fbpx

How to Become a Police Officer in 2021

October 4, 2021 | Staff Writers

Degree Finder
BestValueSchools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Numerous Hollywood movies specify the intense physical training required to become a police officer. Perhaps you can even envision the range of shooting, obstacle courses, and tactical scenario exercise rooms. 

All these are crucial elements when it comes to police officer training. Nonetheless, they’re just one part of the procedure. If you want to become a police officer, the qualifications are higher as compared to other professions. 

It’s because of the trust and high responsibility level given to law enforcement agencies.  The standards and procedure differ depending on the county, state, or town in which you’re applying for the job.

However, you should familiarize yourself with a couple of cosmopolitan requirements if you want to become a cop. You may be wondering, “How do I become a police officer?” Well, you’re on the right track! 

If you want to pursue the law enforcement profession, here’s a comprehensive breakdown of this noble job. Read on! 

What Are the Steps to Becoming a Police Officer?

You have to follow a particular education path to become a cop. Usually, there are five steps to take:

  • Make sure that becoming a police officer is the right career for you
  • Complete elementary requirements (valid driver’s license, at least 18 or 21 years old, clean criminal record)
  • Complete a biennial associate degree (It’s highly competitive but not a requisite).
  • Earn a degree after training at a police academy
  • Search for a job and follow your career path

Do you Want to Become a Police Officer?

Just like any other job, you have to look deeply at what the position needs to decide if the profession is suitable for you. Besides taking into account the profession, consider the education needed, the intensity of the police officers’ daily duties, among other factors.

Also, it’s advisable to consider progression. Is becoming a cop the ideal stepping stone if you have your eyes on federal or higher grade administrative work? These are some queries that should linger in your mind before considering training to become a cop. 

What Are the Basic Qualifications to Become a Police Officer?

A police officer has a highly demanding profession. It’s because it requires a wide assortment of physical and mental expertise, sincerity, and an unswerving dedication to safeguarding your community and the country at large. 

Therefore, you need thorough training to become a cop. First of all, you must meet some of the most elementary requirements. They comprise:

  • Be a US national
  • Your criminal record should be clean
  • Be at least 18 years old (or 22 years in some instances)
  • Have a valid driving permit

If your record only indicates minor crimes done some time ago, you can be hired as a cop. A serious criminal offense can hinder you from becoming a police officer. 

Besides, to be admitted as a police recruit and get into the training academy, you have to pass an entrance exam that tests your elementary comprehension expertise. 

What Are the Physical Requirements for Becoming a Police Officer?

In addition to the elementary bio needs, you must meet several physical requirements, such as:

  • Good hearing and eyesight
  • Mental stability
  • Basic physique standard (potency, nimbleness, endurance, and many more)

Physical requirements differ from one place to the other and even state to state. For instance, in Los Angeles, your body should have a fat percentage of not more than 22% if you’re a male applicant. 

In Philadelphia, to be admitted into the police training academy as a recruit, you must excel in a physical suitability test. You can proceed with training if you attain these requirements. They may comprise official college courses (it’s a crucial part if you want to become a police officer).

What Are the Education Requirements to Become a Police Officer? 

A bachelor’s or an associate degree in formal education isn’t a stringent requirement if you want to be a police officer. Nonetheless, a 2-year degree is needed in most departments around the country. 

Other departments stress employing a college graduate who has completed four years. If you have a college degree, then it’s helpful when it comes to the employment procedure. However, it’s not a formal requirement for a job posting. 

College graduates compete for positions in the police force, and, therefore, having an official degree besides police training is an added advantage. However, it’s a challenging task. 

Besides increasing your possibilities of getting promoted, a degree improves your chances of being employed. You may desire to move into leadership positions, like a sergeant or captain. If you have a bachelor’s degree in a suitable field, you’ll most probably get a promotion. 

Ultimately, to become a qualified police officer, you need to have earned a high school diploma or equivalent (GED). A bachelor’s degree is required if you want to pursue a career as a correctional probation officer. 

What’s the Ideal College Degree for a Police Officer?

To flourish and excel in this profession, a law enforcement officer requires a wide array of expertise. From a strong comprehension of people’s behavior to solid communication, a bachelor’s degree or associate degree may be more valuable to a police officer in numerous diverse fields.

The best law enforcement degree is the one you have an unmatched interest in and one you can apply in your profession as an aspiring police officer. 

