How to Become a Police Officer
Police officers are constantly patrolling the streets, watching for traffic violations, and responding to calls on crimes that are currently happening or have already happened. They provide a necessary public service where they put their lives on the line everyday to ensure the public is safe. Police officers must be well aware of all of their surroundings and are always watching for people showing signs of violence or drug use. The police officer must go through various requirements in how to become a police officer before they can earn the badge and firearm required to be a full-fledged police officer, protecting the public. How to become a police officer involves a formal college education as well as additional training in a police academy environment. After these fundamentals have been completed, the recruit will be fully qualified to work, although they will likely be placed with an experienced officer as a partner while they earn some experience in the profession.
Police Academy Training
All police departments require police officers to have a high school diploma, U.S. citizenship, a clean criminal record and a valid driver’s license. Prospective police officers must pass a psychiatric evaluation, drug test and have good hearing and vision.
Police departments send their recruits to their own police academies. Most academies train recruits for three to four months and include classroom and rigorous physical training. Recruits are given classroom instruction in local and state laws, criminal psychology, constitutional law, civil rights, crime investigation and incident reporting.
The final element in how to become a police officer actually occurs after they have been given an offer of employment. Upon this offer the prospective officer will undergo a number of physical tests as well as background checks to ensure they are physically capable of the requirements of the job as well as honorable enough to put on their badge and act as a protector of society. Once these tests have been fulfilled, the hiring department will then put the recruit or newly hired police officer through a police academy that will fully train and educate them on the local laws in that area or state.
The police academy prepares recruits for active duty by reenacting real-life situations. In addition, recruits are trained in patrol and subject apprehension, first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), self defense, firearms use and traffic command.
Through the police academy training, the officer will participate in a variety of classroom teaching as well as physical conditioning exercises. This training generally lasts about six weeks where the recruit will be paid for the time they spend there. The hiring department also typically pays for their transportation to get to the facility as well. Upon completion of this training the officer will be qualified to begin working in the rookie status at the department they were hired at and be under the guidance of a senior ranking officer that will teach them first-hand the rules of the road and how to handle the requirements of the job.
Becoming a police officer can take as little as two and half years to complete or as many years as needed to become well educated and fully qualified. The higher the education the student receives, the better their chances are at full-time employment with the salary that they desire. This is an intense job where office work is minimal since they are typically out on the streets fighting the war against all types of crime. They will, however, be required to write reports about the crimes they have responded to. The shifts for this type of career are rotating in nature meaning that the officer may work weekdays one shift and weekend nights the next. Since crime does not take any days off, the department the officer works for is also always open around the clock. They can expect to work long shifts at night, on holidays and on weekends although most who hold this position do not mind the long hours, they enjoy the work and many will say they have one of the best careers in any industry.
How to Become a Police Officer out of College
A degree isn’t necessary to become a police officer but some academies require education classes. This can be done through either a two-year associate’s degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree in criminology or criminal justice. While the two-year program is the minimal requirement, the bachelor’s degree will give the student additional education and knowledge in the field of criminal justice that will not only help them obtain employment after graduation, but it will also provide them with a higher salary as well. Through this program the student will learn about all of the federal laws and rights of the victims and those who are accused of a crime. The student will be well aware of any legal elements in the criminal justice field including the Bill of Rights and what rights the accused has before, during and after their arrest.
One key benefit to either of the degree programs in criminal justice is the format that is used to complete the education. The student is able to choose between traditional learning and distance learning. Traditional learning applies to students who attend college courses at a campus while the distance format is done by way of the internet and virtual classroom. The distance learning element allows for the student to complete the education on their own time. Here, they can either take as little or as much time as they need to complete their education.
Advancing law enforcement careers with a degree
Even though some police departments do not require a degree, applicants who have degrees are selected for hire over those who do not have degrees. An associate’s degree in criminal justice gives prospective police officers an edge in getting hired. The associate’s program takes two years to complete and prepares students for entry-level positions in law enforcement. Eligibility for the program includes a high school diploma and averages SAT or ACT scores.
Most associate programs for criminal justice are anchored in humanities and include science and math. Students learn practical and theoretical approaches in criminal corrections and learn the legal process.
A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice opens up even more career opportunities for those in law enforcement. For those wishing to work in police departments, this degree is a great tool for those vying to be captains or detectives. With a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, students can apply for jobs in law enforcement with the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Enrolling in a bachelor’s program in criminal justice requires a high school diploma and average SAT scores. The program is designed for students to specialize in certain areas of the criminal justice system. Throughout the program, students learn about the applications and functions of the judicial system. Depending on the career desired, there are many specialization courses available. Some fields of study within the program include crime scene investigation, cyber crime, law enforcement and juvenile corrections. Upon completing the program, all questions regarding what a police officer is are answered.