How to Become a Police Officer?

Are you thinking of becoming a Police Officer or already started your career and planning the next step? Learn how to become a Police Officer, what skills you need to succeed, how to advance your career and get promoted, and what levels of pay to expect at each step on your career path. Explore new Police Officer job openings and options for career transitions into related roles.

Steps to Become a Police Officer

A police officer is responsible for protecting lives and property in their precinct. They accomplish this by responding to calls, enforcing laws, issuing citations, and, when necessary, making arrests. Their primary goal is to maintain law and order in a designated area, and if this appeals to you, you may consider becoming a police officer. In this article, we provide five steps to help you learn how to become a police officer.

Complete necessary education.

To enter the police academy or pursue a career as a police officer, you'll be required to have at least a high school education or GED. Many police officers seek an associate or bachelor's degree in a related field like criminal justice, as it's sometimes required. Those with a military background may have this requirement waived.

What type of degree should you pursue to become a Police Officer?

94% of people working as a Police Officer earned a Bachelor's Degree

What skills do you need to be a Police Officer?

  • Conducting
  • Investigating
  • VOS
  • Views
  • First Aid
  • Excellent Customer Service
  • WORKING Relationships
  • Written Communication
Based on resume data from Glassdoor users who reported working as a Police Officer in the United States.

Meet other requirements.

There are other specific requirements that you may be required to meet to become a police officer. These include:

  • You may need to be a minimum of 18 or 21 years of age.
  • You must have a valid driver's license with a clean driving record, as you'll likely need to use a patrol car on the job.
  • You must be able to pass a criminal background check.
  • You need to pass a physical examination and medical exam.
  • You need to pass a psychological examination to ensure that you'll be able to act and react appropriately in high-pressure situations.

Pass a law enforcement exam.

Passing a law enforcement exam may also be required to become a police officer. These exams often include:

  • A written exam with various true and false questions, short essay questions, and multiple-choice questions is designed to test your knowledge about the job. These may test your mathematical skills, grammar, reading comprehension, decision-making skills, and logic in scenarios you may encounter while on the job.
  • An oral exam may be given in the form of an interview to test your general presentation and communication skills.
  • You may also be required to write an essay to test your ability to use logic, express ideas and thoughts clearly, and provide reasoning for your logic as well as the evidence needed to support your claims.

You must pass this entrance exam to be accepted into the police academy.


Attend police academy training.

To become a police officer, you first need to attend the police academy. Your training will include:

  • Classroom education: This will provide an overview of law enforcement, including criminal investigation methods, laws and regulations, arrest and detainment procedures, and approaches to public safety and policing in general.
  • Refining your skills: During your training, you'll refine skills like stress management, negotiation, and communication.
  • Field training: This will introduce you to administrative duties, how to properly use a firearm, defense tactics, vehicle operations, the proper use of force, and how to handle hazardous materials.

Apply for jobs.

After you've completed your education, passed your law enforcement exam, and attended police academy training, you're ready to begin applying for jobs as a police officer. There are various career paths you may choose from, including:

  • Detective.
  • K-9 officer.
  • Sheriff and deputy sheriff.
  • State police officer.
  • Highway patrol officer.

Police Officer Career Path

Police Officer

8+Years of Experience
$47K - $74K /yrMost Likely Range
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11% advanced to

Senior Police Officer

2 - 4Years of Experience
$67K - $109K /yrMost Likely Range
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Police Officer IV

5 - 7Years of Experience
$49K - $76K /yrMost Likely Range
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Total Pay Trajectory

Police Officer Career Path

Police Officer I
Police Officer
Senior Police Officer
Police Officer IV
Deputy Chief Police Officer
Chief Police Officer
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Related Careers in the Military & Protective Services Industry

Interested in other Military & Protective Services careers? Below are occupations that have high affinity with Police Officer skills. Discover some of the most common Police Officer career transitions, along with skills overlap.

Security Officer
25% skills overlap
22% transitioned to Security Officer