College Majors for Police Officers

Enforcing Law

The most relevant degree for many police officers is a law enforcement degree. In law enforcement training, you get to understand public security, the court system, criminal behavior, psychology, and much more. 

Law

To attain a police officer position, you must have an elementary comprehension of criminal law. Nonetheless, if you want to advance your profession, you must understand civil and criminal law deeply. Also, it’s crucial to understand how to apply these laws when it comes to preventing crime. 

There’s a greater chance of advancing in this profession if you attend a law school. You can either rise in the positions of a department or work as an educator or teacher in the field of law enforcement.

Criminology and Criminal Justice

Criminology is another helpful degree field. This study field covers a wide range, an approach to crime that’s science-based, examines statistics in crime in terms of frequency, source, demographics, and many more. 

Criminology is an academic subject that depends on science heavily (criminology is indeed a science type similar to psychology or biology). Therefore, an inquisitive mind and a knack for numbers are useful. 

If you attain a degree in criminology, it’s useful when it comes to advancing your profession. It’s because you can apply it to challenging issues that leaders in law enforcement have to deal with. It can also help lead you to a career as a criminal investigator or other federal agencies.

Criminal justice is similar to criminology in numerous ways. It concentrates on adhering to societal systems established to end crime, castigate crime, and lessen future cases. Usually, you’ll have broad comprehension regarding enforcing laws, corrections, and the court system with a criminal justice degree.

Also, the degree provides you with a strong comprehension of the general efforts in stopping crime in the US, and, therefore, it’s helpful when it comes to career advancement. If you’re a police officer and would like to move into fields like rehabilitation or victim support in law enforcement and federal agencies, this degree is helpful. 

Education Institutions for Cops

Do you now understand what choices there are if you want to become a police officer? Well, we know that you’re better off now. The next thing you need to know is where police officer training is offered. 

Numerous schools offer police officer training and help you begin a law enforcement profession that you prefer. Here are several choices. Keep reading!

Military School

You can procure most of the police academy training during elementary military or basic training if you’re serving as a soldier.  

If you have military training, there’s a likelihood of getting employed and gaining the chance to learn unmatched expertise in the field. Military training is ideal for people who adore serving their community or state.

Military training comes with several drawbacks, like the fact that it takes longer to train as compared to acquiring a degree. Also, military training is intense and can lead to physical or mental injuries. It makes it hard or impractical to become a civilian cop. 

Trade/Vocational Institutions

These are post-graduate schools that concentrate their curriculums and programs on practical and talent-oriented training. The training can take the form of an internal police academy. The fastest method of acquiring the required training to be a police officer is to attend a vocational institution.

As a student, you’ll get a police academy education, and you don’t have to go to the formal police academy. A vocational school is somewhat cheaper than acquiring a college degree. Don’t forget that you’re not guaranteed employment in law enforcement even if you’ve graduated. 

Also, it may not offer opportunities for job progression as it’s not considered an academic certification. A vocational institution is ideal for those who are sure of getting an employment offer as soon as they graduate and would love to serve as a cop as fast as possible. 

Community Colleges

Like vocational institutions, coursework in community colleges is more inclined towards real-world expertise and knowledge and minimal in theory. 

Apart from college degrees in areas helpful to cops, such as criminal justice, community colleges have unique law enforcement programs offering training similar to that of police college cadets. These programs in law enforcement can be brought together with other curriculums. 

This way, graduates acquire an associate degree. The only drawback of obtaining police officer training for a community college is that acquiring a degree may be more expensive as compared to a committed police academy, trade, or vocational institution. 

If you want to obtain a college degree and training in law enforcement, this is the best institution for you. 

Four-Year Institutions

The best institutions to pursue a bachelor’s degree are universities and colleges. However, if you acquire a law enforcement degree or an affiliated field, you still have to prepare to register in a police academy.

It helps you learn the practical expertise needed for police officer work. To get your bachelor’s degree, you have to study full-time for four years. 

This way, you have a greater opportunity of advancing in a police officer rank. Also, if you want to move to enforce laws at the federal level, this is the most suitable academic certification. 

Four-year institutions are ideal for police officers searching for federal work or those who want an additional method to stand out of the crowd. 

A Law Enforcement Institution

If you want to become a police officer, a police academy or a law enforcement school is the lowest training you must complete. You’ll study the processes, expertise, and guidelines a cop uses daily. 

