How to Become a Police Officer
Looking to get into a career in law enforcement? You’ve come to the right place. Demand for police officers is slowly rising, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is expected to grow by 7% between 2010 and 2020. Getting the proper training and education is vital to get in this field, although having a military background is an added bonus.
Regardless of how rigid it may sound, the road to becoming a police officer starts with getting the right education as early as possible. Even the most basic jobs in a law enforcement agency include having a Baccalaureate diploma and police academy training within the minimum requirements standards.
Taking into account the fierce competition for attending basic law enforcement training programs in an accredited police academy, the correct approach does not only entail working to meet the minimal requirements, but rather being prepared for whatever challenges they might throw at you.
Police Officer Requirements by State
Your Career Outlook in the Law Enforcement Field
Demand for police officers is high in the local police departments because of the high turnover rate because of below average salary, similarly demand is lower for smaller departments because of budget constraints.
There is more competition for state and federal agencies because of the higher salary grade and the opportunity for inter-agency transfers. Applicants who are bi-lingual, with a bachelor’s degree and have some experience in the police force or in the military have an advantage in getting in federal agencies.
Layoffs are rare because of retirement and trained police officers who lose their jobs because of budget cuts will have no problem getting employed in another agency.
Why Become a Police Officer?
Duties and Responsibilities of a Police Officer
These uniformed individuals perform a variety of duties aside from catching criminals. It is not uncommon to find police officers patrolling traffic in their areas of designation. They are also responsible for responding to calls that require assisting an accident or crime victim.
Sometimes crime scenes would require an officer to collect for the necessary evidence that will be later used in building against a perpetrator. Police officers use their communication skills both written and oral in investigating crimes.
Another important duty that is often overlooked is making reports and safekeeping records of any incident that may have been encountered.
Police Officer Requirements
Education is perhaps one of the basic police officer requirements. A good high school education is a stepping stone to this career although it should be supplemented by an associate or bachelors degree. The latter is important when you would like to be a state or federal police officer.
Individuals who are serious in building a good law enforcement career can opt to take programs in criminal justice in colleges. These would help you understand different aspects of legal issues and human behavior.
Law enforcement applicants usually undergo a series of tests such as physical and psychological fitness, knowledge-based examinations, and medical evaluations. Background investigation is also conducted to ensure that the applicant is fit for the job.
So those with records of traffic violations, drug offenses, and involvement in other illegal activities will have a high probability of being rejected.
Finally, a civil service examination must be taken when you apply for a vacant position in a police department. Other important requirements include a minimum age of 20 years as well as American citizenship.
Police Officer Salary
The compensation for police officers varies depending on the level of education and experience. The highest earnings at present is about $83,510 for senior police officers. As of 2010, the median wages for law enforcement officers in is $51,590, $58,200, and $55,710 for federal, state and local government respectively.
It should be noted that competitive salaries and opportunities are offered in the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for skills like foreign language proficiency as well as special assignments.
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Some Frequently Asked Questions on How to Become a Police Officer