How Much Are Your Campus Officers Worth?

Campus Safety's second annual salary survey verifies what many have suspected all along: Starting salaries for campus police officers are often much less than their counterparts in traditional police departments. Despite these numbers, nine out of 10 decision-makers say they are satisfied with their careers.

Published: October 31, 2006

It’s no secret that law enforcement agencies throughout the nation are experiencing officer recruitment and retention challenges. But these are even more pronounced with America’s campus police and public safety departments.

Experts surmise the reasons for this shortage are many: A tight labor market in general; the booming homeland security industry; and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may be siphoning off potential recruits, as well as seasoned law enforcement professionals who might otherwise join campus police and public safety agencies. According to Campus Safety‘s 2006 Salary Survey, the primary reason for these personnel issues, however, is probably pay.

Campus Police Make 14% Less Than Traditional Police
The median starting salary for sworn campus police officers is $27,500. This is significantly less than the average first-year salary of $32,000 for traditional law enforcement officers. And compared to the median annual earnings of $45,210 of officers overall as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2004, campus sworn officers’ salaries are small indeed.

Although there are some campus agencies that offer starting annual pay rates of more than $40,000, that portion represents only 10 percent of the total number of survey respondents.

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For nonsworn campus brethren, they are paid even less than sworn officers – an average of $23,116 for their first year or 16-percent fewer dollars. More than 46 percent of nonsworn personnel make $22,000 or less per year.

Sometimes Perks Make Up for Small Salaries
One factor the survey did not consider, however, were some of the benefits that are included with campus policing positions. Many colleges and universities, for example, pay for some or all of the college tuition for their employees and employees’ children. Due to the increasing costs of higher education, this is a perk that many officers find very attractive.

This is one way institutions of higher learning can counter the signing bonuses, down payments on houses and extra vacation time some municipal agencies are offering to new recruits.

Still, the overall salary numbers appear to be, at the very least, contributing to the officer turnover and continuous recruitment cycle many campuses are experiencing. Departments at hospitals, schools and universities are often finding their patrol personnel are being wooed by other local law enforcement agencies that can pay them significantly more. School districts, in particular, are finding that supervisors in their departments can move to traditional police agencies in surrounding jurisdictions as line officers and receive better salaries.

Management Pay Varies From Campus to Campus
Survey respondents with the title of chief, director, assistant chief, deputy chief, assistant director or the equivalent had salaries that varied widely.  Some respondents reported they make less than $40,000 per year, while others said they make more than $100,000. The median annual pay rate was $75,000, which, according to, is 14-percent less than the median salary of $87,731 for sheriff/police chiefs in traditional law enforcement.

The variance in pay among management is understandable considering the fact that some colleges and universities have student populations of less than 3,000 (27 percent), while on the other end of the spectrum, large school districts can have more than half-a-million students.

Likewise, the responsibilities for the director of public safety overseeing a hospital with 100 beds would probably be very different than those of a director managing the security of a 4,000-bed hospital system. These differences would most likely be reflected in salary.

Job Satisfaction, Tenure Still Rated High
Despite sometimes being paid less than their counterparts in traditional law enforcement, an overwhelming majority of those respondents in campus police management positions said they are happy with their jobs. A whopping 90 percent reported their job satisfaction level as being “good” or “excellent,” while only 2 percent rated it as “poor.”

This may explain the high retention levels for this group. Forty-six percent have been in their current position with their present employer for more than four years. Nearly 80 percent of respondents have worked in campus law enforcement or security for six or more years – a 10-point increase from last year’s results.

About the Survey
A one-page survey was placed in the May/June 2006 issue of Campus Safety magazine. Additionally, an online version of the questionnaire was E-mailed to subscribers. In total, there were 207 responses.

Approximately 20 percent of respondents identified themselves as being located in the West; 28 percent in the Midwest; 22 percent in the South and 30; percent in the Northeast. Nearly 70 percent of those who completed the survey indicated they work for universities or school districts. One out of four survey respondents said they are employed by hospitals. The remainder identified their institutions as “other.”

Note: Chart percentages may not total 100 percent due to rounding.

For additional information about this research, please contact Robin Hattersley Gray at with “Salary Survey” in the subject line.

Robin Hattersley Gray is executive editor of Campus Safety Magazine and can be reached at

For the unabridged version of this article, please refer to the November/December 2006 issue of Campus Safety Magazine. To subscribe, go to

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