Requirements to be a law enforcement officer
February 28, 2012
The requirements to be a law enforcement officer depend largely on the region in which you’re seeking a position. They also depend on what branch of law enforcement you’re entering. Jobs in law enforcement are varied and plentiful and for most people it’s a wonderful career choice. Police jobs include working in a rural sheriff’s department as a patrol officer, responding to emergency situations in remote locations where there’s no city police force. You could also work in a bustling metropolis in a large police department alongside hundreds of other officers. Law enforcement officer positions also occur at the federal level in agencies like the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency).
If you’re considering a career as a law enforcement officer, the first thing you should do is assess your career goals on a more specific level. Do you want to work for the local police force in the town in which you live? If that’s the case, then you should contact them and find out their entrance requirements.
For most local police departments, you need to be between the ages of 20 and 35 to begin a career as a law enforcement officer. You must be a U.S. citizen and possess a high school degree or GED to meet the minimum educational requirement of all police departments. A college education is increasingly being required by large city law enforcement agencies. An associate’s or bachelor’s degree in the field of criminal justice is recommended in this case.
Another requirement of being a law enforcement officer includes a desire to work for the public good enforcing laws and maintaining public safety. You must be able to work well under stress and keep a cool head in emergency situations in order to fulfill your police duties to the best of your ability. You must be able to assess difficult situations and react according to state and federal laws as they apply to law enforcement officers and to the public. Being a law enforcement officer also requires that you be able to maintain your mental, physical and emotional health under the stressors of police work over time.
If you meet all of the requirements of becoming a law enforcement officer, you’ll find yourself in a rewarding career, with a great outlook for long term employment and job security. If you’re good at your job, there are plenty of opportunities to move up the ladder of success in a wide variety of law enforcement careers.
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.