Typically, training at a law enforcement institution is the fastest and most effective way to become a cop. It’s because the education is specific. Perhaps there’s only one law enforcement institution that all cops have to attend based on the state. 

On the other hand, it can be the only school that operates together with agencies or departments to teach future cops. Nonetheless, don’t forget that it’s training – you don’t acquire a degree or other academic certification. 

If you want to become a police officer fast, a law enforcement school is the best bet. 

Now that you understand about the training institutions to become a police officer, you may be asking yourself, “What are the academic credentials required to become a cop?” Well, keep reading to learn more!

To rise in the law enforcement domain, you should have any degree level. Here, you’ll find the most popular degrees and information concerning the courses. If you’re a student, you’ll be able to make the right decision when it comes to becoming a cop. 

A Law Enforcement Associate Degree

It gives you the information required to excel in police academy entry tests, and, therefore, an associate degree in enforcing law gets graduates ready for police careers. Typically, it takes two years to acquire an associate degree.

It’s an all-around degree that acts as a stepping stone if you want a bachelor’s degree. The associate degree has mixed training courses. Curriculums differ because every associate degree program is tailored to the needs of law enforcement departments locally and regionally.  

Nonetheless, several of the classes that you can anticipate as a student comprise:


Types of Crime

Expertise Acquired
Diverse crimes are debated, comprising property, arranged crimes, and white-collarThe know-how about numerous diverse crime typesComprehending crimes without victimsHow to differentiate offenses from each other
Probing scenes of crimeScholars learn how to handle a scene of offense properly and collect evidenceVarious ways of gathering evidenceThe know-how on the procedure of collecting evidence like the chain of custodyUsing methods of offense reconstruction
Police tacticsAs a scholar, you’ll learn how to utilize police intelligence to safeguard the public and handle the resources of the police more efficientlyCome up with strategies and how to generate police intelligenceGenerate predictive maps used in policing and apply analyticsAllot restricted resources to stop crime 

A Law Enforcement Bachelor’s Degree

Acquiring a bachelor’s degree takes up to four years. Also, it can comprise numerous diverse subjects and topics. There are archetypical degrees like criminology, law enforcement studies, and criminal justice. 

However, other majors can support police officers well. Graduates who have an accounting degree, for instance, are great candidates when it comes to a career in investigating white-collar offenses. 

On the other hand, majors in computer science have an added advantage if they want to follow an occupation in cyber offenses or computer forensics. 

If you’re doing a bachelor’s degree in any legal field, you can anticipate getting courses like:

Skills Acquired
Police moralsIn this course, ethics are checkedGet acquainted with the usual causes of unscrupulous and unprofessional conduct of the policeApplying some tactics and tools to handle moral issuesPinpoint the way of life of the police and actions that bring about immoral behavior
Planning for an EmergencyWhen it comes to handling emergencies and tools and techniques used to reduce risks, students get directivesThey get experienced when controlling an uproar while using less forceUsing danger alleviation and management approachesGet acquainted with organizations usually called upon in a crisis
Police modelsScholars are predisposed to distinct policing models used locally, in a state, and at the federal level Methods of managing information and gathering intelligenceManagement approaches to most effectively deal with issuesKnowing methods of organization and divergences between state, federal, and local police management

Law Enforcement Master’s Degree 

It’s explicitly custom-made to numerous professional objectives. Also, it comprises particularized and improve knowledge in a specific area, like leadership, study, and intelligence.

If you’re searching for professional progression, a master’s degree in law enforcement is beneficial. It takes around two years to acquire a master’s degree. Some of the things you’ll learn at the master’s level comprise:

Expertise Acquired
Statistics in crimeStudents are taught basic statistical analysis approaches Able to expound information and come to helpful conclusionsAcquainted with statistical designsCorroborate if statistical data is valid
Collecting intelligenceThis course deals with surveillance and intelligence approachesBe able to carry out intelligence collection operationsTake into account operational and logistical restrictions when it comes to intelligence gatheringComprehending the legal problems when collecting intelligence or utilizing data gathered from surveillance
Professional development in criminal justiceScholars are taught management tenets, leadership, and notionsEfficient leadership methods in law enforcementGet acquainted with fundamental management practicesStrategies to progress the law enforcement profession

Apply to Be a Cop

Every job opening in the police force attracts numerous applicants. It’s because working as a cop is a common job. Becoming a cop is a competitive procedure in several regions of the country. There are hundreds of competent candidates competing for just a few positions. 

