What Training Is Needed To Become a Police Officer?

Many high school students want to work in the law enforcement field, but they often don’t know about the training needed to become a police officer. While it’s definitely a worthwhile career choice, students shouldn’t decide to become police officers unless they are committed to giving 100 percent to the training that they will need to complete.


While some law enforcement agencies still hire police officers who only have a high school diploma or GED, more and more are requiring a college degree. An associate’s degree may be enough to get in the door, but a bachelor’s degree in more desirable. Majoring in criminal justice is great for anyone that wants to become a police officer, but other degrees can qualify individuals for the job too. For instance, forensics, psychology and political science degrees will also fit the bill. Students wanting to work in urban areas or places that have sizable minority populations should think about double majoring, minoring or at least taking some extra classes in a foreign language.

Specialized Training

Courses in criminal justice degree programs give students a general education in many subjects and theoretical training in law enforcement. Students may be given a chance to get a taste of what fieldwork is like, but more hands-on training is needed to become a police officer. This is where a police academy program comes in. Training usually lasts for 12 to 14 weeks. Police academy training covers concrete skills that are important for police officers to learn, such as handling and using weapons, patrolling different areas and processing crime scenes. Trainees are also taught about police ethics and how to do their jobs without disrespecting civilians that are involved in a police case.

Civil Service Exam

The training needed to become a police officer doesn’t just include courses – people hoping to become involved in any type of civil service career need to pass a civil service exam. According to the Philadelphia Police Department, this test is used to make sure that individuals are prepared for their jobs by testing them on their problem-solving skills and aptitude for the job. While there isn’t any type of formal training for this exam, people that plan to take the test should prepare by going over practice questions and pacing themselves so that they can answer all the questions thoroughly within a set amount of time.

Related Resource: Becoming a Detective

Physical Requirements

In order to become a police officer, individuals must complete practical and theoretical training requirements, but they also have to be healthy. The physical training needed to become a police officer can be tough depending on an individual’s beginning fitness level, but most students can pass the physical exam after attending a police academy program and participating in the physical fitness courses. There may be minimum fitness requirements for activities such as:

  • long-distance running
  • sprinting
  • vertical jumping
  • sit-ups
  • push-ups

Becoming a police officer is a lot of work, but almost any worthwhile career requires training of some sort. While all the training needed to become a police officer may be a little scary, the requirements are all very doable for most individuals and should not deter anyone that is hoping to become a police officer.