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How Much Do Federal Law Enforcement Agents Make?

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Federal law enforcement salaries follow a federal pay scale, but there are several variables that can affect your pay. These include your position, experience both in the field and that you bring to the job, where you live, and how long you’ve worked for the agency.

In this Article

Median annual salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes federal law enforcement in the same category as police officers and sheriffs. Here are median annual salaries by state.

Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers

National data

Median Salary: $64,610

Projected job growth: 3.1%

10th Percentile: $40,190

25th Percentile: $50,630

75th Percentile: $81,850

90th Percentile: $102,530

Projected job growth: 3.1%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $48,290 $32,100 $65,680
Alaska $81,640 $48,290 $125,310
Arizona $66,020 $48,290 $80,140
Arkansas $39,890 $29,530 $60,040
California $100,330 $64,610 $128,300
Colorado $78,560 $60,040 $102,880
Connecticut $77,640 $56,510 $99,240
Delaware $80,140 $55,660 $105,540
District of Columbia $79,310 $62,430 $101,050
Florida $61,970 $47,310 $97,480
Georgia $48,730 $37,300 $65,830
Hawaii $78,540 $61,970 $99,580
Idaho $60,040 $40,430 $80,820
Illinois $83,080 $49,670 $105,540
Indiana $61,800 $47,260 $80,820
Iowa $63,970 $47,560 $83,640
Kansas $50,480 $37,190 $77,350
Kentucky $47,310 $32,210 $60,570
Louisiana $43,220 $29,450 $61,380
Maine $60,040 $37,940 $76,010
Maryland $76,880 $51,990 $102,880
Massachusetts $76,340 $48,680 $99,580
Michigan $64,510 $46,790 $81,850
Minnesota $77,610 $50,960 $99,580
Mississippi $37,390 $28,600 $51,540
Missouri $51,990 $37,100 $80,290
Montana $61,190 $47,310 $78,330
Nebraska $61,590 $47,240 $80,140
Nevada $76,010 $60,040 $96,270
New Hampshire $62,130 $48,030 $81,640
New Jersey $97,860 $51,770 $128,200
New Mexico $59,580 $40,190 $67,750
New York $79,080 $48,800 $125,310
North Carolina $48,390 $37,300 $67,440
North Dakota $63,200 $47,900 $81,850
Ohio $64,610 $38,260 $97,480
Oklahoma $50,480 $31,540 $78,350
Oregon $80,860 $60,040 $100,270
Pennsylvania $76,880 $40,910 $102,880
Rhode Island $65,440 $50,610 $81,640
South Carolina $48,380 $37,300 $63,480
South Dakota $50,660 $37,300 $76,010
Tennessee $47,850 $36,000 $63,210
Texas $63,800 $47,310 $86,480
Utah $60,390 $47,310 $80,290
Vermont $60,040 $38,120 $78,330
Virginia $58,480 $40,960 $78,540
Washington $98,070 $65,470 $111,430
West Virginia $47,850 $37,100 $61,040
Wisconsin $71,590 $50,340 $101,730
Wyoming $60,040 $42,660 $77,340

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

The BLS notes that federal law enforcement officers generally earn more than state and local officers and breaks down median pay for police officers and detectives as follows:

Federal: $93,970

State: $72,280

Local: $64,610

Factors that can affect your salary

The federal salary scale, along with a number of other factors, will determine your actual salary.

For example, U.S. Marshals and agents for the FBI, CIA and DEA fall under the GS pay scale. The scale can raise your pay in two ways: grades and steps.

  • Grades: Pay grades are related to title, education, experience and job responsibilities. An increase in grade is considered a promotion.
  • Steps: Pay steps are based on your length of service. An increase in step is a pay raise, but is not considered a promotion.

Because of these variables and the many different federal law enforcement jobs, there are many potential salaries available for federal agents. The FBI cites a pay range from $78,000 for a new agent recruit to $153,000 at the top end for experienced agents.

