A police officer’s job is to serve the society in an impactful and meaningful way. To become a police officer does not depend primarily on formal education; in addition, having a high school diploma is sometimes the least formal education needed. An associate degree, bachelor or graduate levels are rarely needed. Rather, advanced and specialized training is needed. This training program is also offered by police academies at local, provincial or even in the state level.
Given the levels of commitment and trust granted to law enforcement, the expectations for being a police officer are higher than what you’re going to see in certain careers. Specific qualifications and practices can differ somewhat depending on the state, county or region in which you apply to serve, but there are certain universal criteria to become a police officer that you should be familiar with.
You’re in the right place if you’re curious how to become a police officer in the US. Keep reading for a high-level breakdown on the road to a law enforcement career.
How to Become a Police Officer?
While formal education is not typically necessary to serve as a police officer, even more departments are searching for those who have obtained a degree and are qualified to address higher levels of management. Here’s the way to get there.
- Must be a High School or GED
Having a GED or high school diploma is the basic formal education prerequisite for most police officer positions. Many law enforcement agencies may require or prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree or an average level of post-secondary credits.
- Complete the Essential Requirements
Many candidates would need to be a U.S. citizen, to have a valid driver’s license and to be at least 18 or 21 years of age, based on departmental policies. Job seekers may still require a clear criminal record, but some police forces may accept people with criminal backgrounds for as long as their cases are very minor. Felony charges are going to disqualify you from this career.
- Must be a Degree Bachelor (This is Optional!)
A college degree is typically required for more advanced police roles, particularly those at the federal level, such as the FBI or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Whether or not that is necessary, law enforcement is gradually starting to look favorably on candidates with college degrees.
- Must Pass the Law Enforcement Exam
Before being accepted to the police academy, candidates must receive a passing grade on the admission test. The precise admission test would depend on the police academy and jurisdiction. Any of the tests are Asset, Compass and Law Enforcement Examination.
- Must be a Graduate from Police Academy
The police academy is where the candidates undergo the most critical training to enable them to serve as police officers. It can last six months with a program covering subjects such as search and seizure, criminal legislation, firearms training, traffic laws, driver training and personal functioning.
- Work Harder for Promotion
Contingent on the department, going up the ranks relies on the level of competence, performance evaluations, well received on a written promotion test, and new qualifications and training. Wage rises with promotion, but so is the degree of liability and the associated bureaucracy.
- Bottom Line
Although the steps to becoming a police officer may seem daunting, undertaking them is completely important if you wish to pursue a rewarding profession that you have set your eyes on. And a successful law enforcement network is going to help you manage the process.
Now you’re familiar with the process of being a police officer, you might be wondering if you have what it takes to succeed at work.