How Do You Become a Police Officer?

Whether you are obsessed with watching cop TV shows every weeknight, have a family history in law enforcement that you wish to live on, or simply loved dressing up as a cop every Halloween as a kid, there are many reasons why you may want to become a police officer. As the protectors of our communities, police officers are responsible for pursuing and apprehending people who break the law in an effort to keep people and property safe from harm. Police officers are typically involved in enforcing laws, responding to emergency calls, patrolling areas for suspicious activity, making traffic stops, issuing citations, acquiring warrants for arrests, completing detailed reports, and preparing cases for court. If you aspire to make your dream come true in criminal justice, read on to find a step-by-step guide on how to become a police officer.

Receive the Necessary Education

Police officers must have at least a high school diploma or GED equivalent to be considered for entering their department’s training academy, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That being said, it is becoming increasingly common for employers to prefer candidates who have taken college coursework and received an associate’s degree. Many aspiring police officers decide to earn a degree in criminal justice, criminology, police science, or public administration to boost the skills that can be applied to their career. Since police officers often need to communicate with people from different cultural backgrounds, taking foreign language courses can help applicants stand out to employers too. Having previous military experience is also seen as a major plus for police officers.

File an Application with Police Departments

Then, the next step to become a police officer is to begin completing applications to the police departments in your desired work location. Applicants generally will need to be U.S. citizens, be at least 21 years old, possess a valid driver’s license, and meet specific physical abilities to be considered. Along with the application, candidates may also have to pass physical examinations to ensure good vision, hearing, strength, and agility for completing the job’s duties. Before being moved into a training program, new hopefuls will need to pass background checks, drug tests, lie detector tests, and civil service exams to evaluate whether they have the qualities necessary for excelling as a police officer.

Graduate from the Police Academy

Before being placed in the pool of eligible candidates for job openings, future police officers will need to complete a police academy program at their prospective department. All accepted applicants will be put through rigorous training that usually lasts anywhere from 12 to 14 weeks in duration. In addition to the obvious physical training, police academy programs will include classroom studies to cover topics related to constitutional law, civil rights, emergency responses, proper police procedures, traffic control, first aid, local ordinances, criminal investigation, and police ethics. New recruits will also receive supervised experience in the use of firearms and be trained with self-defense techniques to stay safe on the job.

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Due to the fact that police officers must face high levels of danger in virtually every aspect of the job, there is extensive training that accompanies putting on the uniform, receiving a badge, and donning a firearm. However, once you pass through these steps to become a police officer, you will be on the frontline to make your community a safer place to live in and be on the pathway towards advancing into detective or captain positions.