Becoming a police officer is a life-changing commitment, and as police work can be dangerous, it is not a decision to be taken lightly. It requires a lot of hard work and determination, but a career in this field can be extremely rewarding and exciting. There are also numerous different career paths and opportunities for the right candidates.
Police departments across the country all have a different application process, so you should investigate the process at the department in the city you wish to apply at. Becoming a police officer is quite a lengthy process.
So, let’s take an in-depth look at How To Become A Police Officer so that you can start making your dream of a career in blue a reality.
- How to Get Started?
- How Long Does it Take to Become a Police Officer?
- Pros and Cons of Being a Police Officer
- Career Paths and Opportunities
- Is a Police Career Right for Me?
How to Get Started?
- Only US citizens can apply, and you will need to provide proof of citizenship.
- You must be 21 years or older to apply.
- Must have a high school diploma or GED.
- You must have a motor vehicle license.
- Should not have a criminal record.
You can visit the website of the police department you wish to join and fill in an application form there. Then, you will then be given a test date, which you will be required to write within two months of sending your application.
You will also need to complete a personal history statement. If things go well, you will then be asked to partake in an oral interview and psychological assessment, medical examination, and, in some cases, a CVSA (complete voice stress analyzer). Agility and fitness tests may also be included.
Once the tests have been completed and you are considered to be a suitable candidate, you can then start training at the academy.
These are the types of skills you can expect to learn at the academy
- Physical fitness.
- Firearms training.
- Criminal law.
- Constitutional and Federal law.
- Defensive tactics.
- Arrest techniques.
- Counter terrorism.
- Narcotics training.
- Interrogation techniques.
- Advanced driving.
- VIP protection.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Police Officer?
Once you have graduated from the academy, you will start a field training program or active patrol with a more experienced officer. It can take about two to four years on average to be fully trained as a police officer, depending on your level of experience.
It is important to use your natural capabilities or attributes to your advantage. Everybody has different skills that can make them a welcome member of a team.
The following attributes will hold you in good stead out in the field and in the office:
- Diligence and attention to detail.
- Physical fitness and agility.
- Empathy and compassion.
- Problem-solving skills.
- Trustworthiness and loyalty.
- Good administration skills.
- Excellent communicator.
- Good leadership qualities.
- An aptitude for negotiation.
Pros and Cons of Being a Police Officer
- Police officers are looked up to in society.
- No two days are the same.
- They are in good physical condition.
- Their colleagues often become like a second family.
- They earn a decent salary.
- They learn patience and how to deal effectively with people.
- There are many different departments to work in.
- Can be dangerous.
- Their days can be uncertain and unpredictable.
- Can see some traumatic situations which can become overwhelming.
- They often must make difficult decisions.
- They often work long hours, and there can be sleep deprivation.
- It’s possible to get injured or even killed.
Career Paths and Opportunities
Police work is not just about patrolling the streets and catching criminals. There are many different roles and careers you could apply for once you are a trained police officer. Police departments encourage and often incentivize officers to study and further their careers within the police force. A degree in law enforcement will greatly increase your chances of a promotion and a higher salary.
Here are some of the different policing jobs you could explore
Police officer duties include general law enforcement, such as patrolling public areas, apprehending criminals, writing reports, investigating crime scenes, and responding to emergency calls.
Officers are assigned to specific areas or neighborhoods and are required to build a good relationship with the local community. Police officers tend to be adventurous, ambitious, persuasive, self-assured, extroverted, energetic, and passionate individuals. If you think you have some of these personality traits, maybe this is the job for you.
The average salary per year is $53,500.
Highway Patrol Officer
The main duties of a highway patrol officer are to patrol the state highways and roads, ensure the safety of motorists while enforcing the traffic laws, help people during motor vehicle accidents and emergencies, investigate the causes of accidents, and report any damages to the roads.
The average salary per year is $43,900.
Public Safety Officer
The primary duty of public safety officers is to keep the peace in public areas. They respond to disturbances in designated areas and are responsible for maintaining order at public gatherings by patrolling the streets, directing traffic, operating fire fighting and other emergency equipment.
The average salary per year is $48,500.
The job of a sky or air marshal is to protect the crew members and passengers on commercial flights. They go onboard aircraft during flights and observe potential threats, taking action if the need arises. The sky marshals work in tandem with other government agencies to evaluate potential risks.
The average salary per year is $65,500.
The role of the detective is to examine crime scenes and collect evidence to be used in court. Detectives need to create a timeline of events leading to the crime and outline the motive to get a clear picture of what took place.
The average salary per year is $49,500.
A private investigator (PI) performs investigations into missing persons or property by interviewing witnesses and monitoring the activities of potential perpetrators. A PI will also help in cases of fraud.
The average salary per year is $36,600.
The duty of forensic scientists is to collect the forensic evidence of a crime scene. Once they have done this, they document it and take it back to a laboratory to conduct tests. This evidence is vital in convicting felons. After the tests have been processed, they protect the evidence from theft or tampering. They often appear in court as professional witnesses.
The average salary per year is $82,500.
Park rangers’ duties include search and rescue missions, protecting wildlife, patrolling, and enforcing the rules and regulations of state parks. They also protect people from the wildlife and ensure the general safety of park visitors.
The average salary per year is $35,400.
Border Patrol Police
Border patrol agents patrol and secure the international borders of the country and make sure people are entering with the correct documentation. They report any undocumented immigrants to the authorities.
The average salary per year is $70,700.
A sheriff’s duties are to enforce the law in his or her respective county, respond to emergency calls, manage the local jails, and ensure general security in the county, including the security of all government buildings.
The average salary per year is $65,200.
Resource officers are responsible for the safety of schools, including the protection of students and teachers. They will investigate any criminal activity taking place on the premises and develop strategies to ensure a safe environment at schools.
The average salary per year is $42,100.
Victim advocates help provide support to victims of crime. They offer legal advice and emotional support to people who are battling to come to terms with the trauma of being a victim of a serious crime. They keep victims up to date on the progress of their trial and inform them of any appeals or extra hearings coming up. Also, they assist with submitting paperwork and files to the court proceedings.
Want to know more about Being a Police Officer?
It’s also well worth taking a look at the Police Officer Exam Prep 2021-2022: Study Guide, Police Officer Exam Study Guide: Police Entrance Prep Book Secrets, Full-Length Practice Test, or the excellent, The Ultimate Guide to Being a Great Police Officer – A Guide to Professional Policing.
Or for some great background information, CODE 4: True Stories from a 37-year Police Veteran, The Blue View: The Uncut Journal of an Ohio Police Chief, or Above and Beyond: Heartfelt Stories of the American Police Officer, all available online in 2023.
Is a Police Career Right for Me?
If you want to have an influence in your community by reducing crime and creating a safer environment for those living there, joining the police force is the best way to achieve that.
However, you need to keep in mind that police duties are not for everyone. Policing comes with risks to your personal safety, and you can find yourself in volatile situations. You must be able to think on your feet and be able to remain calm in stressful circumstances.
A career with the police force will guarantee you a stable salary and exciting advancement opportunities. You will receive generous medical and health benefits for yourself and your immediate family. The police force also offers good retirement benefits.
If you have an interest in a particular field, you can further your education and work experience to land a job that will give you great satisfaction. You will never be bored with a job in the police force. Every day will be an adventure!
All the best with your exciting career as a police officer.