With this in mind, it’s good to learn how you can stand out from the crowd and attract the attention of those responsible for employing when a time comes for recruitment. If you’re invited for an interview to become a police officer, impress the employer.

In the process of employing, numerous hopeful candidates are offered an interview. An interview provides a chance for employers to know you better personally. At times, that’s sufficient to get you the highly sought-after job.  

Acquire Your Ideal Police Officer Job

Types of Cops

If you work as a cop, you may find yourself in a place where position and eldership bring diversity. Similar to the armed forces, there’s a direct chain of command. 

Although private-sector chief petitions, a police department chief orders, and, therefore, you have to adhere to these orders. 

The precise police department structure may differ by area and size. However, it usually begins with the most common position (police officer). These officers carry out ground-level patrol duties and respond to emergencies. 

Therefore, they form the mainstay of enforcing laws around the country. From there, we have the police detective. They work on personal cases and investigate crime scenes. We have broken down the structure of the police, starting from the lowest position to the highest. Here it is!

  • Corporal – Intrinsically an entry-level administrator (usually responsible for a small group of administrators)
  • Sergeant – First-line administrators (typically supervises several officers and police detectives)
  • Lieutenant – They’re responsible for a group of administrators
  • Captain – Gives orders to a whole unit or district
  • A Staff Inspector – Supervises several districts and large units
  • Principal Inspector – Oversees an office or a massive group of units
  • Deputy Commissioner – Responsible for large parts of districts and departments

In other cities, a chief can command an entire police department. You can find other titles and positions based on the area you are located. 

How Much Do Police Officers Earn?

You have to be encouraged by more than just earning cash if you want to follow a career when it comes to law enforcement, beginning with a police officer rank. 

Police officers can earn high salaries (regardless of whether they get sufficient cash depending on everything they perform). However, money isn’t enough to encourage them to wear the uniform and traverse the streets daily. 

That said, it’s worth checking into the anticipated remuneration of cops to comprehend their earning capability. Here’s the breakdown of police officer’s salaries. Let’s jump right in!

Police Officer RankSalary Per Year
Top-level cops$97,214
Senior-level officers$75,427
Middle-level officers$56,897
Cops in the junior level$42,919
Beginner-level$33,300

What Skills do you Need to Become a Successful Police Officer?

Police officers require expertise similar to any other career. The right skills are essential to cops. It’s because if you don’t have them, things could go wrong. To ensure that the police officers and the people they protect are safe, the below skills are crucial.

Leadership Skills

Not only are leadership qualities crucial when it comes to commanding colleague officers, but assisting civilians when in need. Police officers should evaluate the situation and guide others on what they’re required to do to be safe. 

Proper Judgment

Police officers face numerous issues that are difficult to solve. To do the right thing, they may need an intricate solution. Therefore, cops should have good judgment.

Be Able to “Read” People

Cops socialize with common citizens daily. Therefore, if something is wrong, they should figure it out. It’s not only because of what has been said but the unsaid. Also, there may be an argument between people. It’s necessary to be able to decide who isn’t telling the truth. 

Fortitude and Stamina

Enforcing laws is a demanding undertaking, regardless of whether you’re freeing civilians from cars on fire, working long hours, or unplanned foot hunts. However, physical strength is an essential skill for police officers, although not every task will have this kind of drama. 

Mental Strength

As a police officer, you may perceive things that most people can’t envision. If you don’t have the expertise to deal with what you perceive while on the job, you may not carry on with the work. 

Conclusion

If you want to become a cop, several benefits come with the profession. However, it has some of the largest drawbacks than other professions. 

As a cop, you may perceive several of the most dangerous aspects in a community, comprising manslaughter, abuse of drugs, robbery, and even domestic violence. Not only do you encounter drivers over speeding on the highway, but also rough criminals.

It makes becoming a police officer stressful, and, therefore, cops require therapy and other types of emotional support frequently. 

Nonetheless, there are benefits also. Society may show gratitude and support, and, therefore, you’ll be proud of your profession. It makes all the hardships worthwhile. Irrespective of the challenges, your profession makes society a better place to live in. 

Find the program that’s right for you

Whether you’re trying to start your career or make a big change, we can help you find the perfect school to help you reach your goals.

Degree Finder
BestValueSchools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Scroll to Top