How to Become a Police Officer

Are you interested in a career that allows you to help people and uphold the law? You can do these and more by becoming a police officer.

The job of police officers requires remarkable courage, exemplary judgment and the ability to work and think quickly even in dangerous situations. Police officer jobs encompass duties dedicated to protecting lives and property. As a police officer, it will be your job to enforce the laws governing your locality, respond to calls from citizens for help and service, patrol areas assigned to you, conduct traffic stops, issue traffic citations, write detailed reports, arrest offenders, investigate suspicious activities or crime scenes, and more.

Depending on whether you work for a local, state or federal agency, your day-to-day activities as a police officer may vary. However, since security and protection must be available at all times, you can expect to work shifting schedules. The high-risk nature of police officer jobs may be minimized only by following proper procedures and adequate cop training.

Police Officer Education Requirements

You will need some form of formal training in order to become a police officer. The educational requirements for police officers may range from a high school diploma or GED certificate, graduating from the agency’s training academy, to a college degree or higher.

In case your state or local police department requires it, you will need to undergo recruit training in the agency’s police academy or a regional or state academy. Your training will include classes in constitutional, state and local law, civil rights, crime investigation, criminal psychology and police ethics. Cop training also includes supervised experience in the use of firearms, self-defense, subject apprehension, first aid and emergency response, patrol, and traffic control.

Candidates must be at least 21 years old, hold U.S. citizenship, and have a driver’s license. You will need to pass vision, hearing, strength and agility exams as well as written exams. You can expect to undergo a series of interviews and background checks. You may also be asked to take drug tests and lie detector tests. Candidates with felony convictions may be disqualified.

Important Qualities to Have as a Police Officer

Aside from meeting the educational requirements, there are qualities that you must possess or develop in order to excel as a police officer:

  • Multitasking ability. You may find that your day-to-day activities vary, with various reports and other tasks demanding your attention. You must be able to stay on top of your responsibilities and complete your tasks on time.
  • Strong communication skills. As a police officer, it will be your job to gather facts from witnesses, victims and offenders and provide accurate details when writing your reports.
  • Good judgment. You will need to be able to determine the best course of action in any given situation as quickly as possible.
  • Compassion. You must have a genuine desire to help people.
  • Discernment. Police officers must be able to anticipate how people will react and comprehend why people act the way they do.

Because the public will look to you as an authority figure and for assistance in emergency situations, as a police officer, you must possess leadership skills to secure their safety and well-being. You must be able to remain calm and think clearly and quickly even when crises arise. You must maintain good physical shape to withstand the rigors of the job on a daily basis.