What education do I need to become a law enforcement officer?


The first thing you need to become a law enforcement officer in most local police departments is a high school diploma or a GED (General Equivalency Degree).  However, some departments are now requiring that recruits have an associate’s degree in order to qualify and some even want you to have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or some law enforcement related field. Requirements vary for different law enforcement departments, but all require at least a high school diploma to enter the force at the basic level of patrol officer.

Once you become a law enforcement officer, it’s always a good idea to go for extra schooling.  A two-year associate’s degree will definitely enhance your chances for advancement.  If you want to move up the ladder from patrol officer to detective or supervisor, a two or even four year degree will help you immensely.  In many places, some sort of college degree (either two or four year) is a requirement for getting promoted from patrol officer to detective. This sort of advancement translates not only to a new job challenge, but to an increased salary, with a detective earning an average of about $10,000 more annually than a patrol officer.

Making sure you get the education you need to become a law enforcement officer is essential if you want to pursue this career choice at the entry level.  That means staying in high school until you graduate at the minimum and going on to obtain a college degree, at best.  As law enforcement jobs are becoming increasingly competitive, a degree in criminal justice will help you get a coveted spot on as a law enforcement officer in departments in which openings are highly sought after.

Once you become a law enforcement officer, you’ll advance your skills and become more valuable to the department with advanced training and education. As you move up the ladder within the force, your education will be reflected in your pay scale and your position.

There are many fields within law enforcement, such as forensics and computer crimes that you can apply once you become a law enforcement officer. Many agencies will actually pay for your schooling because they know that you’ll become more valuable to the force with an advanced degree. There are many continuing education programs for people who want to become a law enforcement officer in law enforcement fields offered by community colleges, universities and online schools.  Some departments offer advanced training on the job, in which you can earn certificates and degrees that will qualify you for promotions. 

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