You can also get a sense of the differences between agencies of different sizes. After all, large police departments don't necessarily represent the norm. In fact, nearly half of all local police agencies employ fewer than 10 cops. Each police agency sets its own basic requirements for new recruits. So you can't assume that one agency's hiring criteria will be the same as another's.
You definitely have to research the criteria for each individual agency or department. The requirements are often posted on agency websites. But in some cases, you may need to call and request this kind of information. You can be a police officer by meeting minimum requirements, which typically include:. In most cases, the subjects you have to learn to become a police officer are the same ones required for high school graduation i. However, some police departments also require a certain level of post-secondary education.
In fact, almost a quarter of local police agencies in America require officer candidates to have at least an associate degree.
Most agencies eventually hire new police recruits on the condition that they successfully complete their training at a particular police academy. However, many smaller police departments don't have the money to pay for the basic training of all police cadets. So they recruit people who have self-sponsored their own police academy training, or they make it a requirement that you must have a certificate of completion from a police academy before applying for an entry-level officer position. Nobody likes to have their time wasted, least of all those who are in charge of screening, hiring, and training new police officers.
And you probably don't want to waste your own time either.
So it's important to be realistic about your qualifications, what drives you, and what kind of person you are. Keep in mind that being a cop is inherently a little dangerous. Each day presents new circumstances and challenges, both physical and mental. Police officers are also held to high ethical and moral standards. Cops who are primarily motivated by the potential prestige, power, or adrenaline rush of this occupation sometimes damage their careers or eventually fizzle out.
Simply put, being a police officer isn't just a job; it's a calling. It's also a privilege. Above all else, you need to be driven by the selfless desire to serve and protect the people in your community. Becoming a cop will test and expose your character, mental toughness, and physical stamina. That's why it's wise to think about the life you've had so far, the traits you possess, and the things that are driving you to become a police officer.
Be honest with yourself. For example, determine if you have:.
Education & Training for a Police Officer - Australian Federal Police
Aside from police academy training , you don't necessarily need a post-secondary education to become a police officer. However, a growing number of police agencies do prefer or require that applicants have college degrees. Even a post-secondary certificate, diploma, or two-year associate degree can demonstrate your ability to commit to something and learn things at a higher level.
And with a bachelor's degree, you may eventually qualify for more advanced or specialized positions that come with better pay. Any kind of law enforcement programs are worth completing. Other courses of study that can pay off include those related to:. If you choose not to take college courses, it's a good idea to a gain at least a year or more of real-world experience that involves dealing with the general public.
Jobs in retail, customer service, and the restaurant industry are just some examples. Volunteering for a community service organization—or even your local police force—can also be beneficial. Did you know that police volunteers do things like help out with neighborhood watch or disaster response? And most police agencies view military experience as a major plus. Simply put, you may need either some college education or prior working experience if you want a police agency to take your application seriously.
The more education and experience you have, the greater your competitive edge. You might already be a fitness buff. If not, it's time to become one. Police officers must be able to run, climb, crawl, dodge objects, defend themselves, and subdue suspects. They also need healthy ways to cope with the stress they often experience. That's why regular physical exercise is so important.
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As part of the recruitment process, you'll need to pass a physical abilities test. And when you attend a police academy, you'll be tasked with all kinds of physical demands on a regular basis. So start preparing for those things right away. Create a routine that features cardio, strength, and flexibility training multiple days a week. If you can, find out exactly what your physical abilities test will include so that you can tailor your training to it.
Do this as soon as possible. When it comes to your online identity, it's better to be boring than risk being perceived as offensive, juvenile, or stupid. At minimum, the police agencies you apply to will most likely perform Google searches on your name to see what turns up. Increasingly, a lot of agencies even request the passwords to their applicants' private social media accounts as part of their background checks. If you refuse to provide your passwords, your application might be terminated.
Take time to "sanitize" any websites you own or profiles you have on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media platform you use. Delete any posts, comments, shares, likes, retweets, or biographical information that could possibly be construed as foolish, controversial, immature, or demeaning to any particular group of people. Do this even for things that are many years old. It's also smart to unfriend or stop following anyone who posts stuff that might be seen as offensive or idiotic. You don't want to be seen as guilty by association. Most police agencies make their job applications available online.
In some cases, you may need to download the forms, print them out, and complete them by hand. In other cases, you can complete everything online. You also may be able to request an application in person by visiting a police agency's main office. Applications vary in their length and what they include.
You may need to complete a main application plus one or more supplemental applications. Beyond providing basic information like your name, age, citizenship status, education, and work history, you also may need to answer a variety of questions about your health, previous run-ins with law enforcement, and personal life both present and past. On a lot of applications, you're expected to write detailed, in-depth answers to those questions.
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Be honest. Anything you try to hide or downplay will likely come back to haunt you later in the process. Pay special attention to the legibility of your handwriting if you aren't using a computer to type your answers. Also, make sure your application is completely free of errors such as spelling or grammatical mistakes. Submit the application only after you and preferably someone else has proofed it and determined that it's perfect.
After your application has been reviewed and it's been decided that you meet the minimum requirements, you may be given a conditional offer of employment. The key word is conditional.
When you reach this point, you still haven't met all of the qualifications to become a police officer. In fact, the screening process has only just begun. You'll need to get through everything that follows. Your conditional offer of employment can be revoked at any time, so don't quit any other job you may have.
With most of the remaining steps, you either pass or fail. The first screening tool at this stage is usually a written test, sometimes referred to as a police officer selection test, police entrance exam, or basic abilities test. Recruits also receive training and supervised experience in areas such as patrol, traffic control, firearm use, self-defense, first aid and emergency response. Plantinga agrees that a college degree is beneficial, stating that college teaches you to think critically, see the big picture and to write well—a crucial skill in police work.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics BLS also notes that applicants with previous law enforcement or military experience—and those who speak more than one language—will have greater opportunities to become police officers. By passing this capstone exam, you are licensed to enforce the law as a police officer in your jurisdiction, and you are ready to seek employment with a police department. Prior to starting a law enforcement role, police departments and agencies will likely evaluate recruits for psychological stability and mental fitness. These psych tests vary, but will likely include lengthy written exams and possibly a one-on-one interview with a psychologist.
You may also be subjected to a polygraph test to cross-reference the answers provided in your application packet. Once you have officially become a police officer, you will still have plenty to learn. Nothing beats work experience to show you all of the specialized areas police officers might want or need to learn more about. Many of these ongoing training areas will be mandated by your police department based on federal regulation and local needs.
Departments might also incentivize other education opportunities to encourage their officers forward. Police training is a consistent part of the job. Some of these areas are even connected to different job titles. And a good law enforcement program will also help you navigate the process. It has since been updated. Quotes from Shetler and Plantinga remain from the original.
Brianna is a content writer for Collegis Education who writes student focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She earned her MFA in poetry and teaches as an adjunct English instructor. She loves to write, teach and talk about the power of effective communication. Posted in Law Enforcement. Will Erstad The benefits of pre-trade training How to start training for a trade at school What is Vocational Pathways?
How to Become a Police Officer: 17 Steps to a Career With Impact
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