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9 Pro Tips for Becoming a Police Officer (Ultimate Guide)

9 Pro Tips for Becoming a Police Officer (Ultimate Guide)

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Brian Humenuk | Author | COPJOT

By Brian Humenuk, MS|CJA, COPJOT  

Updated on January 20, 2023

⏱️ 4 minute read

There are few professions left in this world that can provide you with excitement, a sense of accomplishment, great income and benefits, and early retirement.

Law enforcement is a career path that many are interested in but few pursue because of the hiring process, the police academy and the difficult challenges and danger of the job itself. 

and...

Let's face it, society needs police officers, sheriff deputies and state troopers more now then any time in our existence. 

Retirements throughout the law enforcement ranks are inevitable which means there is opportunity across the country especially in the larger agencies.

As communities continue to grow, as well as our population, there will always be a need for law enforcers. 

If you are still reading this article then I think I have your attention. Be sure to read to the end because this article is ripe with PRO TIPS on becoming a police officer. 

And when you are done reading this article make sure you check out:

Lets dive in to the best tips for becoming a police officer.

What to Know Before Becoming a Police Officer

Becoming a police officer does not come without hard work. You should read that statement twice. The process itself is time consuming and can take years to finally be working as a fully sworn law enforcement officer. 

Being a police officer is a commitment to yourself, your family and your community that essentially you will be selfless and serve others. Yes, people that most of the time you have never met before. 

As many benefits that the job comes with there are just as many issues and problems that it can cause. For instance the divorce rate amongst law enforcers is higher. 

How to Prepare to Become a Police Officer

Preparing to become a police officer starts years in advance. I suggest first taking some 100 level criminal justice college courses to get a basic foundation of the criminal justice system.

A book I would recommend reading on successfully navigating the hiring process is "Applicant to Police Cadet: How to navigate the police hiring process."

You will want to work on the following while taking some courses in criminal justice:

  • Attain a good solid credit history.
  • Attain and keep a good work history.
  • Stay out of trouble and don't commit any traffic violations.
  • Build relationships with people that can be future personal references.
  • Do some volunteering to resume build.
  • Try and get an internship within the criminal justice system.
  • Work out and stay physically fit.

Setting yourself up for a date in the future is the key here. If you want to someday become a police officer, deputy sheriff or state trooper you have to understand that who you are and your life will eventually be investigated to determine your suitability for the job. 

PRO TIP: Finding a good mentor or great blog article on how to become a police officer is a must. An article like this one or a friend that can give you some help in preparing is invaluable. 

If you are wondering where to start the process on becoming a police officer you are not alone. A very common question people as is what do I have to do to start the process on becoming a police officer.

PRO TIP: The process can be long and complicated if you don't have guidance from a direct mentor who may already be employed in the field.

How to Train to Become a Police Officer

Training is required to be a police officer both before being hired and while in the police academy prior to graduation. I want to be sure to answer the main question to satisfy both ways of looking at this.

First, lets take a look at some valuable information for those of you looking to get into the law enforcement field.

Police Officer Job Duties | Requirements to become a Police Officer

How long does it take to become a Police Officer?

Once hired and you t can take an individual anywhere from 4 months to 11 months to become fully sworn in and working independently.

This, of course, depends on the state in which you become employed in and their (POST) Police Officer Standards and Training requirement. After graduating from the criminal justice training academy most police officers will work up to six months alongside a senior officer while assigned to a field training program.

What are the requirements to be a Cop?

The requirements to be a Cop differ from state to state and agency to agency but most address specific requirements that include but are not limited to citizenship, age, education, driver's license, firearms permitting, criminal history, physical fitness, and residency.

Most states have a state division of government called Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) which set minimum selection standards for police officers. Police departments that have achieved accreditation need to meet or exceed these minimum standards set by their state POST.

Passing the Civil Service Exam

Many agencies still require individuals interested in becoming a police officer to take a civil service exam. For me I sat for and completed 3 civil service exams which places you on a list based on exam score and preference.
I used a version of the civil service exam study guide and I highly recommend using it to do well on your exam.

Citizenship Requirement

Police departments often require applicants to be U.S. citizens, or in some cases, permanent resident aliens who have applied for citizenship.  Some agencies require officers to reside within their jurisdictions while others do not.

Driver's License Requirement

A valid state driver's license is a requirement for any sworn law enforcement position. Your driving history will be checked during your background investigation.

Education Requirement

Most agencies expect officers to have a high school diploma or GED at a minimum. 

Some agencies require a bachelor’s degree or a minimum number of college credit hours. 

Other agencies require you to have military service or education or a combination of the two. The job posting will have this information on it.

Ability to obtain a license or permit to carry firearms

Most agencies will require you to be of standard fitness to carry a firearm and use it.

If you cannot pass the qualifications to possess and carry a firearm your chances of being a police officer are slim unless the agency you choose to apply to does not require the use of firearms.

Physical Fitness Requirement

This requirement will vary from state to state and possibly agency to agency.

Where do I start?

The answer to this question might shock you and if you are a teen or in your twenties kudos for doing the research now because you are ahead of the game.

