Certified Police Officer: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a certified police officer. Get a quick view of the requirements - such as job duties, education and training - to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Certified police officers work for state or local departments to provide law enforcement to the community. Becoming a certified police officer requires going through an extensive testing and training period. Many certified police officers are patrol officers, although positions can be found in specialized units, such as drug enforcement.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent; candidates with some college training may be preferred
Other Requirements Police academy training
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 5%
Average Salary (2013)* $58,720

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description of a Certified Police Officer

The role of a certified police officer is to protect people and property while upholding the law. Certified police officers have been trained in law enforcement, public safety and community relations. The job description of police officers will vary depending on the district and if they are specialized in a particular field, such as homicide investigations.

Job Duties of a Certified Police Officer

In general, the duties of a certified police officer are to patrol an assigned area. They keep an eye on the welfare and safety of that area, as well as write up reports of incidents. Certified police officers respond to calls for crimes, complaints or suspicious activities. They pursue suspected criminals and arrest or issue citations to those who break the law. It's common for police officers to provide security services or direct traffic for public gatherings. They also collect evidence of crimes and testify in court.

Job Requirements for a Certified Police Officer

Aspiring police officers should have at least a high school diploma, although many departments seek police officers who have completed college courses or a college degree. Common postsecondary education includes certificates or degrees in law enforcement or criminal justice. Common courses may include procedures for investigation, patrol and detention. Those with military experience are also eligible to become certified police officers.

In addition to educational requirements, potential police officers must take an initial entry-level test to be accepted into a department. They must also pass physical and psychological exams, a background investigation and drug screening. Trainees go into a police academy, which typically lasts 22 weeks, for hands-on instruction. Additionally, they must complete field and departmental training, which can range in time depending on the state, district or area. Completing and passing the required training results in a police officer certificate.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 5 percent growth in employment opportunities for police officers from 2012-2022 (www.blg.gov). The BLS reported that local departments were likely to provide more opportunities for employment, whereas federal and state positions would likely see strong competition. In May 2013, the BLS indicated the average annual wage for police and sheriff's patrol officers was $58,720, with most workers earning from $32,670 to $90,700 a year. At that time, New Jersey, California, Alaska, New York and Washington were the top-paying states for police officers in the U.S.

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