No day is the same. A lot of people perceive police as "running and gunning" every day, but in reality, that is a very very small percentage of the job. Typically police act as community caretakers serving the community in an unlimited number of ways. First and foremost, police are employed to protect people and property, they help maintain public order and safety, enforce traffic and criminal laws, prevent and investigate crimes. Informally, however, police are required to wear many hats to assist the community in times of need.
At the end of the day, you know that you are making the world a better and safer place. Depending on the agency that you work for, it is possible to find a good life balance despite the long hours, weekends, nights, etc.
Overtime opportunities to increase annual pay. New experiences daily. Union contracts and support in some states.
Currently, the media and national perception of law enforcement are very anti-police. This presents many unique daily challenges to the job. Recruitment is expected to be very difficult, moving forward as a result. Be prepared to spend many hours sitting in an uncomfortable car, working nights, weekends, missing holidays, and important personal events, etc. Law Enforcement also has one of the highest suicide rates of any profession. Regularly you are exposed to violence, death, crime, abuse, and other traumatic experiences. Finding outlets for your own mental health are very important. Leaving work at work when you go home is very important.
This is a difficult question to address. Earning potential and benefits are very location-dependent, and pay specifically will depend on the number of hours of overtime you work. Not only do different states have very different earning potential, but even neighboring local municipalities can have very different earning potentials. Some can make a healthy living, while others are vastly underfunded.
The first step is to apply to any agency that you are interested in. All have their own minimum requirements like education level, fitness test, etc. If you meet those requirements, you will be invited to sit for a written test. From there, a top percentage of applicants, determined by the agency, are invited for interviews. If the agency is interested in employing you, they will typically offer a conditional offer of employment pending a physical (medical exam and drug screening), polygraph test, background investigation, and psychological evaluation. Assuming satisfactory completion of those steps, there is typically a final interview with the local Police and Fire Commission, who then may extend a final offer. Once you accept the offer, your agency will send you to The Police Academy, followed by additional on the job Field Training.
Minimum State Police Officer Certification in whichever state you work in. Additional advanced certifications available and encouraged.