How to Become a SWAT Team Member

SWAT Team Member Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $49,540
Avg. Pay / hour $23.82
Education 2-4 Years
Job Outlook 5%

When you become a SWAT team member, you will work to provide a timely and effective response to emergency situations.

Nearly all police departments have SWAT teams, and they respond to the most dangerous and hostile situations, such as hostage scenarios, rescue operations, counter-terrorism operations, and raids on highly dangerous criminals.

SWAT stands for special weapons and tactics.

SWAT officers are trained in firearms, tactics, and response to a much more involved level than a regular police officer since they face far more dangerous situations.

The first SWAT team was established in Los Angeles in 1968.

Since then, law enforcement departments around America and Canada have set up their own SWAT teams to handle to most extreme law enforcement situations.

Education Requirements to Become a SWAT Team Member

To become a SWAT team member, you’ll need to first become a police officer within a law enforcement department.

Entry into most departments requires a high school diploma.

If you are looking towards promotion, then the best opportunity will be found as a college graduate.

An ideal qualification is a four year law enforcement or criminal justice degree since federal branches of law enforcement require a four year degree as a minimum.

To work in law enforcement you must be 18 years of age in most places, sometimes older.

You must have a clean criminal history, and be in excellent physical condition.

When a part of a SWAT team, some departments require that their officers don’t drink or smoke.

You’ll need to complete at least three years of experience working as a police officer before you will be able to be considered for a role of SWAT team member.

If you’re considered for the role, you will need to pass stringent physical fitness and medical tests.

You’ll also need to pass psychological screening.

You’ll need to have a very thorough knowledge of firearms to become a SWAT team member.

Although you’ll receive a good deal of training, you’ll need to pass some weapons accuracy tests before you are accepted.

A final review board will make the decision as to whether you are accepted into the SWAT team.

SWAT Job Description

When you become a SWAT team member, your role is to respond to various emergency situations.

These are the scenarios that regular police officers are not considered to have the expertise to deal with.

Raid, hostage scenarios, difficult search and rescues, and other similar types of situations are handles by the SWAT team.

A SWAT officer may also conduct a search of a property or arrest a suspect when the suspect in question is known to be violent or in possession of dangerous weapons.

When you join the SWAT team you will be trained in a variety of skills to deal with these scenarios.

Negotiation, firearms training, and rescue operations are all part of the training of the SWAT team.

Typical members of the team have the ability to think on their feet, and also are able to remain calm under pressure.

Here are some of the tasks and situations a SWAT team member might be face with:

  • Responding to a kidnapping
  • Responding to a hostage situation
  • Responding to an armed robbery
  • Responding to a situation that is violent or involved firearms
  • Conducting raids
  • Serving warrants
  • Completing paperwork and reports

SWAT Team Salary and Career Path

Before you become a SWAT team member, you will need to have some experience within a police department.

Many in the SWAT team go on to more specialized roles, supervise other officers, or coordinate operations.

Some move into different areas of law enforcement.

The average salary of a SWAT team member is $60,000 a year.

Those working in a supervisory position could expect to earn closer to $75,000 a year.

Some similar jobs to that of SWAT team member you might be interested in include:

  • Police officer
  • Private investigator
  • Correctional officer
  • Paramedic
  • Parole officer
  • Security officer

Working as a SWAT team member is not without its challenges, it is however an exciting career path to follow where no two days are alike.

If you are wanting a career in law enforcement that is a little outside of the ordinary, then you might like to become a SWAT team member.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$82,060
New Hampshire$63,670
New Jersey$91,690
New Mexico$55,420
New York$80,590
North Carolina$51,860
North Dakota$64,470
Rhode Island$68,580
South Carolina$49,140
South Dakota$52,580
West Virginia$47,160
Puerto Rico$40,490

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $102,920.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $102,920
Washington - $92,390
New Jersey - $91,690
Alaska - $87,510
Illinois - $82,800
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers, OCC Code 33-3051, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a SWAT team member?

SWAT team members are police officers working for the Special Weapons and Tactics team.

These highly trained individuals respond to situations that regular police officers aren’t trained or equipped to handle.

In most cases, SWAT team members are patrol officers or detectives who are selected to serve as members of the Special Weapons and Tactics team as an additional duty to their regular jobs.

They are called to situations that present a significant danger to regular police officers or the public.

Some of the situations that can be handled by SWAT team members involve potentially violent suspects, drugs and contraband cases, hostage rescues or crowd and riot control.

How much does a SWAT team member make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the median annual pay for police officers, including SWAT team members, was $63,380 in May of 2018.

SWAT team members usually earn a regular police officer salary with an added hazard pay.

Salaries vary depending on the region, employer and experience.

For example, SWAT officers employed by federal agencies earn more than the other SWAT members.

How much does it cost to become a SWAT team member?

Becoming a SWAT team member requires a lot of training and a special set of skills.

You first have to become a police officer.

Police officers need at least a high school diploma or GED and must graduate from the police academy.

Police academies usually cost less than $5,000 and some police departments will reimburse a percentage of the tuition.

Some departments also require an associate or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, law enforcement or a related field.

Getting your associate degree in criminal justice will cost you, on average, around $21,000 per year.

The annual tuition cost for a Bachelor’s degree program is somewhere between $11,000-$32,000.

In order to make sure that you receive a high-quality education, you should choose a program that is accredited by government institutions.

What is the demand for SWAT team members?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for police officers and detectives, including SWAT team members, will grow by 5 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Demand for employment varies depending on the region and local and government budgets.

Because SWAT units are quite expensive to maintain, few law enforcement agencies afford to support a dedicated SWAT team division.

Large police departments often include an in-house SWAT division.

How long does it take to become a SWAT team member?

If you want to become a SWAT team member, the first step is to become a police officer.

Police officers should have at least a high school diploma or GED but many federal agencies and some departments also require a college degree.

Getting an associate’s degree in criminal justice or law enforcement typically takes around 2 years, while a bachelor’s degree program is usually designed to be completed in 4 years.

After being recruited, you will also have to complete 15-30 weeks of police academy training.

Academy graduates go through a period of field training before being able to work independently on cases.

SWAT recruits are usually chosen based on an open examination that includes an interview, fitness testing, psychological exam and skill evaluation.

If you pass the examination you will return to the academy for advanced training in defensive tactics and special weapons use.

SWAT officers need monthly training and continuing education classes and must pass yearly fitness testing.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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