Where you work can play a factor into your salary as well and agents receive cost-of-living adjustments based on where they live. Here are some examples of the annual salary for grade 1, step 1, the lowest level on the GS scale, for some different metropolitan areas:

  • New York City: $27,244
  • Washington D.C.: $26,532
  • Miami: $24,973
  • Des Moines, Iowa: $23,504

According to the BLS, these are the top-paying metro areas—all in the state of California— for police officers and sheriffs:

Metro Area Median Annual Salary
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $128,070
Napa, CA $125,310
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $125,310
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA $122,910
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA $106,470
Salinas, CA $105,730
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA $102,730
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA $102,360
Modesto, CA $102,000
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA $100,330

Similar careers

Since jobs vary widely it makes sense that salaries do too. Here are some related careers and their median annual salary according to the BLS.

Career Median Annual Salary
Detectives and Criminal Investigators $83,640
Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers $64,610
Transportation Security Screeners $45,470
First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives $99,330
Information Security Analysts $102,600

Benefits with a federal law enforcement career

Beyond just a solid paycheck there are other benefits that come with federal law enforcement jobs. Some of the most common include:

Pension through the Federal Employees Retirement System:
The federal retirement system includes a pension that is based on years of service and your highest-earning years.
Paid vacation:
Federal employees can earn anywhere from 13 to 26 vacation days per year, depending on their length of service.
Generous sick leave:
Regardless of length of service, federal employees get 13 sick days per year.
Health insurance:
There are numerous choices available for insurance coverage for health, dental and vision. Options include coverage for yourself, your spouse and your family.
Life insurance:
Employees can get life insurance for themselves, their spouse and their children.
Federal employees can take part in their choice of 401k plans with an employer match of up to 5%.
12 weeks of FMLA leave:
You can receive up to 12 weeks of parental leave after one year of service.
Coverage of relocation costs:
Employees can receive a relocation incentive of up to 25% of their salary if they must move for the job.

Job outlook

The overall demand for detective and criminal investigator jobs is expected to grow -0.7% through 2031, while police and sheriff jobs can expect 3.1% growth until 2031. The average growth rate for all jobs is 5% according to the BLS, so investigators can anticipate slower than average growth, while police and sheriff jobs are just slightly slower than the national average.

BLS projects most of the demand for new hires will stem from the need to replace workers who retire or leave the field for other occupations. The number of new hires will also depend on budget dollars allotted to personnel and on location, which is driven largely by local and state budgets.

How much competition will I face for a job?

Federal websites say they need people for the FBI, CIA and Homeland Security—particularly individuals with a broad range of backgrounds, specialty expertise and professional experience. But even though there may be jobs available for those who qualify, expect there to be plenty of competition. In fact the FBI accepts less than 20% of applicants, and the hiring process can take more than a year.

“We’re always striving to get the best candidates,” said Ghani Iqbal, a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations, part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Being smart and having the right credentials is definitely helpful, but many candidates can get discouraged by the lengthy application process. They are tempted to move on and take another job that pays more, such as those in the private law enforcement sector.”

Still, there are plenty of applicants who are not deterred by the application process or the promise of more money elsewhere, and if you have the stamina to stick it out, you may be the type the agency is looking for.

“Money is not a motivating factor for the majority of the people that are in this profession. It’s something else. It’s that X factor…”

“Money is not a motivating factor for the majority of the people that are in this profession. It’s something else. It’s that X factor. And I really think it’s about the public service and doing something worthwhile in your life, to get up every day and be a part of something bigger. There’s a sense of purpose and of personal satisfaction,” he said. “Give us 20 years of your life, and while you’re not going to get rich, we’ll give you a pension and a career that you will never regret and that will be the adventure of a lifetime.”

mj grenzow

Written and researched by:

MJ Grenzow

Contributing Writer

With professional insights from:

Ghani Iqbal

Special Agent, Homeland Security Investigations