While it is true that most law enforcement agencies will require a college education to hire a new agent, it is important to note that the criterion can be compensated by service in the United States armed forces or previous work experience.

In regards to serving in the armed forces, only applicants who have performed active duty for a determined period of time and had an honorable discharge are considered eligible.

In certain situations, having work experience in the law field weighs more than the college degree. Essentially, a candidate who had a security job, volunteered to assist policemen or worked as a community service officer can attest that he is well aware of what the career implies and he is ready to get started.

States that only require a high school diploma or GED:

(updated August 2, 2012)

States that require candidates to have a college degree or at least complete a minimum number of college credits as a part of their qualification standards:

  • Colorado (A minimum of 60 college credits or an Associate’s Degree from an accredited college or university)
  • Delaware (A minimum of 60 trimester credits or 90 quarter credits from an accredited college or university OR 30 college credits plus 2 years active duty in the armed forces)
  • Idaho (A minimum of 15 academic credits from an accredited college or university)
  • Minnesota (An Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree on Criminal Justice or Law Enforcement from an accredited college or university)
  • New York (A minimum of 60 college credits with a 2.0 GPA from an accredited college or university)
  • New Jersey (A minimum of 90 college credits or an Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited college or university)
  • New Mexico (A minimum of 60 college hours [any subject or course] from an accredited college or university OR attend San Juan College and receive 30 hours of college credits and complete the other 30 college credits needed after graduation OR complete 30 college hours from an accredited college or university and attend the New Mexico academy [through San Juan College] which will give you the other 30 hours of college credits required)
  • Pennsylvania State Trooper (An Associate’s degree from a relevant field or a minimum of 60 college credits from an accredited college or university)
  • Wisconsin (A 2-year Associate’s degree or at least 60 college credits from an accredited college or university)

States that allow candidates to use their military or work experience as a substitute for the educational requirements

  • Kentucky (A minimum of 60 hours of college credits or an Associate’s Degree in an accredited Kentucky college or university. This can be waived if you have military experience or 4 years work experience in the Kentucky National Guard or Army reserve)
  • Louisiana State Trooper (A minimum of 60 college credits from an accredited college or university OR 2 years experience as a certified POST peace officer OR 3 straight years in active military duty or 8 straight years working full time in the government)
  • Missouri (A minimum of 60 college credits in an accredited college or university OR 2 years active service in the military)
  • Nevada (A Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university OR 2 years in active military duty or public contact service OR an Associate of Arts degree from an accredited college or university plus one year experience as an active military personnel or in public contact service)
  • Oregon (An Associate’s degree or 60 semester or 90 quarter hours from an accredited college or university OR active military experience)
  • Tennessee (Major police departments in Tennessee will have stricter academic qualifications, for instance in Memphis – applicants are required to have a minimum of 54 semester hours from an accredited college or university OR two years continuous service in the military OR three years of continuous employment as a certified POST officer in a police department with at least 20 officers)

Some Things You Should Do To Improve Your Chances In Become a Cop Without a College Degree

  • Stay out of trouble. Having a spotless record is an absolute must, any conviction will be uncovered during the background investigation so keep your nose clean if you plan on pursuing this career.
  • Have a positive credit score. Again police agencies will not hire candidates with huge debt or a poor credit score as this can be bad on their organizations reputation.
  • Get some work experience. This shows the police recruiter that you are a hard worker and a team player. Having job experience helps in any field, it’s no different in law enforcement.
  • Be in great physical shape. You will need to show that you can handle the physical demands of a cop during these demanding physical exams, getting a high score greatly improves your chances of getting hired.
  • Be prepared for the written exam by getting a study guide. Study guides are great resources to prepare for the pre-employment exam, these are often available through police agencies or can be purchased online. Set aside enough time to review and do not cram! Get enough sleep the night before the test.
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Some Frequently Asked Questions on How to Become a Police Officer