How to Become a Police Officer
If you are looking for a career that is fast-paced and has a lot of variety, you might like to become a police officer. You'll get to experience a wide range of situations, interact with your local community, and also make a positive contribution to society by enforcing local and state laws.
If you're interested in criminal justice, have a good attention to detail, and are skilled at dealing with all different kinds of people, then it's likely you'll find success as a police officer.
Education Requirements to Become a Police Officer
If you would like to become a police officer, you will need to complete your high school diploma, or equivalent. You can get an entry role in law enforcement with just high school under your belt, however more and more people in law enforcement are earning higher degrees to get the best job opportunities.
A four-year bachelors degree with a major in criminal justice is one of the best options you can take. Other degrees in law or forensics will also be held in high regard. You could also choose to attend community college, where you could choose from a wide range of programs that cater to people looking to become police officers.
In most states you will also need to be at least 20 years old, and in good physical shape to work in law enforcement. Most departments have medical, fitness, and psychological tests that you must pass.
Police Officer Job Description
Working as a police officer, you will face new and interesting challenges every day. While some police officers may work behind a desk, others may spend all their time in the field. Others could be completing lab research, while some might be providing support to members of the community. The variety offered by this job attracts many people to the role.
Here are some of the typical duties of a police officer:
- Answering phone calls
- Patrolling traffic
- Patrolling the streets
- Responding to emergency situations
- Responding to violent or hostile situations
- Reporting criminal behavior
- Questioning suspects
- Interviewing witnesses
- Making arrests
- Reading suspects their rights
- Communicating with colleagues
- Interacting with members of the community
When you become a police officer, you can look forward to a high level of job satisfaction. Your role can help justice take its course, and also prevent crime from happening in the future. This is a very positive contribution to make to your community.
Police Officer Salary and Career Path
When you become a police officer, you can be assured of a good salary and strong job security. You'll be able to get work in any part of the country. Most police officers start their career at the local level and then climb the ranks to work in specialized positions.
Working as a police officer, there are many branches you might specialize in later in your career:
- SWAT Team
- Drug Squad
- Special Victims Unit
- Corrections Officer
- Prosecutions Officer
- Cyber Crime
- Homeland Security
Others may leave law enforcement to work in similar areas. They may work for a security firm, become a private investigator, or even teach law enforcement to aspiring police officers.
There are many opportunities for advancement within law enforcement. Many police officers gain a promotion within the first two years of work. With this comes the opportunity for a higher salary and benefits.
It's also a career that you will never get bored in. With so many areas of specialization, you're bound to find something that suits you. If you do tire of a particular role over time, there are many others that you can move on to. Employers within law enforcement encourage police officers to undergo further training and improve their skills. There is also study leave and scholarships available.
Working as a cop, you can expect a starting salary of between $30,000 and $40,000 a year. In a specialized role you could earn around $50,000 a year. You can be assured of good job prospects and secure employment throughout your career.
If you want to experience things that most people will never have the opportunity to, contribute to your community, and continually be challenged and rewarded by your work, then you might consider becoming a police officer.
*Salary Information provided by the Bureau Of Labor Statistics