How to Become a Police Officer

People who are looking for a very challenging and rewarding career where they will be helping to protect citizens and their property may be wondering how to become a police officer. This type of work can be physically and emotionally demanding, since there is a possibility that an officer will be injured or killed while on the job. Police officers must stay calm in stressful situations and show leadership and good judgment.

Most police forces require applicants to be at least 21 years of age. They must hold a valid driver’s license and be U.S. citizens. There may be certain minimum height and weight requirements, and officers must be able to pass eyesight and hearing tests before being hired. A prospective police officer must also be a person of good character who has no prior convictions.

Education Required to Become a Police Officer

A person who is interested in working as a police officer may want to attend college or university first. An undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice, Public Safety Administration, or Justice Studies can be helpful. While a high school diploma or an Associate degree can open the door to someone who is interested in this career, moving up the ranks to a higher paying position will require a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.

Physical Training Requirements

A police officer needs to be physically fit, and it’s a good idea to start training for the physical test at least a few months beforehand. The preparation for this part of the application process should include the following elements, which will be part of the test:

• Sprinting up to 100 yards
• Longer distance running (up to two miles; average time of eight minutes per mile)
• 20 pushups and 30 sit ups in less than a minute
• Climbing over and 8-foot fence
• Being able to drag a 150 lb. weight for a short distance

Other Helpful Skills

Taking a course in public speaking at college or university can be helpful for prospective police officers. Good driving skills are also important, and being trained in First Aid and CPR is an asset. Police recruiters are also looking for people with good keyboarding skills (minimum of 60 wpm) and computer skills. Since police officers will be working in the communities they are supposed to serve and protect, candidates should be able to provide details of community involvement as well.

Police Academy Training

Candidates who pass the physical tests, background checks and personal interview will be hired as a recruit. New hires attend the police academy for 12-14 weeks before they are assigned to a field rotation. The police academy training includes instruction in local laws, working with the public, accident reporting and civil rights.

New members of the force will also receive training from more senior officers in traffic control techniques, self defense, using firearms, and risk assessment. This field training is an important part of the process for people who want to become a police officer. With this information on how to become a police officer, you’re well on your way to a successful career.

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