and collect evidence for criminal cases. They conduct interviews, examine records, observe the activities of suspects, and participate in raids and arrests. Detectives usually specialize in investigating one type of crime, such as homicide or fraud. Detectives are typically assigned cases on a rotating basis and work on them until an arrest and trial are completed or until the case is dropped.

Fish and game wardens enforce fishing, hunting, and boating laws. They patrol fishing and hunting areas, conduct search and rescue operations, investigate complaints and accidents, and educate the public about laws pertaining to the outdoors. Federal fish and game wardens are often referred to as Federal Wildlife Officers.

Federal Law Enforcement

Federal law enforcement officials carry out many of the same duties that other police officers do, and they also have jurisdiction over the entire country. Many federal agents are highly specialized. The following are examples of federal agencies in which officers and agents enforce particular types of laws.

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents are the federal government's principal investigators, responsible for enforcing more than 200 categories of federal statutes and conducting sensitive national security investigations.
  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents enforce laws and regulations relating to illegal drugs.
  • United States Secret Service uniformed officers protect the President, the Vice President, their immediate families, and other public officials. Other Secret Service agents investigate financial crimes.
  • Federal Air Marshals provide air security by guarding against attacks targeting U.S. aircraft, passengers, and crews.
  • U.S. Border Patrol agents protect the U.S. land and sea boundaries.

See the Contacts for More Info section for additional information about federal law enforcement agencies.

How To Become a Records Officer

Education requirements range from a high school diploma to a college degree. Most police and detectives must graduate from their agency’s training academy before completing a period of on-the-job training. Candidates must be U.S. citizens, usually at least 21 years old, and able to meet rigorous physical and personal qualification standards. A felony conviction or drug use may disqualify a candidate.

Education

Police and detective applicants must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent, although many federal agencies and some police departments require some college coursework or a college degree. Many community colleges, 4-year colleges, and universities offer programs in law enforcement and criminal justice, and agencies may offer financial assistance to officers who pursue these, or related, degrees. Knowledge of a foreign language is an asset in many federal agencies and geographical regions.

Fish and game wardens applying for federal jobs with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service typically need a college degree; and those applying to work for a state’s natural resources department often need a high school diploma or some college study in a related field, such as biology or natural resources management.

Federal agencies typically require a bachelor's degree. For example, FBI and DEA special agent applicants are often college graduates.

State and local agencies encourage applicants to continue their education after high school, by taking courses and training related to law enforcement. Many applicants for entry-level police jobs have taken some college classes, and a significant number are college graduates. Many community colleges, 4-year colleges, and universities offer programs in law enforcement and criminal justice. Many agencies offer financial assistance to officers who pursue these or related degrees.

Training

Candidates for appointment usually attend a training academy before becoming an officer. Training includes classroom instruction in state and local laws and constitutional law, civil rights, and police ethics. Recruits also receive training and supervised experience in areas such as patrol, traffic control, firearm use, self-defense, first aid, and emergency response.

Federal law enforcement agents undergo extensive training, usually at the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, or at a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Detectives normally begin their careers as police officers before being promoted to detective.

FBI special agent applicants typically must have at least 3 years of professional work experience in areas ranging from computer science to accounting.

Other Experience

Some police departments have cadet programs for people interested in a career in law enforcement who do not yet meet age requirements for becoming an officer. These cadets do clerical work and attend classes until they reach the minimum age requirement and can apply for a position with the regular force. Military or police experience may be considered beneficial for potential cadets.

Cadet candidates must be U.S. citizens, usually be at least 21 years old, have a driver’s license, and meet specific physical qualifications. Applicants may have to pass physical exams of vision, hearing, strength, and agility, as well as written exams. Previous work or military experience is often seen as a plus. Candidates typically go through a series of interviews and may be asked to take lie detector and drug tests. A felony conviction may disqualify a candidate.

Advancement

Police officers usually become eligible for promotion after a probationary period. Promotions to corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, and captain usually are made according to a candidate's position on a promotion list, as determined by scores on a written examination and on-the-job performance. In large departments, promotion may enable an officer to become a detective or to specialize in one type of police work, such as working with juveniles.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Police, detectives, and fish and game wardens must be able to speak with people when gathering facts about a crime and to express details about a given incident in writing.

Empathy. Police officers need to understand the perspectives of a wide variety of people in their jurisdiction and have a willingness to help the public.

