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Law enforcement salary vs. the cost of living

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  • Law enforcement salary vs. the cost of living

    To the law enforcement officers in this forum.

    I'm from Ohio and looking in the DC/Virginia Metopolitain area for a law enforcement career since jobs in Ohio are getting very hard to come by.

    I've looked at several police departments (city, county, and university) in the metro area and see that the average starting salary is anywhere from $38,000 to $45,000 a year.

    I'm aware that the cost of living in the DC/Virginia area is more than Ohio, but I was wondering how "livable" the starting salaries mentioned above are? Do a lot of officers just barely get by week-to-week or is that a decent salary to start at?

    Thanks!

  • #2
    Originally posted by wdr2 View Post
    To the law enforcement officers in this forum.

    I'm from Ohio and looking in the DC/Virginia Metopolitain area for a law enforcement career since jobs in Ohio are getting very hard to come by.

    I've looked at several police departments (city, county, and university) in the metro area and see that the average starting salary is anywhere from $38,000 to $45,000 a year.

    I'm aware that the cost of living in the DC/Virginia area is more than Ohio, but I was wondering how "livable" the starting salaries mentioned above are? Do a lot of officers just barely get by week-to-week or is that a decent salary to start at?

    Thanks!
    When I started out with the Feds several years ago....I was a GS-7 (aka about 36K a year....with not a lot of OT)..... I had to go out and get a part-time job just to barely get by.....

    Right now, I am GS-11 (55K a year) and get by ok....

    I can't afford to live on my own.....I rent a basement from a guy in his town house...... Most places go for 1400 and up for a stinking one bedroom apt..... If you go farther south where Ignignokt373 lives.....you should be able to find something cheaper.....but depending on what hours you are working, your commute my suck ***.......nothing like working a 8 hour shift then putting 4 hours driving every day (2 coming and 2 going)....

    My current boss lives out in Stafford.....and he bought a real nice house.....but is in traffic all the time.....

    Something to think about if you make the leap to Scenic NVA......

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    • #3
      Northern VA is very expensive particularly when it comes to housing. If you're looking to buy a home.....well, at an entry level salary, I hope Aunt May left you some money. If you're married with children, forget it.

      There are however numerous departments/agencies in the area and the market is wide open for you. I believe there are openings everywhere. Localities include (in no particular order):

      Fairfax County
      Prince William County
      Alexandria City
      Arlington County
      Loudoun County

      These are the larger agencies in the area. There are several other smaller towns/cities with excellent agencies. Starting salaries vary from approx $37-55k dependent upon experience level. Note that each of the above (except Loudoun) have both a Police Department and Sheriff's Office. PD's start a little bit more in most (not much). The Sheriffs, as you may imagine, are not full-service. They run the jails, courts, warrants, process, etc. Loudoun has a full service Sheriff with distinct Divisions (courts, corrections, law enforcement). All the agencies are top notch.

      NVA is a nice area although too congested. Traffic's murder. Suggest you look at a map and try to live north or east of where you work so you can go against the flow of traffic. Of course shift work will screw that plan up. Housing's less expensive (still high) the farther away from DC you go.
      sigpic
      Our houses are protected by the good Lord and a gun.
      And you might meet 'em both if you show up here not welcome son.

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      • #4
        I agree with KapsFB, Entry level your not buying anything around here. Even with a dual income household my girl and I can only afford a condo. Inside the beltway you’re looking at an even higher cost.

        Keep in mind some departments allow you to live in free or reduced rent apartments in exchange for off duty uniformed security. You may not get one right away but if you try hard enough and make a good name for yourself over a couple of year’s people might give you theirs when they move out. The free spots in nice communities are drying up fast, leaving only the less desirable complexes. Hey free is free when you make next to nothing. If your worried about girls seeing the outside of your place use this line “listen the outside of my place isn’t the nicest but I care about the residents here and I’m just trying to help them make their community better” …… like butta.

        Initially you won’t be dirt poor but you won’t be rolling in cash either. Depending on your current spending habits you might have to cut back a little or a lot, either way count on the cut back happening and plan in advance. On the same note plan on not getting paid for 2 to 3 weeks while the government processes your initial payroll information

        Your first couple years I recommend you pay a little more to live close. Why people move an hour south to save $500 in rent or mortgage I don’t understand. You’re going to lose half that in extra gas anyway. We work in a high stress roller coaster environment that you’re new to and trying to adjust. Until you have figured it out do you really want to add 2 more hours of being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic to your 12 hours day?

        Your first couple years you might be working some off duty on your days off why not stay close in case you want to do a last minute fill in for someone or knock out a quick 4 hour overtime detail for some extra money.

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        • #5
          Here in souther VA (tidewater area) alittle over 36k a year here without OT (with OT around 42-45k if you pull a few 4 hour OT shifts a week) makes it tough. Most places in the area are 200k or more if your buying (townhomes, condos, small small small houses), then rent is generally 785 (cheapest place in the area that isnt in the hood) to 1400 per month for a small 2 bedroom apartment. Its tough in southern VA too.

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          • #6
            http://cgi.money.cnn.com/tools/costo...tofliving.html

            When I was looking for where to work I used this tool to figure out a ratio of pay vs. cost of living and I found most depts. Pay about the same ratio based on there location. Some a bit higher some a bit lower, but everybody in the Hampton roads area is pretty close to the same. There are a couple cities in Florida that pay a little better ratio, and Colorado state police does pretty well, but the Hampton roads area isn’t bad. Los Angeles sucks, even though they pay like $52k in the academy. Anyhow, good luck

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            • #7
              MPDC starts at $46k plus.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by spiff2022 View Post
                http://cgi.money.cnn.com/tools/costo...tofliving.html

                When I was looking for where to work I used this tool to figure out a ratio of pay vs. cost of living and I found most depts. Pay about the same ratio based on there location. Some a bit higher some a bit lower, but everybody in the Hampton roads area is pretty close to the same. There are a couple cities in Florida that pay a little better ratio, and Colorado state police does pretty well, but the Hampton roads area isn’t bad. Los Angeles sucks, even though they pay like $52k in the academy. Anyhow, good luck
                Thats a pretty cool link...
                Its amazing to see the cost of living difference within VA. Hampton Roads vs. Roanoke.

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                • #9
                  hampton roads virginia

                  I work at a sheriff dept in southern va, my starting pay was around 36. Now i am about 38,000 but with part time I am around 42,000. I have a 3bed 3 bath nice townhouse very nice neighborhood 1100 a month.

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                  • #10
                    heck i live in columbus, ohio a pretty big city, if i moved to prince william va, it would cost me 70% more to buy a house.... holy hell lol
                    sigpic

                    No, maybe I can't win, maybe the only thing I can do is just take everything he's got. But to beat me, he's gonna have to kill me, and to kill me, he's gonna have to have the heart to stand in front of me, and to do that, he's gotta be willing to die himself and I don't know if he's ready to do that. I don't know, I don't know.
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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by nitrovic
                      You could still live farther out from Prince William for a lot less money. Spotsylvania and Culpeper are pretty cheap.

                      Spotsylvania cheap? Well, maybe compared to Prince Wm or Fairfax; but "cheap" is not really what I would call the price of housing there in Spotsy.

                      Perhaps it is all just a matter of perspective.

                      The comments above reflect my personal opinion as a private citizen, ordinary motorist and all-around good guy.

                      The aforementioned advice should not be construed to represent any type of professional opinion, legal counsel or other type of instruction with regard to traffic laws, judicial proceedings or official agency policy.

                      ------------------------------------------------

                      "Ignorance on fire is hotter than knowledge on ice."

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