Many people love to become police officers, regardless of their education, age, and current occupation. You can become a police officer right after you graduate from college or at a later stage of your life as long as you meet the agency’s criteria.
Even though you can become a police officer at any stage of your adult life, it doesn’t happen quickly. Most agencies out there require a certain level of education that tops high school. There is also training you have to go through once you have passed the hiring process.
So, how long does it take to become a police officer?
It depends on the police department you are looking to join and its specific training process and requirements. Your career ambitions also play an essential role.
This guide will explain everything you need to know concerning this topic.
How Long It Takes To Become A Police Officer
Becoming a police officer is a decent job and a meaningful way to serve your community. A police officer works to protect the citizens and their properties. This job can be a stepping stone to a more remarkable career in the criminal justice feeds or law enforcement.
There are various routes to achieving your goal of becoming a police officer. It is helpful to know how long each educational process will take. However, there is no clear-cut answer regarding how long it will take you to become a police officer.
It’s based on your chosen path and your long-term career goals. Here’s an explanation of the most common timeline for becoming a police officer.
The law enforcement agency you are applying for will conduct a series of background checks, including your criminal history and credit history. Although it isn’t your first step to having your dream job, you will need to consider this before taking the first step.
If you are worried about how your background can affect your candidacy, consider consulting a police academy admissions representative to clear your doubts.
The agency may analyze your credit history because it will explain how responsible you are and potential money issues such as gambling-related debts. The agency will check your history of criminal activity, residency, employment, and academic records.
If you successfully or even inadvertently leave something out, and it eventually comes to light, the police department will most likely eliminate you as a candidate. The department is looking for responsible people.
Offenses like gross misdemeanors and felonies could disqualify you from getting your dream job, but less severe crimes can also cause issues. It all depends on the agency and its policies.
Anything offense that is domestic violence-related will instantly remove you from the process. Juvenile crimes are usually not as severe as adult transgression. You should also notify your references and teachers, as the agency will contact them.
You need a degree or academy training:
The requirements will depend on the state you reside in or plan to become a police officer for this step. An applicant does not need to behave a college degree in some states, although they may prefer it.
In states like Minnesota, you must have an Associate’s degree or equivalent training to become a police officer. Generally, an aspiring police officer will follow one of these two routes, which are:
- Complete the necessary training. The training is completed by earning a degree in Criminal Justice or a similar field – usually two- or four-year from Peace Officer Standings and Training (POST)-certified college or university.
- Attending a government-approved police academy or training program to complete the training that would qualify you for the job
Since there are different requirements, you will have to ask the agency responsible for setting the training for law enforcement and licensure standards in your state. Some agencies have special arrangements for people who were in the military.
The arrangements let applicants who have participated in the military go through a unique process due to their military training. Any part you take will include classroom instruction in state and local laws.
The test will cover topics such as constitutional law, police ethics, and civil rights. Recruits will also undergo training and supervised experience in traffic control, patrol, self-defense, firearm use, and first aid and emergency response.
The police academy will give applicants the essential tools needed to become functional police officers. Although it is not always the case, having an Associate degree is a plus, and a Bachelor’s degree is considered ideal.
BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) report shows that applicants who have previous law enforcement or military experience and applicants who speak more than one language have more advantages over others.
Pass the licensing exam:
Before becoming a police officer, you have to earn a passing score on the police licensing board exam. The training and your education will prepare each applicant to take the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) exam.
The tests will vary for each state because they all have their licensing board. However, most POST exams cover essential topics like community policing, civil and criminal law, practical application and techniques, communication, and victims’ rights.
If you pass the exam, that means you are licensed to become a cop and enforce the law in your jurisdiction. Passing the exam means you can now seek employment as a police officer.
Undergo a psychological evaluation:
Before you are qualified to become a police officer, the law enforcement agency will most likely evaluate you for mental fitness and psychological stability. These tests depend on the agency but generally include written exams and a one-on-one interview.
Applicants may also take a polygraph test that will cross-reference the answers they provided in the application packet. These tests are tools to help look for signs that the applicant is stable. It also requires honesty when answering.
Continuing education and career advancement:
After completing all the steps above to become a police officer, it doesn’t end there. You still have a lot to learn, as nothing is more important than on-the-job experience. Experience shows you all the specialized areas you might want or need to know more about.
Like other professions, police officers must meet continuing education requirements if they want to renew their license. So you have to keep learning to be a successful police officer. Minnesota police officers need at least 48 hours of continuing education within the three-year licensing period.
Also, annual training in the use of force is necessary for active police officers. Training in pursuit driving or emergency vehicle operations is also required once every five years. The police department employing you may also give you specialized training based on local and federal needs.
Police departments may also provide other educational opportunities to encourage police officers. Those who want to climb police ranks may also need to go for additional training or provide additional credentials.
Who Can Become A Police Officer?
Applicants who are citizens of America can join the police. In some cases, someone who resides in the country and has already applied to be a citizen can join.
Applicants for police officers must also have a clean criminal record. However, some police departments will likely allow someone who has criminal records if the offenses were minor. You will get disqualified in case of felonies.
Some agencies also require their officers to live within their jurisdictions, while other agencies do not consider it necessary.
At What Age Can I Apply To Become A Police Officer?
Although most agencies require their applicants to be 21 years old by the academy graduation date, some agencies take cadets who are 18 years old.
The maximum age for becoming a police officer can vary widely, so do not think that you are not qualified because you are more than 30 years old. Some agencies do not have a maximum age requirement.
Must I Be Fit To Become A Police Officer?
Even if you’re in the best shape, you have to be committed to getting fit if you want to become a police officer. The physical fitness exams for applicants generally include special requirements for strength, speed, and distance.
Applicants also have to pass their vision and hearing tests.
Every society needs police officers. In as much as there are crimes, there will always be a demand for police officers. Your job as a police officer is to fight crimes, uphold the law, and make citizens feel safe in society.
Although the steps to becoming a police officer might seem like a long one that would take a lot of your time, you have to complete them if you want to achieve your dream of serving your society.
How long the application and hiring process takes will depend on the state and the agency you choose for your police officer career. The time you spend at the Academy, including on probation, plays a vital role.
It takes around five to six years for someone to become a police officer if they have completed their education before applying for the job.