How do I Become a New Police Officer?

Margo Upson

Becoming a new police officer is one of the best ways to get started in an exciting career field. There are many requirements when you want to become a police officer, and they vary from one area to the next, generally depending on the size of the department and where it is located. Smaller departments usually have less strict requirements than the larger departments, such as those in New York City or Los Angeles. The requirements for any district, however, shouldn’t take more than a few years to complete.

A police officer's badge.
A police officer's badge.

A career as a new police officer usually starts with an education program. Many colleges offer criminal justice degrees. These degrees provide a fantastic groundwork for a career in law enforcement, but are not necessary in many departments. Some larger police forces offer tuition assistance for new police offers that are willing to sign up with them after their courses are completed.

A police car.
A police car.

Contact police departments in your area that you might be interested in working for as a new police officer to find out what their requirements are. Many have age requirements, and do not let police officers younger than 21 onto the force. Before being hired, you will have to take and pass a civil service exam, which is offered regularly in many areas. This test will check your knowledge and understanding of policing and criminal justice.

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After passing the civil service test, you may be put through physical endurance tests, if the police department is interested in you. New police officers have to be in great physical condition in order to do their jobs well. This wellness also applies to mental and psychological well-being. Before being hired, the department needs to be certain that you can handle not only the physical demands of the job, but the mental ones as well.

If you are accepted into the police department, you will be sent through a training program for new police officers. Police academy can last anywhere from a few months to a year. Upon graduation, you will be welcomed into the police force as a new police officer, and given a badge, gun, and uniform.

The first few days as a new police officer are exciting. During your first few weeks, you will be learning a lot about the department, including any regulations and guidelines that you need to be aware of. Some larger departments have an in-house training program that new police officers must go through before being sent out on assignments. If you will be working with a partner, usually someone with more experience than you, this is the time you will be getting to know them. After the first few months, the newness of being a police officer may start to wear off, but the day to day excitement of working in a career where no two days are ever the same will last throughout your time on the force.

A police officer.
A police officer.

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Discussion Comments


Height and weight requirements vary by department.


What is the minimum weight and height for the physical fitness test?

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