Search
How to Become a Police Officer

How to Become a Police Officer

What does it take to become a police officer? Mental and physical strength and agility, patience for a lengthy application process, graduation from a police academy -- and a relatively clean police record. 

Indeed, for a job that pays a middling wage, is potentially dangerous and sometimes involves long and strange hours, policing is a demanding career. That's why city police and state troopers tend to be a dedicated, close-knit bunch who do their jobs for the love of serving the public.

From growing towns in the Southwest to the metropolises of the Northeast, there are diverse opportunities in police work. "There are about 18,000 police departments in the United States, but they're not all recruiting all the time," says John Doherty, an assistant professor of criminal justice at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Police Work in the 21st Century

Some police chiefs point to recent trends that have changed the job of the patrol officer. Examples include community policing and use of information technology to analyze crime patterns and better allocate law enforcement resources.

But overall, police work is the same as it's always been. "The job of being a police officer hasn't changed greatly," says James Stinchcomb, author of Opportunities in Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Careers. "You still do a considerable amount of time on patrol; it's very reactive."

Qualifications, Training Rigorous

Many police jobs require a high school diploma and possibly some college study of criminal justice. Applicants will likely be rejected for multiple traffic violations, drug offenses or other issues uncovered by a background check. Then come tests -- physical, medical, intellectual and psychological. In many jurisdictions, a civil-service ranking determines who's likely to be admitted to the academy training program for city or state police.

Competition is substantial. "Most people who apply do not make it," says Stinchcomb. But that initial screening might actually be the hardest part. Indeed, "if you're lucky enough to make it through all those weeding-out processes, then you'll probably make it through the academy," says Doherty.

Police academy programs, which take anywhere from 12 weeks to a year to complete, comprise a variety of coursework, from criminal law to cultural awareness to physical and firearms training.

Some Academies Independent of Police Departments

In some states, including Florida and Michigan, police academies are part of the public higher-education system rather than being linked to individual police departments. "College programs are slowly becoming more portable," says Stinchcomb.

In Michigan, candidates need not affiliate with a particular police department before attending an academy. "We take people off the street, if they pass the tests," says Al Hart, director of the law enforcement program at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City. Graduates of Northwestern Michigan's program can apply to police departments of their choice throughout the state.

Room to Move Up or Specialize

For officers who have put in some years on the streets, there's potential mobility in several directions. Veterans can move up the ranks to become a sergeant, lieutenant or even chief, among other positions, or they can specialize in crime lab work or become a detective.

One alternative is to join the state troopers, who do much more than just patrol the highways. State police investigate narcotics and child abuse, reconstruct accidents and even serve as hostage negotiators.

Many of these promotions and specialties require advanced education. A criminal justice school in your region will have more information.

Latest Jobs

Brush Grocery Kart Inc
Posted: 10/30/2014
Brush, CO, 80723
Kmart
Posted: 10/30/2014
SPRINGFIELD, MA, 01104
Kmart
Posted: 10/30/2014
HOLYOKE, MA, 01040
BigR.io
Posted: 10/30/2014
Boston, MA, 02108
Life4DiabetesAgents.com
Posted: 10/30/2014
Dallas, TX, 75202

Want more personalized results?  Update Your Profile

 
 
 

Monster Communities

Teaching Community
Where teachers meet and learn.
ArtBistro
Create and connect.
Excelle
Networking for the career-minded woman.
Nursing Link
Where nurses call the shots.
More Monster Communities

Monster Partners

Scholarships
Scholarships, financial aid and more ways to pay for school.
Education.org
Find top campus and online degree programs.
Military.com
Military portal for the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Financial Aid
Scholarships & financial aid.
Staffing for Government Jobs
Staffing and hiring solutions for federal government agency jobs.
More Monster Partners

Job Hunt Strategy

Six Ways to Make a Recruiter Hate You
If you want to blow your chances with recruiters -- and, by extension, with the companies they work for -- here are six perfect ways to do so.

Resumes & Cover Letters

Rev Up Your Resume to Relocate
Hoping to relocate? Get the ball rolling on landing the right job in the right location with these expert resume and cover letter tips.

Interviewing

100 Potential Interview Questions
Interview questions can run the gamut. You probably won't face all 100 of these, but you should still be prepared to answer at least some of them.

Salary & Benefits

10 Questions to Ask When Negotiating Salary
Most of us aren't natural negotiators, but asking these 10 questions during salary negotiations can help you get everything you deserve.

Employee Sourcing

Alt text
November Monster Employment Index Grows 13% Year-Over-Year, Tenth Consecutive Month of Positive Annual Growth.

For Seekers

Campus and Online Degrees
Advance your career and earn more with an online degree.
Free Salary Wizard
What are you worth? Find out and negotiate a better salary.
Research Careers
Get information on jobs and career paths to help guide your choices
Questions & Answers
Find answers to all your career related questions -- powered by Yahoo! Answers
Resume Distribution Service
Our distribution service puts your resume right in the hands of recruiters.
Resume Writing Services
Our experts will craft a keyword-rich resume that stands out in the crowd.
More Career Resources

For Employers

Career Ad Network
Target your job posting to more candidates on thousands of websites.
Hire Right Background Checks
Explore our background check packages to improve the quality of your hires.
Hiring Home Page
Find the best candidates for your business with Monster hiring solutions.
Job Postings
Find the right solution for your hiring needs. Starting at $99.
Power Resume Search
Monster's new search technology precisely matches people with your jobs.
Resource Center
Find staffing insights, labor trends, HR best practices and more.
Target Post
Connect with skilled, hourly and administrative candidates for only $99.

Social Media

Jobs on Twitter
Find jobs in your area and industry.
Monster Careers
Tune into our career advice and discussions tackling a wide range of topics and industries.
Monster Corporate & PR
Stay up-to-date on the latest news. Get the 'Who', 'What', 'When', and 'Why' on all things Monster related.
Monster Customer Service
Got a Monster question? We've got the answer. Whether you're a job seeker or employer, we can help you find the answers you need.
Monster for Employers
Find advice on hiring.
Follow Us
Check out our many pages and stay connected with the latest industry news, events, career advice and job openings.

Other Links

Monster Company Profiles
Explore companies and get information to guide your career decisions.
Compare Salaries
See how your pay stacks up to others in your field.
iPhone Application
Download the Monster app for iPhone and iPod touch.
Monster Job Seeker Blog
Monster Job Seeker Blog.
Monster Thinking Blog
Monster's Recruitment Trends Blog.
Jobs & Career Resources
Search Jobs:
For Employers: Post Jobs | Search Resumes | Advertise
About Monster | Work for Monster | Advertise with Us | AdChoices | Partner with Us | Investor Relations | Social Media
Terms of Use | Privacy Center | Accessibility Center | Help | Security | Contact Us | Sitemap | Mobile
©2014 Monster - All Rights Reserved U.S. Patents No. 5,832,497; 7,599,930 B1; 7,827,125 and 7,836,060 MWW - Looking for Monster Cable? - V: 2014.4.65.72-217
eTrustLogo