How Do I Become a Public Safety Officer?

Ken Black

The process and requirements to become a public safety officer vary greatly from one jurisdiction to another. Sometimes, you may have the opportunity to take a law enforcement exam and pass a police academy to become a public safety officer. In other cases, you could need to complete at least a two-year or four-year college degree in an appropriate field of study such as criminal science, criminal law, or criminal justice. In general, the more training and education you have, the greater the opportunity for advancement.

Moving to a new state may require that you retake the classroom portion of the public safety officer course.
Moving to a new state may require that you retake the classroom portion of the public safety officer course.

In order to become a public safety officer, which is also known as a police officer, or deputy sheriff, you must first graduate high school. In most cases, you must also be a legal adult in your jurisdiction or country, typically 18 years or older. If you have not graduated high school, you may have the option of earning a diploma through an adult education program. If possible, any class electives you can take in law enforcement, civics, or even psychology would be helpful.

Becoming a public safety officer will require basic weapons training.
Becoming a public safety officer will require basic weapons training.

In almost all cases, you will also need to attend a state-sanctioned or approved law enforcement academy to be a public safety officer. The academy teaches basic weapons training, apprehension techniques and a brief overview of the law. The academy lengths vary by state, but typically the basic portion that certifies police officers takes less than six months. Upon graduation, you will be able to work almost anywhere in that state as a law enforcement officer from the state's perspective. If you move to a different state, you probably will not have to go through the entire academy again, but could be asked to take a classroom portion to become familiar with that state's laws.

Public safety officers may use dedicated vehicles to conduct patrols.
Public safety officers may use dedicated vehicles to conduct patrols.

If you decide that you want to do more than simply be a patrol officer, you can take other courses and earn a degree related to law enforcement. This degree does not substitute for the basic law enforcement training, but could reduce the length of time you must spend at the academy. This may provide you more opportunities for advancement once you become a public safety officer, but job performance will also play a key role.

Sheriffs are also known as public safety officers.
Sheriffs are also known as public safety officers.

Once you have graduated from a degree program or the academy, you can get a number of different resources to aid in your search to become a public safety officer. A number of different Web sites cater to police careers and job searches. Further, some states and municipalities may have an ongoing application process so that they always have names to choose from. Even if positions are not available immediately, qualified candidates will likely be kept on a calling list. Remember to also research the physical agility requirements of the jurisdictions you are interested in so that you can pass a basic fitness test.

Police officers typically receive training on how to handle and fire hand guns.
Police officers typically receive training on how to handle and fire hand guns.
Public safety officers are authorized to arrest individuals who have been accused of wrongdoing.
Public safety officers are authorized to arrest individuals who have been accused of wrongdoing.

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