Police officer salaries are a contentious subject for officers, the Police Federation, and force Finance departments alike. This blog aims to clear up the basics, show how much police officers earn, demonstrate the salary for police officers across the UK in 2022, compare how this has changed over time (including a review of the 2022 salary changes), and identify the financial benefits of promotion, including the return on investment in yourself.
“The best investment you can make is in yourself.”
How Have Police Salaries Changed in 2022?
First, let’s review the lay of the land of this year’s salary increase agreements in the context of the cost-of-living crisis, whereby inflation has just hit 8.8% according to ONS data…
England & Wales
In July 2022, the Home Office announced that all officers at all ranks in England and Wales would receive a £1,900 basic salary increase. The announcement also increased the woefully-remunerated Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship scheme starting salary by 10%:
“From 1 September, police officers of all ranks in England and Wales will receive a consolidated award of £1,900, the Home Office has announced today (19 July 2022). The pay award is equivalent to 5% overall, and will be targeted at those on the lowest pay points to provide them with an uplift of up to 8.8%, and between 0.6% and 1.8% for those on the highest pay points. The Police Constable Degree Apprentice minimum starting salary will also be raised to £23,556 from 1 September.”
This is an unusual but welcome move for public sector salary increases. Usually, they are done in a somewhat regressive manner which favours the higher-earners. For example, the 2.5% increase on all pay points in September 2020 in practical terms meant a £500 annual increase for the entry scale for Constables, £1500 for an experienced Chief Inspector, and nearly £3,000 for experienced ACCs. Over the years, this obviously then has the consequence of increasing the gap between those on higher and lower wages; hence it’s self-evidently regressive.
The fixed £1,900 increase however disproportionately improves the lot of those on lower salaries, and who tend to be particularly affected by the current cost of living crisis and inflation rate, where more of their income is spent on the most highly-inflated basics of life (e.g. food, fuel and energy).
However, this comes after a 0.0% pay change (for those already at the top pay scale of their rank) for 2021. So in effect, the salary increase for the last 4 years has still averaged at a modest 2.5% for officers in England and Wales.
The situation is somewhat different for Police Scotland. The Police Negotiating Board (PNB) culminated in agreement in August 2022, in the midst of the UK’s cost of living crisis, announcing a 5% increase for officer salaries and allowances.
This was a different approach to the lower (yet more progressive) 2021 pay increase, whereby Police Scotland officers all received a flat-rate increase of £700. That meant an effective pay increase ranging from 2.7% for new PCs, to 1.2% for a newly promoted Chief Inspector. The 5% increase for 2022 however is a big improvement for all ranks, translating into a £1300 increase for new officers (now starting at £29k) and over £3000 increase for Chief Inspectors. This will also see the Chief Constable’s £221k salary increase by £11k.
Police Service of Northern Ireland
Salary scales in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have yet to be announced for 2022. However, in recent years they have tended to follow the England and Wales pay points, given the scope of the Police Remuneration Review Body (PRRB) includes both. Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume for now the same 2022 position as England and Wales officers.
What are the 2022-23 Salaries for UK Police Officers?
Now I’ve explained this year’s changes, here’s the lowdown of police officer salaries across the Federated (PC to Chief Inspector) ranks in England, Wales, and Scotland. I’ll revisit and update this blog once PSNI announce any changes in the coming weeks/months, but you’ll always find latest salary scales for all UK policing here on my main website.
England & Wales Officer Salaries 2022-23
The graphic above summarises the latest pay bands for police officers at Constable, Sergeant, Inspector, and Chief Inspector. Within each band are several ‘Pay Points’ (PP), which increase officers’ salary each year until they reach the top of the band, regardless of salary negotiations.
Now in 2022 and until reviewed again in 2023, new officers start on £23.5k. Within seven years, this increases to £43.0k. At £11k more than the national average wage and with other relatively attractive pension and career prospects, policing continues to be an attractive career. And that’s at the rank of PC, aside from any allowances, enhancements, overtime, or promotion to the 8+ ranks beyond PC.
Sergeants now begin on £45.9k, while those with three years’ service will progress to £48.1k. The Sergeant starting salary in 2016 was £39.3k, so that’s a 17% increase over the period (compared to 21% of CPI inflation over the same period). So if you’re an aspiring PC, five years into service and seeking promotion to Sergeant, when successful that equates to a £13.5k pay rise right away. Hence why I believe the best investment you can make is in yourself and your own development (you can thank yourself later!).
