Step by step guide to becoming a police officer

Police officers work across wide range of local, rural, regional and state police organizations, each with its own set of hiring and promotion requirements. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that educational requirements across the nation can range from a high school diploma to college undergraduate and post-graduate degrees. Knowing that, how should you prepare for your career? Do you need specialized training to work in a federal law enforcement agency? How much will you earn?

What does a police officer do?

Police officers are sworn to protect and serve the communities in which they live and work. They enforce laws, obtain warrants, arrest and interview suspects, write detailed reports and testify in court, among other duties. Those who work in patrol might have a certain area in a city, region or state that they monitor. Officers often respond to emergency calls, working shifts that operate around the clock. Based on your appointment, length of service and training, you may work with a K-9 unit responding to suspicions of drugs or dangerous weapons in vehicles and other property. Or, you might take a role on the SWAT team where you need to know tactics and procedure under dangerous conditions.

What kind of skills are required?

Police officers may work under intense stress, physically and emotionally. You need to be physically fit and have well-developed communication skills. Independent judgment, empathy and strong leadership skills are valuable assets. You also benefit from having computer skills and the aptitude to learn laws and codes used in daily practice.

The steps to becoming a police officer

  1. Meet the minimum requirements
  2. Complete an under graduate degree (optional)
  3. Pass the Law Enforcement Entrance Exam
  4. Complete academy training
  5. Advance your career