How to Become a Police Officer

How to Become a Police Officer

Want to become a police officer? Before one dives into this law enforcement field to protect lives and property, it’s important to understand the requirements and steps. Here are some helpful guidelines.

General Qualifications

In the United States, one must be:

  • At least 21 years old
  • A U.S. citizen or naturalized
  • Have a valid driver’s license

Note that there may be exceptions to the age rule in some jurisdictions, so be sure to double check. Some areas also require minimum college credits.*

Steps to Becoming a Police Officer

  1. Are You Ready to Commit?
    The job of a police officer is often difficult and requires one to work under pressure, be in top shape and make important decisions. Research the different police duties and see if it’s something you want to do.  If there is a youth police program or volunteering opportunity in your area, consider joining or participating to see how you like it.
  2. Get Specific Requirements
    As not everybody has the same requirements, contact your local police department or cadet program to get specific details.
  3. Education Requirements
    Based on the requirements of your local department, there may be education prerequisites. Some like to see an Associate’s Degree or Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice. There are many Criminal Justice programs available, and many can be taken online.
  4. Stay in Good Physical Shape
    Due to the nature of the work, a police officer must be physically fit. Oftentimes, your local or state department will ask that you pass a physical test. There are programs that can help prepare you to become a police officer, which can often help.
  5. Application and Exam
    After passing the required exams, you can enroll in a Police Academy which may vary in length depending on which department you’re looking to work for. The Academy typically includes academics and physical training. Once this portion is over, one may be assigned to different area commands based on the needs of the police department.

Police Officer Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a police officer as $55,010 in 2010.**


Ready to pursue a career as a police officer? Get information about criminal justice schools near you and online using our criminal justice school finder at the top of this page. ↑


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