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In every community across the country, there is a dedicated member of society who has devoted his or her life to keeping citizens and their belongings safe from criminal activity. This hard-working professional spends countless hours patrolling the streets and responding to calls for assistance from those in need. This community hero is a police officer. Every day, police officers put their own lives on the line to protect others, often receiving little appreciation or respect for what they do. If you have ever dreamed of joining the world of law enforcement, now is the ideal time to go to college to start your career training. Even though not everyone can become a police officer, if you have a clean background, made good grades in high school and are in good physical condition, you are a great candidate for the police force.
Police officer qualifications
The requirements to become a police officer can vary from one force to another, so make sure you check with your local department before you start your training. Generally speaking, you will need a minimum of a high school diploma or GED. It is important to understand, however, that law enforcement is evolving and an increasing number of candidates have a degree in criminal justice. If you want the best chances at being hired, you should find an accredited criminal justice program through a traditional or online college or university. Your criminal justice degree program will include studies in such topics as legal procedures, crime, juvenile offenders, psychology and sociology. The length of the program varies depending on the type of degree you wish to earn, but you can expect to spend two to four years to complete your education.
In addition to an education, many departments require that police candidates be between the ages of 21 and 35. It is important to be tobacco- and drug-free and to ensure that you can pass a criminal background check before you submit any applications to police departments.
Becoming a police officer
Once you are eligible to become a police officer, you can start applying to local departments. In most instances, you will be required to submit your application along with a recent photograph and a set of fingerprints. If your application is accepted, you will likely be required to successfully pass a physical fitness assessment, written examination and any other tests required for your particular department. This often includes a polygraph test and psychological screening. If you pass all of these tests, you will be invited to complete an interview.
After you pass your interview, you will be scheduled to enter a police academy training program. This training prepares you to complete many of the responsibilities that are required of a police officer. You will complete physical fitness training, learn to properly handle firearms and practice driving strategies. The training takes several months to complete and will be your last step before entering the workforce. When you first start working as a uniformed officer, you will be partnered with an experienced mentor before working on your own. This period allows you to practice the skills and knowledge you have learned in a more controlled and secure way. It also allows you to learn from a veteran officer.
Once you have completed all the necessary education and training to become a police officer, you are ready to take your place in a challenging and exciting career. This work can be stressful and dangerous but is also some of the most highly rewarding work you can do. The salary of police officers averages between $29,000 and $80000 per year and can vary depending upon your location and level of experience. If you have always wanted to work in a job of which you can be proud, this is the perfect career for you.