Moving to the more strategic rank of Inspector sees earning potential increase into the higher tax bracket, between £54.6k and £59.1k. Promotion to Chief Inspector isn’t for the faint-hearted and comes with modest salary rewards compared to top-rate Inspectors. However, it is widely seen as the gateway to Superintendent, which resides in the £72.1k to £84.8k salary bracket for 2022-23.
Below shows a detailed snapshot of all basic salary pay points in the PC to Chief Inspector ranks with the £1900 increase applied. Some forces (e.g. the Metropolitan Police) provide additional allowances and salary relating to cost of living in those areas. In addition (and controversially!), the Met Police are also offering a one-off payment to new joiners of £5,000 during 2022. In the table, ‘PP(L)’ means ‘Pay Point (London)’.
For a historical perspective, the salary of police constables in September 2000 began at £17.1k, rising to £27.1k after 11 years’ service. Had this £17.1k – £27.1k range for PCs in 2000 kept up with CPI inflation during that time, it should look like a £28.5k – £45.2k today in 2022. The reality however is £23.6k – £43.0k, highlighting a significant (and well-publicised) shortfall at the entry-level end. For the Sergeant and Inspecting ranks, the difference in ‘reality vs. CPI’ over the 22 years is less pronounced, falling short against an inflation-matching salary range by around 5%.
At the other end of the scale, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner is the most senior rank in policing, attracting a current salary of £294.9k in 2022. Back in 2000, this was set at £137.0k, which is equivalent to £228.3k in today’s inflation-matched terms.
Police Scotland Officer Salaries 2022-23
Officers in Scotland are immediately better off than other forces, then are exceeding the UK average salary (£32k) within just 2 years of service. Conversely, it takes longer to reach the top of the officer pay scale at the Constable rank at £45.1k after 11 years’ service.
Sergeants begin on £45.8k, but can earn up to £50.4k with five years in service. Inspectors are now comfortably in the higher 40% tax bracket, and Chief Inspectors peak at nearly £67k after four years. All Federated leadership ranks therefore fare better than their counterparts south of the border.
Again, below are the full details of the officer salary scales for Police Scotland, with the 5% increase in 2022 applied to all pay points across the Federated ranks.
PSNI Officer Salaries 2022
Officers in PSNI are yet to learn what their updated pay bandings will be for 2022 to 2023. The latest information available, as at September 2021, is shown above. These salaries are very similar to those set for England and Wales forces that year, so expect the coming year to also be similar. Information will be updated on my site when available.
How Does Salary Change Through Your Career?
Given that police officer ranks are paid in broad bands (like nearly all public sector workers), within which one progresses through each year, the reality is that cops generally receive two pay increases each year:
- Annual career progression: The first is the progression through the ‘pay points’, as shown in the tables above, until the top of the scale is reached. This for example allows 7 years of increases at PC level in England and Wales forces and 11 years in Police Scotland.
- Cost of living increases: The second is the increase applied to all pay points as set out by the PRRB or PNB. For example, the 5% increase for Police Scotland and £1900 for England & Wales implemented for 2022.
At the Constable level therefore, joining the police still represents an attractive career choice for young people where salary is concerned, particularly when looking to the longer-term prospects. For example, the £23.6k England and Wales starting salary rising to the £43.0k in 7 years represents an 83% increase, ending up 11k more than the national average salary while remaining at the ‘bottom rung’ of the promotion ladder. It can go far beyond this in ‘real’ salaries entering an individual’s bank account, for example with market supplements in some forces (e.g. Met, PSNI), specialist role enhancements, overtime, and of course, promotion.
On the flip side, those experienced cops who have remained at the same rank after reaching the top of the annual career progression through the pay points have only the cost-of-living increases to their remuneration. And in 2021, this was 0% for England and Wales forces! This large cohort of officers already at the top of their rank are the ones bearing the brunt of the 20% real terms pay cut often cited by the Police Federation.
Let’s for example compare the salary prospects of PCs at different stages of their service from 2016 in England and Wales. The below chart tracks and compares the actual basic salary received for the six years up to 2022. There are three scenarios:
- A new officer joining in 2016 (blue line)
- An officer already three years into their service in 2016 (yellow line)
- An officer already seven or more years into their service in 2016 (green dashed line)
The new officer joining in 2016 will have started on PP0 at that time, £19.8k. Then over the course of subsequent years will have progressed through the pay point steps up to PP6 in 2022, which is now £36.9k. For that individual, the difference represents an 86% change in pay over the six years.
