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Steps to Become a Police Officer

As for how to become a police officer, the process has a few key steps, though the specific requirements vary by state. Also learn more at how to become a police officer without a college degree.

Education Requirements Generally speaking, aspiring police officers are encouraged to earn either a two-year or four-year degree in criminal justice or a related field. Some states require this level of education; others don’t require it but do encourage it and are more likely to hire officers with a degree. Due to relatively low turnover in the field, many police departments have highly competitive hiring processes; some precincts are more likely to hire an applicant who has a bachelor’s degree. More advanced education may also translate into a higher salary level.

Entrance Exams The specifics of the police force entrance exams vary from state to state but generally involve written tests to assess an applicant’s cognitive ability, observational power and mental acuity. These tests are often compared to college entrance exams, such as the ACT or SAT; and they may delve into basic reading comprehension and grammar, as well as mathematics.

Police Academy Successful passage of the entrance exam grants the applicant a space in the police academy, a government-sponsored training program that prepares applicants for work in the local force. Each police academy is different, but all will place a heavy emphasis on classroom learning. Some potential topics covered include:

State laws First aid Investigative methods Basic computer skills Report writing

Additionally, the police academy involves physical exercise and training, helping applicants remain physically fit. The duration of the police academy varies by state, but generally applicants can complete their training in around six months.

Field Testing Police officers may also be required to demonstrate their fitness in the field; field tests may involve demonstrating their skills on assignment with a more experienced officer, or simply showing their stamina in an obstacle course. Field testing may also provide applicants with a chance to showcase and further develop their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as their proficiency in communicating with others.