College Police and Security Officer Pay Improving with the Economy

Public safety employee wages are higher than in 2011, but most police and security departments at U.S. institutions of higher education are grossly understaffed.

Experts say the economy is doing better these days, and, according to the latest CS Salary Survey, many college public safety officers are experiencing first-hand the benefits of a healthier job market. Overall, police and security officers serving at institutions of higher education are getting paid more than they were in 2011 when CS conducted its last survey on this topic.

In 2011, 49 percent of novice sworn police officers on college campuses made more than $35,000 per year, while today, 63 percent make more than that amount. In fact, 9 percent make more than $50,000 per year.

View the 2015 Campus Safety Higher Ed Salary Survey Charts.

For their nonsworn brethren, nearly half (49 percent) who are just starting their careers now make more than $25,000 per year. In 2011, only 40 percent made more than that amount. The median pay rate for nonsworn security/public safety officers has also increased from $23,500 per year in 2011 to $25,000 today. It should be noted, however, that more nonsworn officers are now in the lowest pay bracket compared to four years ago. In 2011, only 11 percent were making $20,000 or less per year. Today, 17 percent make that amount.

Supervisors Have Also Received Raises
Deputy chiefs/assistant directors, lieutenants, captains, supervisors and junior emergency management personnel are also making more. The median salary for deputy chiefs/assistant directors has increased to $60,000 per year from $55,000 in 2011. Police lieutenants, captains and supervisors’ pay rates have increased from $55,000 in 2011 to $70,000 in 2015, and junior emergency management personnel’s salaries have risen by $10,000, from $55,000 in 2011 to $65,000 in 2015. Emergency management directors’ median salaries have stayed the same at $70,000 per year.

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The only salaries that decreased over the past four years have been those of college campus police chiefs and security directors. The decrease in median pay from $75,000 to $70,000, however, may have more to do with the changing titles of campus law enforcement and security executives from “chief” and “director” to “vice president” and “chief security/public safety officer.” Although the 2015 Campus Safety Salary Survey did not delve into this issue, higher ed public safety experts often say it is a best practice for the top safety and security executive on campus to report directly to the institution president and be a member of his or her executive council. College campuses may be adopting this best practice.

4 in 5 Public Safety Departments Need More Sworn Officers
Although line officers and many other college public safety professionals have seen an increase in their wages, a significant majority of university survey respondents say their departments are grossly understaffed. More than four in five (81 percent) say their departments don’t have enough sworn officers, and of those respondents, 10 percent say they need to more than double the number of sworn officers in their agencies. More than half say they need to increase the number of all types of public safety personnel by more than 20 percent. Interestingly enough, when survey takers were asked about their overall top five issues of concern, the percentage of those indicating “appropriate staffing levels” actually decreased from 49 percent in 2011 to 44 percent today.

Part of that shift away from concern about staffing levels may be the result of increased scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Education of colleges’ handling of sexual assault claims. There has been a significant jump in concerns over Clery Act and Title IX compliance over the past four years. Whereas less than a third of respondents in 2011 indicated Clery compliance was a top concern, now nearly half (47%) of university respondents say this is one of their top five issues.

The study includes data on staffing levels, the percentage of departments with officers that carry lethal and less-lethal weapons, gender diversity, racial diversity and other top concerns, such as video surveillance.

View the Charts.

K-12 school district and hospital salary survey results will be released in the September and October issues of Campus Safety magazine and on

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About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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