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Bryant & Stratton College Blog Staff

Police Officer Requirements: Have you Got What it Takes?

Police officers work hard to protect the peace, striving to maintain and enforce laws in both the public and private sector. While the job requires courage, the ability to work under pressure, and excellent judgment, police departments continue to elevate prerequisites for employment to meet increased work demands and to selectively cull competitive applicant pools. There was a time when a police patrol officer was accepted into the police academy directly out of high school. Now, many departments are setting more stringent requirements for new hires, ensuring their forces employ the most educated, trained, and qualified applicants.

How to Become a Police Officer

Police patrol officers are able to make a successful living, including generous salaries, as well as medical and retirement benefits. Here are some of the requirements to satisfy before you can land a spot in your department of choice and begin your satisfying career as a police patrol officer.

When is your 21st birthday? Although there are exceptions, most police departments require their officers to be 21-years or older before they are hired onto the force. We recommend you use the two to three years between your high school graduation and the police force application process to receive a degree in Criminal Justice Studies. You can also join community-based volunteer programs, like the Explorers. Your increased education and experience will increase your employment potential, as well as your ability to advance through the ranks. Your degree will also increase your lifetime earning potential.

Are you a U.S. Citizen? U.S. citizenship is a job requirement. If you were not born here in the United States, you can access information offered by U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services to begin the naturalization process.

Do you have a high school diploma or GED? Every police department requires their police officers to have a high school diploma or GED equivalent in order to be considered for hire. If you did not complete high school, you can follow the instructions on the Finish your Diploma website in order to study and take the diploma exam if you haven’t done so already. Which test you need depends on your state. It could be the GED,® HiSET® or TASCTM test.

Get a degree in Criminal Justice Studies Many of the most competitive police forces around the nation require their applicants to have completed some level of higher education, and prioritize applicants that have Criminal Justice Studies degrees. Even in forces where a degree is not required for hiring purposes, career and pay scale advancement are often contingent on the completion of continued education credits in the field of criminal justice. At Bryant and Stratton College, we offer a diploma in Criminal Justice & Security Services and an associate degree in Criminal Justice Studies. Students learn to work efficiently in a wide range of environments pertaining to criminal justice, including those that deal with juvenile offenders, adult criminal behavior and social services. Students cultivate an understanding of criminal law as well as the ethics involved within the criminal justice system.

Are you physically fit? Every police department requires a detailed physical exam to ensure their police patrol officers are able to meet both the physical and emotional demands of the job. Prospective police officers may want to get a physical beforehand to resolve any red flags that may arise.

Do you have a criminal record? Pay attention to the requirements for your desired police departments. Every department has their own restrictions as to the types of criminal records that are and are not allowed. In some cases, you may be able to have your record expunged before it is examined by prospective employers.

If you are interested in starting your career as a police patrol officer, contact the admissions office at Bryant and Stratton College.


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