Common questions on how to become a law enforcement officer

Wondering how to become a law enforcement officer?  If you are, chances are you’re mulling over the pros and cons of this career choice.  Here are answers to the ten most common questions on how to begin a career in law enforcement:

How old to I have to be to become a law enforcement officer?  Most law enforcement agencies have a minimum age requirement of 20 and a maximum of 35.  If you’re under the age of 20 and you want to go into law enforcement, you should consider becoming a police cadet. There are great cadet programs in most local departments that allow you do work alongside officers in non-emergency situations to get indoctrinated in law enforcement and find out if it’s the right career choice for you.  It’s a great way to eventually become a law enforcement officer.

Do I have to have a college degree to become a law enforcement officer?  No, you don’t have to have a college degree, but having one will definitely give you an advantage in being accepted into a police force.  An associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is a great asset in becoming a law enforcement officer and will also aid you in getting promotions once you enter the police force.

What are the first steps I should take to become a law enforcement officer?  The first step to working in a local police department is taking the entrance test.  The test is the beginning of an extensive screening process potential recruits undergo before being admitted to a law enforcement training academy.  The entrance test evaluates things like spelling, grammar, problem-solving and math skills.  If you pass that test, you’ll proceed to a physical fitness test, a psychological test, a polygraph test and a thorough background check to see if you have any arrests that would prevent you from becoming a law enforcement officer.

Do I have to have a high school degree to become a law enforcement officer?  You need either a high school diploma or a GED in order to become a police officer.

If I become a law enforcement officer, how much money can I count on making?  The salaries for law enforcement officers depend on the position that you hold, as well as the region in which you’re working.  Pay also depends on whether you’re employed by a local, state or federal agency.  Federal law enforcement agents generally take home the highest salaries. As a general outline, if you become a law enforcement officer with a local department, you can expect to make anywhere from $30,000 to $79,000 annually as a patrol officer.  A supervisory position within a local police department pays anywhere from $46,000 to $114,000 per year.


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