Police officers’ education and training is intensive and highly specialized, however a great deal of it is acquired in the police academy and on the job. Police officers are generally required to have only a high school education before they begin their police training. Having a college degree or military experience can only increase your chances of being accepted to the force and entering with an above-average police officer salary. Additionally, if you are bi-lingual you may have an excellent chance of working with state or federal agencies.
Police Officer Education Requirements
Regardless of their prior education, before an officer is officially put on the streets they must go through a training period. This includes the police academy which involves classroom instruction on the law, civil rights and investigation techniques. They must also get hands-on training in first aid, firearms and self defense. The police academy training takes place in a relatively short time, sometimes in as little as 2-3 months. Candidates must be able to pass a rigorous physical test as well as a written exam. Other requirements that police officer candidates must meet include U.S. citizenship, being 21 years of age, and passing a medical examination.
Even if all these qualifications are met, not everyone is going to be a perfect fit for the police force. It is important that police officers enjoy working with the public and have a sense of responsibility for keeping the peace and upholding the law. Individuals seeking to become a police officer must be able to demonstrate good judgment, the ability to take orders, the ability to manage stress and the kind of personality that can stop and think before acting. An interview with a psychiatrist is required and these may even include a polygraph test, especially for positions with a great deal of responsibility. Officers must also pass random drug tests and must not have anything incriminating on their record.
Once an officer joins the force there is a probationary period that must pass before they can be promoted. Each department will have clearly outlined requirements for attaining seniority and pay increases. This includes continuing education which helps an officer sharpen existing skills and gain new ones. There is no point in the career of a police officer or detective when they are finished learning new things.
Furthermore, once a police officer has experience, he or she may be called upon to help educate others. For example, training officers with less seniority and providing public education at different community events. As a law enforcement professional, knowledge is the key to being effective at protecting and keeping the peace.
Many people who hope to enter the police force will actually go to college to study criminal justice, law enforcement, or other applicable degrees. These are a fine foundation for building a career as a police officer, but they are not a substitute for working in the trenches. If you have any doubt about pursuing a law enforcement career, contact your local police department and see if there are any officers who would be willing to sit down with you and give you a real life view of the daily grind on the force. These officers can tell you what to expect and give you an objective view of this unique career.
Remember, being a police officer is not a snap decision. The training, education and testing that is required before you even set foot on the force can be daunting to anyone who is not completely committed. But it is definitely a rewarding career for people who want to feel they are making a big difference at the end of the day.