How to Become a Sheriff

Three Parts:Meeting the Basic RequirementsGaining Field Experience and Higher EducationRunning for Sheriff

Sheriffs are responsible for general law enforcement, with duties that include arresting criminals and operating county jails. In most jurisdictions sheriffs are elected to the position to serve a four-year term. Prepare yourself to become a sheriff by graduating from a police academy and working in law enforcement to learn essential skills like how to use firearms, manage crime scenes, and think quickly on your feet. When you've fulfilled your county's requirements, you can file paperwork with your county and start the process of running for sheriff.

Part 1
Meeting the Basic Requirements

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    Be a US citizen. If you want to run for sheriff in the United States, you must be a citizen of the US. If you're in the process of getting citizenship, you can start preparing to become sheriff by getting the necessary education and experience, but you won't be able to actually run for office until this basic requirements is fulfilled.[1]
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    Be over 18 years of age. The age limitation differs slightly by state, but in most cases you must be over 18 years of age to run for sheriff. Waiting until you're old enough to have several years of education and on-the-job experience under your belt certainly can't hurt. Sheriffs are in a leadership position that often takes a big physical and mental toll. A certain level of seasoned wisdom is a big asset when you're shouldering that much responsibility.
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    Live in the place where you want to become sheriff. In many states you must be a local resident in the place where you want to run. If you just moved to the area, you probably won't be eligible until you've established residency for at least a year. Visit the website of your county's sheriff's office to find out exactly what residency requirements you must fulfill in order to become eligible to run for sheriff.
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    Be in good physical and mental health. Since a sheriff must endure a lot of psychological and physical strain, it's important to have the ability to endure all different types of stress without breaking. In order to run for sheriff, you'll need to be able to pass both physical and mental health tests with flying colors.
    • Going through police academy should prepare you physically for the role of sheriff. You'll need to be able to run, perform pushups, handcuff criminals, tackle people, and work long hours without fatiguing.
    • You'll learn about stress management and quick thinking as you gain experience working in the field in preparation for running for sheriff. Stress management is something that can be learned and practiced, which is one reason why it's important to have plenty of experience before you step into the role of sheriff.
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    Get a high school diploma or GED. Most counties require that people running for sheriff have at least a high school level of education. If you never received your high school diploma, you'll need to either complete high school or pass a General Educational Development test (GED).

Part 2
Gaining Field Experience and Higher Education

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    Graduate from a police academy. While some counties offer sheriff training programs, allowing you to skip police academy and train to be a sheriff from the start, most counties require that candidates for the office of sheriff complete a police academy program. In police academy, you'll learn essential skills that you'll use on the job as sheriff as well as taking classes to acquire knowledge on subjects such as traffic laws and best practices for witness questioning. After completing a program, you should be proficient in the following: [2]
    • Use of firearms
    • Crime scene management
    • Crowd control
    • Arrest procedures
    • High speed driving
    • Constitutional law
    • Witness questioning
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    Work in law enforcement. Once you've graduated from police academy, work as an officer to gain the experience you'll need to succeed as a sheriff. Different counties have different requirements when it comes to field experience. Some require at least five years of related experience, while others require just one.[3]
    • In addition to working as a police officer, your state may also require that you obtain police officer licensure or certification. This is rewarded after you've worked for a specified amount of time and passed a series of tests designed to verify your proficiency as an officer.
    • When you see the opportunity to take on supervisory roles, such as heading a department focused on community safety, take advantage of the opportunity to exercise your leadership skills.
    • Other types of work related to law enforcement may also qualify as relevant work experience when you're running for sheriff. For example, working as a judge may be substituted for police work in some jurisdictions.
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    Get a degree in law enforcement or criminal justice. While not every state requires that sheriffs have a higher degree, getting an associate's bachelor's or master's degree in a related field will improve your job prospects and make voters feel you're more qualified for the role.[4] Consider completing a degree in either law enforcement or criminal justice to better prepare you for becoming a sheriff.
    • Classes in psychology, criminology, writing skills and public speaking skills should all factor into your curriculum.
    • While you're in school, you can still gain valuable work experience by interning with the sheriff's office.[5]
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    Have a stake in the place where you live. As you prepare yourself to become a sheriff, it's important to be invested in law enforcement in your particular county. Learn the ins and outs of the laws where you live. Gain an understanding of the issues specific to your area, and what role the sheriff's office plays. The better you understand the workings of your county, the more likely you'll be to make an excellent sheriff.
    • For example, if you live in a county that has a big problems with drunk driving, observe how the issue affects the community and what role the sheriff can play to reduce the risk of drunk-driving-related fatalities.
    • As you gear up to run for sheriff, think of ways you can demonstrate that you're intimately familiar with the community's problems and you have the experience and knowledge you need to keep people safe.

Part 3
Running for Sheriff

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    Meet the requirements necessary to run for sheriff of your county. Every county has slightly different requirements, so conduct research to find out exactly what qualifications you must have to run for sheriff. Here are a few common requirements you'll need to fill, in addition to your work experience and educational requirements, before the deadline to file your paperwork to run for judge:
    • Pass a written examination that covers reasoning, writing skills, and job-specific questions (look for sample tests and study guides online).
    • Undergo an interview during which you'll be tested on your communication, problem solving and critical thinking skills, as well as your motivations for wanting to be sheriff.[6]
    • Pass a background check. You'll be disqualified if you're on probation, have felony convictions, substance abuse issues, bad credit history, and serious traffic violations.
    • Pass a physical fitness exam that tests physical stamina as well as proficiency in handling firearms.
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    File paperwork with the county. Before the deadline specified by your county, file paperwork to have your name put on the ballot for sheriff. You can do this by visiting your county courthouse and following the proper procedure for filing there. Make sure you've already met all of the requirements before you file the paperwork.
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    Start your campaign for sheriff. While the sheriff is appointed in some counties, he or she is elected in most jurisdictions. If you want to be elected to sheriff, you'll need to spread the word that you're running and highlight your experience and fitness for the role. Set a goal to reach every registered voter in the county. Campaigning is no easy job, since others will be running against you, so pull out all the stops to win now that you've worked so hard to meet all the necessary qualifications.
    • Assemble a campaign committee instead of trying to campaign all by yourself. A campaign committee can help you raise funds, set up media interviews, pass out fliers, and increase awareness that you're running for sheriff.
    • Make a stand on a serious topic in your area and educate the voters on your point of view. Figure out what sets you apart from the other candidates, whether it's your intellect, experience or passion for the county, and use that as your platform.
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    Get elected to become sheriff. If your campaign is successful and you receive the majority of the votes on election day, you'll be asked to swear an oath of loyalty and agree to a contract.[7] Fulfill the requirements set forth by your county and serve out your term as sheriff. In most jurisdictions, the term lasts four years, after which you may run for reelection.
    • In some counties, newly elected sheriffs must complete a training program to learn specific law enforcement techniques. Consider joining a sheriff's organization, such as, to learn about opportunities to hone your leadership and law enforcement skills.

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Categories: Careers in Government