You should start the process of becoming a police officer as soon as you can by living a clean life, making good decisions, and practicing having character and integrity in every area of your personal life.

This means that if you go to high school and play sports you want to have a great attendance record, study hard, use clean language, and be a leader.

If you are in college you want to practice the same behavior along with picking up a part-time or full-time job that you can start building a work history with.

College parties and running with a bad crowd is not where you want to be. That will catch up with you during a background investigation.

So, if you are thinking hard about becoming a police officer the road to the badge starts now by being a leader and a role model.

What skills are necessary to be a Police Officer?

Leader

Can you guide and inspire others during hard times? Can you motivate people to do the right thing even in challenging times?

Character

Are you an honest and reliable person? Do you treat people with respect? Police ethics are at the forefront of America.

Integrity

Would you do the right thing even when nobody else is looking?

Intelligent

Are you a quick learner who can make both common sense decisions and on-the-fly decisions regarding state and local laws? Are you able to multitask 2 - 3 things of importance at a time?

What qualifications to be a Police Officer?

Physically Fit

There is physical training in the police academy such as jogging, running, lifting weights, boxing, etc. Being physically fit should start as soon as possible for you because when you attend your oral board interview and medical exam these two stages will matter whether the agency will want to invest in you.

Military experience

Did you or have you been serving your country? Valuable training, education, and experience can be learned in the military. A military-status veteran can get points on both entrance and promotional exams.

Selective Service System Registration

Almost all men ages 18-25 who are U.S. citizens or are immigrants living in the U.S. are required to register with Selective Service. Citizens must register within 30 days of turning 18. Immigrants must register within 30 days of arriving in the U.S. You can verify your selective service registration or create a new registration here.

College Education or Experience

Having a college degree in criminal justice or even still working towards your college degree is very positive in the hiring process. College degree work, however, should show that you are studying hard and receiving solid grades.

It is not uncommon to have a background investigation turn up at your college or university even though you will have to submit transcripts with your application. More on that later.

Volunteering

If you can show a history of volunteerism on your resume or talk about it during your oral board interview it will be very positive.

Solid Work History

Hiring agencies like to see work history that includes positions held in the criminal justice field, however, right behind that is any employment with a record of showing up on time, not calling out sick, volunteering for overtime, and no violations of company policy. Us the job you have now to build a solid work history or get a job and start building that foundation that you can show when you do start the application process.

How can I Increase my Chances of Becoming a Police Officer?

The are many things that you can do to increase your chances of becoming a police officer. Reading this article is one and if you go back to the beginning I have listed over 10 key tasks that you can start doing.

PRO TIP: Adding to your qualifications

While you are waiting to take a civil service/agency recruitment test you can score points by doing the following:

  • Join the armed forces and specialize in law enforcement or other assignments where you can complete training in a law enforcement field.
  • Take and complete a first aid and CPR class so that you are trained and have the certificate to prove it.

  • Work for a state agency where a pension is offered. Once you successfully pass the hiring process for a police department and are hired the pension that you had accrued with the state agency may transfer over.
  • If your state requires citizens to possess a firearms license or permit you can complete this and it will show that you have passed a background check and possessed the minimum requirements to possess and carry a firearms according to your state law.

What is a Police Officer Job Announcement?

Police Officer job openings or Police Officer candidate announcements are posted in many ways online, on billboards, on sites like indeed.com, careerfinder.com, in the newspaper, and more.

    5 Tips for becoming a police officer | COPJOT | Photo Credit Getty Images

    Final Tips for Becoming a Police Officer

    Credit history

    In the beginning of this article we touched on credit history and credit score. You will want to ensure you have a history of paying your debts and are free from bankruptcy.

    Ex Partners

    If your background investigator were to visit your ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend or divorced spouse what would they say about you?

    Home Visit

    If your background investigator were to come to your house unannounced what would they see in your yard and your house? Do you keep things tidy or are you a mess?

    Social Media

    Do a check on social media and delete any posts or comments that would be concerning to a background investigator. In fact, I recommend not being on social media altogether because you don't want your character being judged on what your social media pages say about you.

    Furthermore, Police Officer

    ckup of your social media to ensure you are a positive person free of any racial or biased posts. Removing yourself from social media altogether is what many people looking to be police officers and even police officers in general do so that they are not tagged in things that can be looked at as being inappropriate.

    Mentor

    Find a Police Officer that works for a law enforcement agency that would want to be your mentor and they can answer any questions that you may have about the job and the process to become a police officer.

    About the Author

    Brian Humenuk isn't just an entrepreneur in eCommerce, he is also an informed leader whose experience provides followers and visitors with a look into current and past police issues making headlines in the United States.

    Brian has earned three degrees in Criminal Justice with the last, a Masters of Science in Criminal Justice Administration.

    Brian extends his training, education, and experience to the officers just now getting into the field so that they may become more informed police officers and stay clear of police misconduct and corruption. 

    You can find Brian on Linkedin here.

    Affiliate Disclosure

    COPJOT is supported by its audience. If you make a purchase through links on this site I may earn a small affiliate commission. Enough to buy myself a small coffee and I want to thank you in advance. 

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