What does a Police Officer do?

Police officers are responsible for protecting lives and property by enforcing laws, responding to calls, issuing citations, and making arrests within a designated area. Police officers aim to preserve law and order. Police officers oftentimes advance into roles like police supervisor or detective.

Police officers must have a high school diploma or equivalent. Usually, they must also have completed a minimum of 60 college semester hours in criminal justice or a related field. Police officers need to complete a training academy, pass a written and physical certification exam, pass a criminal background check, have a valid driver's license, and be at least 21 years of age. While the requirements to become a police officer might seem extensive, they are in place to ensure only those who are ready are protecting lives. The best police officers are empathetic, very physically fit, and exercise sound judgment.

What responsibilities are common for Police Officer jobs?
  • Enforce all relevant codes, ordinances, laws, and regulations
  • Respond to calls for police service, both emergency and nonemergency
  • Patrol assigned locations on foot and by vehicle in order to prevent and discover crime
  • Enforce traffic regulations, recognize violations, and issue citations
  • Secure and investigate crime scenes, and collect and preserve evidence
  • Makes arrests in accordance with proper apprehension techniques
  • Complete appropriate reports, forms, logs, and citations
  • Testify in court when subpoenaed
  • Provide emergency aid as needed
What are the typical qualifications for Police Officer jobs?
  • High school diploma or general education degree (GED) required; minimum 60 college semester hours in criminal justice or related field preferred
  • Must be at least 21 years of age
  • Successful completion of police officer certification exam in state of practice
  • Successful completion of police officer training academy in state of practice
  • Current CPR certification
  • Valid driver's license in state of practice
  • Ability to pass a criminal background check
  • Ability to pass a physical agility test
  • Working knowledge of local, state, and federal laws
  • Working knowledge of basic law enforcement terminology, concepts, procedures, and techniques
  • Excellent judgment and physical stamina
EducationBachelor's Degree
Work/Life Balance
3.0 ★
Total Pay--
Career Opportunity
3.4 ★
Avg. Experience8+ years

How much does a Police Officer make?

Confident
$69,194 /yr
Total Pay
$49,186
 /yr

Base Pay

+
$20,008
 /yr

Additional Pay

$69,194

 / yr
$33K$272K
Most Likely Range
Possible Range
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Police Officer Career Path

Learn how to become a Police Officer, what skills and education you need to succeed, and what level of pay to expect at each step on your career path.

L2
Police Officer
$69,194/yr
L3
L4
L2

Average Years of Experience

0 - 1
2%
2 - 4
4%
5 - 7
0%
8+
94%
Not including years spent in education and/or training
See Career Path

Police Officer Insights

Read what Police Officer professionals have to say about their job experiences and view top companies for this career.
Houston Police DepartmentHouston Police Department
Police Officer
Apr 25, 2021

“Current political and social issues are making life difficult for your rank and file officers.”

YoungWilliamsYoungWilliams
Enforcement Agent
Apr 18, 2021

“High turnover because of the pay and little to no movement opportunities within the company.”

Greater Manchester PoliceGreater Manchester Police
Police Officer
Aug 14, 2021

“Poor Pay: 5% extra per hour for out of social hours not including weekends.”

US Coast GuardUS Coast Guard
Law Enforcement Officer
Jan 23, 2021

“I don't know what it is but a large number of people are overly negative and also only lookout for themselves and their career.”

Metropolitan Police ServiceMetropolitan Police Service
Police Officer
Mar 29, 2022

“It’s challenging and great for self development”

MyTel
Staff Officer
May 29, 2020

“Good and Nice place to work”

Greater Manchester PoliceGreater Manchester Police
Police Constable
Apr 11, 2021

“And it works so I don't know what others are talking about to be perfectly honest.”

Maricopa County Sheriff's OfficeMaricopa County Sheriff's Office
Police Sergeant
Jun 9, 2021

“Deputies and brass great to work with.”

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Police Officer Interviews

Frequently asked questions about the role and responsibilities of police officers

The daily work of police officers includes patrolling assigned neighborhoods, responding to traffic accidents or incidents, responding to emergencies, completing paperwork, testifying in court cases, providing protection for special events, directing traffic, and assisting in solving crimes. They typically work assigned shifts.

Yes, police officers are typically well-respected in their community. Though they are placed in dangerous situations, police officers work with others who are trained to provide backup and support in every situation. Although there are some elements that can be mundane, much of a police officer's time is spent looking for ways to protect others and help people in crisis.

Working as a police officer can be a dangerous job, and there may be situations that are difficult to cope with emotionally. Some police work is physically demanding, and the job requires officers to be trained in safely using their weapons. Police uniforms are a requirement and can be stiff with protective gear. The best police officers are those who can react quickly and appropriately in an emergency and help to calm and comfort victims.

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Police Officer Jobs