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How to Become a Police Officer
When America was founded there were essentially no real requirements for becoming a police officer. As time moved forward and the population grew, most areas began to develop some requirements for governing how to become a police officer before handing someone a badge and gun and the permission to use them in behalf of the people. But the reality is that in many cases educational and training standards are still quite low and even as recently as 15 years ago, some cities and states only required a simple High School Diploma (or even GED) and a clean or resolved criminal record.
Beginning with the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma by domestic terrorist Timothy McVey in 1996 and the horrific events of September 11th 2001, standards and requirements for becoming a police officer have significantly risen due to the fact that the bombing was a partial result of poorly trained and directed State and Federal law enforcement.
Requirements For Becoming a Police Officer
While all jurisdictions still have the same basic requirements of a High School Diploma, a minimum age of 21 years and a clean criminal record before a prospective police officer can be accepted into training at the police academy, they must first pass a stringent psychological examination, medical testing, physical fitness testing and then they must pass police academy courses that have been vastly expanded and improved. Learning how to become a police officer in today´s world requires a strong dedication to community service that many current officers get from a family history of law enforcement or military service.
In many cases, especially with federal police agencies, a High School Diploma alone is unacceptable. Some city, county and state law enforcement agencies will accept a candidate with an Associate’s degree in criminal justice or psychology, but more and more states are requiring at least a Bachelor´s Degree in an area related to law enforcement, such as Criminology, Police Science or Psychology. Some law enforcement agencies, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service, require degrees in both Criminology and Accounting.
Some related fields whose undergraduate programs are acceptable include:
- Bachelor of Science in Criminology
- Bachelor of Science in Police Science
- Bachelor of Science in Psychology
- Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
The understanding of technology is also vital to successfully becoming a police officer. Criminals can simply go onto the internet and learn how to construct complex weapons and explosive devices, circumvent computer security and learn about the forensic techniques used by police to investigate crimes and officers must learn to recognize how these processes work in order to do their job in a technological world. The legal system has also become very complex and guilty criminals can be released to prey on the innocent once again simply because the arresting officer did not understand the laws of arrest, gathering and preserving evidence and even testifying as an expert in court.
As criminals improve their understanding of forensic sciences, law enforcement officers must also evolve. In the post-9/11 world, a police officer must have a thorough understanding of the jurisdiction, its laws and its application. One mistake could easily cause either the guilty to go unpunished or the innocent to be wrongly incarcerated.
Technicalities are paramount in the legal system. How to become a police officer in today’s world requires not only physical fitness and physical proficiency but also mental acuity and aptitude.
Trying to Figure Out How To Become A Police Officer
Your plan for how to become a police officer should include as much education and legitimate experience as possible in your chosen field of work as you pursue your degree.
Career training for becoming a police officer is easily obtainable and affordable. There are many opportunities for advanced career training and advanced online university degrees. Many law enforcement specialists are using online degrees to not only qualify for entrance into police training but to learn how to become effective police officers while on the job. Some are even taking advantage of online Master´s degree programs to advance into supervisory positions at a much faster rate and a few are even obtaining law degrees as well.
You can stop your studies with a basic online associates degree or online bachelor’s degree, or you can extend your education into the online masters degree. Many individuals choose to pursue an online PhD degree–you can too! The flexibility and availability of online education courses make obtaining your relevant law enforcement degree much easier than before.
After Your Degree
Once you have your degree in hand, your training is not yet complete. You must still find, apply and successfully complete training in a police academy.
Prospective police officers have several ways to follow this fulfilling path. While at least one degree is necessary to even enter Police Academy, within the Academy, officers have the option of taking extra online courses to bolster their chances of not only graduating Academy, but getting an excellent position when they do finish.
Graduating from a recognized Police Academy is the stepping stone that will allow you to gain employment in any police agency in the United States or with any private security company in the world. While different agencies have different requirements, like the above example of the FBI and IRS. These agencies will basically require you to only obtain some extra training in fields directly related to their specific fields of investigation.
Learning how to become a police officer should include as much education as you can get simply because law enforcement is an extremely competitive field. When you apply to enter a Police Academy you will find that there are many more applicants than there are jobs and only the top students will graduates. If you do not meet at least the minimum educational, medical and physical requirements you will not even be considered for a placement. Only the best applicants who meet or exceed minimum standards will be considered.
Many states have police academies associated with larger metropolitan police or sheriff departments. Most do not require you to work within that system, however. Once you graduate, your degree and your academy often entitle you to apply to any law enforcement department or agency in the country. Local requirements may differ slightly, so keep in mind the level of enforcement at which you want to work as you investigate how to become a police officer in a given geographical area.
Many prospective police officers, while studying for their degrees online, elect to work in private security, in order to get valuable job experience which will bolster their chances of success when they apply for Academy training. Many local and State police continue on to work for Federal or International police agencies like Interpol or the United Nations security force—considered by many to be the most elite security forces in the world.