Police officers are public servants responsible for preserving law and order in society. They are typically employed by state and local law enforcement agencies to uphold the law of that particular locale. They carry out a number of tasks that include regulating traffic, apprehending criminals, etc.

There are a number of steps potential police officers must follow when seeking to become a police officer. Listed below is a general overview of what the process may look like.

1. Is this Job for me?

As with any profession, it’s very important to carefully weigh the pros and cons that exist. Having a clearer idea of what the job entails can help you honestly determine whether or not this is a career path you want to pursue further.

Being a police officer is hard work. The training is rigorous and demanding. Furthermore, training is an ongoing part of the job and officers are expected to remain in great physical shape.

The job can also be very dangerous as police officers are often put in the harm’s way.  Hours will be long and unpredictable and you may even have to work weekends.

On the other hand, the job also boasts a significant amount of benefits. The field itself is relatively stable so you can expect job security, a comfortable salary, and added benefits, which include paid leaves, early retirement, etc.

Look for Agencies/Police Departments that are Hiring
Steps to Becoming a Police Officer

2.     Look for Agencies/Police Departments that are Hiring

Start doing some research into police departments that are hiring. Often times, individual departments have their own specific requirements that candidates must satisfy when applying for a job. You can also see if the department has an open house coming up or if it offers prospective candidates the chance to speak with police officers to get an idea about what the job entails.

3.     Satisfy the Minimum Requirements

Although requirements to become a police officer vary by state, city, and individual police departments, it is generally the case that candidates must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be a citizen of the United States
  • Have a clean record with no criminal offences
  • Have a valid driver’s license

4. Complete Written and Physical Exams

As part of the recruitment process, candidates must pass a series of written and physical exams. The written exam is intended to determine an applicant’s ability of deductive reasoning, math proficiency and report writing skills.

Physical exams are intended to test agility and endurance. Being in good shape is absolutely essential for police officers. As such, candidates will be expected to run, and do a set of various exercises for instructors to determine whether or not they will be able to deal with the physical demands of the job.

5.     Take the requisite Medical Tests

Medical tests are designed to ensure that your body is able to handle the stress of the job. They will not only test your physical health but also your psychological health and state of mind.

A physical is carried out to determine that you and your body are healthy. This entails having vital organs which are in good shape, having vision which is 20/20 or correctable to 20/20, and having good hearing.

A physiological analysis is performed to access your ability to deal with stress and pressure; two very common features in the life of a police officer.

6.     Clear thorough Background Investigation

Due to the fact that police officers are public servants, they are held to very high moral and ethical standards. For this reason, candidates must have a clean background history beyond reproach. This means no criminal record, no domestic violence conviction, a good credit report, no DUI conviction, etc.

The department may also contact your friends and family to get a better understanding of who you are, as well as to corroborate any information you have provided.

A fingerprint analysis may also be done and cross-referenced with data from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Candidates may also need to submit to a polygraph test. This helps employers determine how truthful you are; honesty being  a very important trait in the life of a police officer.

7. Complete Training at a Police Academy

If you successfully complete the application process, the police department will formally invite you to begin your training at a training academy. Training typically lasts anywhere between 3-6 months and has both academic and physical elements.

The academic part of your training comprises of courses dealing with laws and important legal concepts, the fundamentals of report writing, ethics, criminal psychology, etc.

The physical part is highly intensive that is intended to prepare you for the physical demands of the police officer job. Candidates can expect to do a lot of obstacle course work, running, and other important exercises.

Other important features of the academy training are:

  • Suspect apprehension
  • Self defense
  • Firearms training
  • First aid

8.     Field Training

Once you have successfully completed training in the police academy, you will be sworn in to the police force. After being sworn in, rookie cops have to complete a period of field training with a senior officer. This is important since it facilitates the transition from learning things in a controlled environment to the application of all that you’ve learned in the course of active duty.

Senior officers and police departments typically assign trainee cops with various assignments and tasks, which they must carry out; performance is then evaluated.

9. Off to the Real World

Now it’s time to apply all that you’ve learned and all that you’ve been trained to do, to the real world. Depending on the size of the department, you may be assigned a partner. For the first 6 to 12 months newly appointed officers are on probation and so it is important to perform well all the tasks you are assigned.

Becoming a police officer involves a number of different steps. The road is long and demanding, but if you are dedicated and determined, it is a career, which can prove to be fulfilling.  Police officers play an important role in the preservation of law and order in society.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: If I want to become a police officer, what medical tests must I clear?

Ans: Aspiring police officers must have a clean bill of health. Law enforcement is a demanding profession which can be physically demanding. Medical tests are carried out to ensure that your body can handle the pressure of this job, and in addition to your physical health, your psychological health is also assessed. All your vital organs are examined, as well as your vision and hearing. For more information, contact the police department you’re looking to apply to.

Q: What is the purpose of a background investigation?

Ans: Part of the application process for becoming a police officer is a background investigation. Since all police officers are public servants, they are held to very high ethical and moral standards. In many ways, they are supposed to be exemplary citizens. That’s why they are required to have clean background; no criminal records, a good credit report, no DUI convictions, no domestic violence convictions, or instances of drug use. The background test is carried out to ensure that your record is beyond reproach.