Compensation News


Special Report: Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell MSA Police Officer Hiring Wage

Analyst: Catherine Greene

Hiring salaries for Police Officers in the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell Metropolitan Statistical Area are highly competitive.

Police Officers seek to enforce laws within a geographic area. Typical job duties required by the position include patrolling in dangerous areas, educating citizens on safety and law violations, carrying out arrests and interviews, or carrying out specific tasks in special units such as K-9 or Investigations. In the state of Georgia Police Officers are required to receive and maintain a POST Certification either before their employment or after a period of training.

The salaries of police officers in Georgia are growing quickly but somewhat unevenly in order for organizations to maintain a competitive hiring salary. Local governments are also offering extensive benefits plans to their police officers, which may include take-home cars, gym memberships, and housing programs. However, because these benefits plans are fairly consistent across agencies, prospective Police Officers usually consider hiring salary more in their employment decisions. This has led to issues because some cities and counties are having trouble keeping up with the competitive wage trend.

As the compensation offered begins to lag, agencies often find themselves unable to compete for qualified candidates (Campbell 1993; Sturman & McCabe 2008, 87-88). The external competitiveness necessitates pay philosophies that seek to match or even lead the salary trend in the hopes of attracting and keeping more experienced and qualified employees. The 2017-2018 Georgia General Assembly is currently seeking to address fiscal issues caused by the rapid compensation rise calling for the creation of a “Local Law Enforcement Officer Compensation Commission” (SB 115).

Hiring Wage Survey Summary

In this Hiring Wage survey, 31 active position recruitment notices issued by cities and counties within the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell Metropolitan Statistical Area were surveyed. This area encompasses 5.7 million residents according to the U.S. Census, with specific local governments ranging in population from around 4000 to over a million. Each city or county job announcement seeking to hire Police Officers were issued during the period of June-July 2017. Depending upon the local government, these job announcements called for police officers already certified, for officers currently uncertified, or for both.

Table 1: Police Officer Market Wages (Atlanta MSA)

Certified Police Officer

Competitive Matching Market Wage     $39,311

Competitive Lagging Market Wage       $38,187

Competitive Leading Market Wage       $40,714

Non-Certified Police Officer

Competitive Matching Market Wage    $35,322

Competitive Lagging Market Wage      $35,265

Competitive Leading Market Wage       $37,343

This survey review found that for Certified Police Officers, the competitive matching market rate is $39,311 (1), with a competitive lagging market rate at $38,187 (2). If a local government wanted to hold a competitive lead market rate, the salary required would be $40,714 (3). For non-certified candidates the competitive matching market rate is $35,322, the competitive lagging market rate is $35,265, and the competitive lead market rate is $37,343. Of these two positions, the hiring salaries ranged from $23,213 to $41,000 for Non-Certified Police Officers and from $31,262 to $43,2000 for Certified Police Officers.

Table 2: Police Officer Market Wage Salary Ranges

Certified Police Officer

Minimum Hiring Salary   $31,262

Maximum Hiring Salary  $43,200

Non-Certified Police Officer

Minimum Hiring Salary    $23,213

Maximum Hiring Salary   $41,000

Along with these statistics, further backup data was collected on unique benefits and incentives offered by the local governments surveyed. These incentives include sign-on incentives ranging from $2,000 to $4,000 and extra incentives based on qualifications such as education and language ability. Unique benefits offered by cities and counties included In-City Housing Programs, Fitness Center Members, and Tuition Reimbursement for college. Data was also collected on job titles and classifications, though this was not analyzed or included for the sake of this report.

Table 3: Police Officer Market Wage Special Incentives Offered

City of Atlanta
In City Housing Program, Tuition Reimbursement,

City of Duluth
Up to 5% incentive pay for certain previous law enforcement experience and up to 5% for desireable language skills

City of Dunwoody
Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), Take Home Car Program, Fitness Center Memberships

City McDonough
Take Home Car Program, Pay incentive for college degree and select career development certifications

City of Roswell
$3000 sign-on incentive, $4000 for POST Certified Candidates

City of Winder
$2,600 incentive for an Associate's, $3,900 for a Bachelor's

Cobb County
Free Wellness Clinic, Tuition Reimbursement, Fitness Centers

Gwinnett County
FSAs, Wellness Incentive Programs, Employee Discount Programs

Table 4: Agencies Surveyed

City of Alpharetta
City of Atlanta
City of Brookhaven
City of Clarkston
City of College Park
City of Decatur
City of Duluth
City of Dunwoody
City of East Point
City of Fayetteville
City of Forest Park
City of Jonesboro
City of Locust Grove
City of Marietta
City of McDonough
City of Milton
City of Morrow
City of Norcross
City of Peachtree City
City of Powder Springs
City of Riverdale
City of Roswell
City of Sandy Springs
City of Smyrna
City of Snellville
City of Suwanee
City of Winder
Clayton County
Cobb County
Gwinnett County
Henry County


  1. Average of Singular Base Hiring Salaries excluding Outliers
  2. Average of Singular Base Hiring Salaries including Outliers

  3. Third Quartile of Base Hiring Salaries without Outliers


Campbell III, C. M. (1993). Do firms pay efficiency wages? Evidence with data at the firm level. Journal of labor Economics, 11(3), 442-470.

Sturman, M. C., & McCabe, D. (2008). Choosing Whether to Lead, Lag, or Match the Market: Developing a Competitive Pay Strategy for a New Restaurant. Journal Of Human Resources In Hospitality & Tourism, 7(1), 85-97.


About our Analyst
Catherine Greene is an Intern for GovDirections. She is a student at the University of Georgia currently studying for a dual degree for a Bachelor’s in International Affairs and a Master’s in Public Administration. She plans to graduate in May 2018 and begin a career in Policy Analysis.