Good judgment. Police and detectives must be able to determine the best way to solve a wide array of problems quickly.

Leadership skills. Police officers must be comfortable with being a highly visible member of their community, as the public looks to them for assistance in emergency situations.

Perceptiveness. Officers, detectives, and fish and game wardens must be able to anticipate a person’s reactions and understand why people act a certain way.

Physical stamina. Officers and detectives must be in good physical shape, both to pass required tests for entry into the field, and to keep up with the daily rigors of the job.

Physical strength. Police officers must be strong enough to physically apprehend offenders.

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Average Salary$50,443
Job Growth Rate5%

Records Officer Career Paths

Top Careers Before Records Officer

Top Careers After Records Officer

Cashier
8.8 %

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Average Salary for a Records Officer

Records Officers in America make an average salary of $50,443 per year or $24 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $72,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $34,000 per year.
Average Salary
$50,443

Best Paying Cities

0

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Corrections Records Officer-Diagnostic and Evaluation Center
Corrections Records Officer-Diagnostic and Evaluation Center
State of Nebraska
State of Nebraska
12/18/2020
12/18/2020
$31,07512/18/2020
$31,075
Records Officer (F030)
Records Officer (F030)
Lane County
Lane County
10/23/2020
10/23/2020
$38,50510/23/2020
$38,505
Records Officer
Records Officer
Marshall University
Marshall University
01/24/2020
01/24/2020
$29,50001/24/2020
$29,500
Records Officer
Records Officer
State of Nebraska
State of Nebraska
12/21/2019
12/21/2019
$31,07512/21/2019
$31,075
Records Officer
Records Officer
University of Wisconsin Madison
University of Wisconsin Madison
12/20/2019
12/20/2019
$53,00012/20/2019
$53,000

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Records Officer Demographics

Gender

female

60.6 %

male

30.6 %

unknown

8.8 %

Ethnicity

White

64.9 %

Hispanic or Latino

15.4 %

Black or African American

13.2 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

45.0 %

French

15.0 %

Swahili

5.0 %
See More Demographics

Records Officer Education

Majors

Business
28.4 %

Degrees

Bachelors

40.9 %

Associate

18.9 %

Masters

15.2 %

Top Colleges for Records Officers

1. California State University - Bakersfield

Bakersfield, CA • Public

In-State Tuition
$7,309
Enrollment
9,142

2. SUNY at Binghamton

Vestal, NY • Public

In-State Tuition
$9,808
Enrollment
13,990

3. San Diego State University

San Diego, CA • Public

In-State Tuition
$7,488
Enrollment
30,018

4. SUNY Farmingdale

Farmingdale, NY • Public

In-State Tuition
$8,306
Enrollment
9,394

5. Boston University

Boston, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,948
Enrollment
17,238

6. Howard University

Washington, DC • Private

In-State Tuition
$26,756
Enrollment
6,166

7. SUNY at Albany

Albany, NY • Public

In-State Tuition
$10,011
Enrollment
13,434

8. Western Carolina University

Cullowhee, NC • Public

In-State Tuition
$3,926
Enrollment
9,835

9. SUNY College at Plattsburgh

Plattsburgh, NY • Public

In-State Tuition
$8,369
Enrollment
5,229

10. SUNY College at Oswego

Oswego, NY • Public

In-State Tuition
$8,440
Enrollment
7,039
See More Education Info
Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
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Top Skills For a Records Officer

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 12.6% of records officers listed procedures on their resume, but soft skills such as communication skills and empathy are important as well.

  • Procedures, 12.6%
  • Medical Records, 8.1%
  • Electronic Records, 7.9%
  • Computer System, 5.6%
  • Legal Documents, 4.9%
  • Other Skills, 60.9%
  • See All Records Officer Skills

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Top Records Officer Employers

1. University of Illinois at Chicago
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$72,709
Records Officers Hired: 
14+
2. United States Army
4.0
Avg. Salary: 
$60,923
Records Officers Hired: 
7+
3. Brown Mackie College
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$34,321
Records Officers Hired: 
7+
4. Chicago State University
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$34,983
Records Officers Hired: 
5+
5. University of Cincinnati
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$62,971
Records Officers Hired: 
3+
6. Jacobi Medical Center
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$42,326
Records Officers Hired: 
3+
Updated October 2, 2020