The officer already with three years’ service in 2016 will have been on a basic salary of £25.0k. This will have increased steadily in each year as they progressed through the subsequent pay points, with a particularly marked increase as they went from PP6 in 2019 (£34.1k) to PP7 in 2020 (£41.1k), equating to a jump of £7k in one year given the skew of the PC pay scale. However, their salary did not increase for 2021 as officer pay scales suffered a pay freeze and they were already at the top scale (PP7), with the £1.9k cost of living increase being applied in 2022 bringing it up to £43.0k. For this individual, the change over the six years was 72%.
Conversely, an officer with seven or more years’ experience in 2016 will have already been at the top of the pay scale, having received annual step increments in prior years. PP7 in 2016 was £38.0k. These officers will then have received the basic, under-inflation salary increases of between 1.0% – 2.0% up to 2020, nothing for 2021, then 4.6% in 2022, up to the current PP7 salary of £43.0k in 2022. The change for this cohort of officers over the six years was just 13%.
Overtime is also a contentious subject for policing, often used over recent years to plug gaps among a depleted workforce. However, it is eagerly taken up by those with the ability and time to do so (usually younger male officers without family commitments), because it can be a significant income-booster.
A recent FOI publication from the Met Police for example shows that the total salary of their top 20 earners at PC and Sergeant ranks are regularly exceeding £100,000 per year. An edited summary of their published data (to make it more readable) is shown in the above image. Another FOI release showed the Met Police in total spent over £140 million in police officer overtime alone for the 12 months to March 2021.
The London weighting will obviously play a small part in this, but such figures are mostly a result of overtime claimed. In turn, all other forces across the UK will be paying numerous PCs and Sergeants well into the higher-rate earning tax bracket as a result of overtime worked.
Show Me the Money: What Difference Can Promotion Make?
“Show me the money!” – Jerry Maguire
In terms of onward career progression, the salaries obviously increase, although the bands become narrower. The biggest promotion jump, both in terms of leadership and of average salary, comes in the move from PC to Sergeant. For example, an aspiring PC currently five years into service in England and Wales will be on £32.3k per year. Upon achieving successful promotion to Sergeant, this jumps to £45.9k. That’s over £13k in one go, equating to £1.1k gross increase per month; a real boost to personal and family finances in the face of the cost-of-living crisis.
In Police Scotland, there’s an additional pay increment for Sergeants reaching their fifth year of service, pushing the top of the Sergeant banding to £50.4k north of the border, compared to the £48.1k for their counterparts elsewhere in the UK.
For the more strategic rank of Inspector, there is a significant jump in both responsibility and salary compared to Sergeant. However, this comes with the loss of ability to be compensated for any overtime worked. The step up to Chief Inspector comes with even greater expectations, being widely considered the workhorses among the strategic ranks. However, the added responsibilities of this ‘gateway to Superintendent’ rank attracts relatively little additional recompense compared to Inspector.
Of course, higher expectations and salaries directly associated with promotions also come with benefits in retirement lump sums and lifetime income. Rank Success has already benefited officers to the tune of tens of £millions in additional pension pots, helping pay off mortgages, start new businesses, and generally live better in retirement following an exhausting (yet for the most part, satisfying!) career in policing – and continues to do so.
“I have no hesitation in recommending this service to others aspiring to take that next step towards promotion…excellent value, which will be more than recouped on my first pay packet as inspector.” – Paul, Passed Inspector Promotion Board First Time
I hope you’ve found this deep-dive into the financial aspects of police careers helpful. See my dedicated webpage to stay abreast of the latest UK police salary information across all forces. I will resume in due course with more on leadership and promotion to support your career progression and earning potential in due course! In the meantime, you can hit the ground running with structured support for PC to SGT and SGT to INS / INS to C.INS promotion at my website.
Kind Regards, Steve
Want to go further right now? Hit the ground running with your promotion preparation. Get your personal digital promotion toolkit, and/or my Police Promotion Masterclass. You can also contact me to arrange personal coaching support. If you first want to explore completely free content, I have a collection of videos, eGuides, a podcast.