As you would expect from a law enforcement career, applicants must meet specific standards to enter a police officer career. In addition to being physically fit, you must possess the appropriate qualifications, pass various exams, and meet specific requirements before becoming a qualified police officer in the United States.
If you believe criminal justice is your calling and want to create a safer environment for society, you might thrive in a criminal justice career. Here is what you need to become a police officer.
Earn a High School Diploma or GED and a Degree
The minimal formal education requirement for a US police officer is a high school diploma or a GED. Despite not being essential, many law enforcement agencies often prefer or may even require an applicant to have graduated with a bachelor’s degree or associate degree.
If you want to stand out from other candidates or enter more advanced law enforcement positions, you can trust departments will look favorably on those with a criminal justice degree. Plus, being a police officer is just one of the many criminal justice careers you can pursue following graduation. For instance, a criminal justice degree could provide the flexibility to become a police detective, private detective, investigator, or probation officer, to name a few potential paths.
A college degree is preferred for most law enforcement professions, as a course will teach you to think critically, write well, and look at the bigger picture, which are essential police skills. Also, a program will provide the foundation you need to write articulate reports, and it may increase your likelihood of a promotion.
Pass the Law Enforcement Entrance Exam
If you decide to enter the career via a police academy, you must pass a law enforcement entrance exam. Your chosen police academy and its jurisdiction will determine the exam you must take. Training typically lasts six months and covers various topics, such as traffic laws, search and seizure, and physical conditioning.
Meet the Minimum Entry Requirements
Depending on the police department’s policy, you will likely need to be 18 or 21 years old to become a police officer. Also, you must be a US citizen and have a valid driver’s license. Most applicants will need a clean criminal record, which is why you must agree to a full background check. However, some departments might be happy to overlook minor criminal records.
Expect a Full Background Check
Applicants who have committed a serious crime cannot pursue a career as a police officer, especially if they have a felony or gross misdemeanour. In addition to a criminal background check, you may need to agree to a credit history check. A police department may analyze your finances to determine if you have financial issues that could affect your level of responsibility, such as gambling-related debts. Also, an employer will review your academic records, such as your degree qualifications, as well as your employment and residency. Here you have everything you need to know about becoming a police officer.