Police cadets are similar to trainee police officers. They complete training programs that teach them law enforcement basics. After passing a police cadet training program, they perform various duties that assist certified police officers.
|Required Education||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Other Requirements||Valid driver's license and background check; police academy training|
|Projected Job Growth||5% from 2012-2022 for police and detectives*|
|Median Salary (2014)||$56,810 annually for police and sheriff's patrol officers*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Police cadets participate in training programs that introduce them to the fundamentals of law enforcement and prepare them to become police officers. Some police cadets are paid, while others are volunteers. After completing the training program, police cadets provide valuable support services to law enforcement officials and train under the guidance of sworn police officers. They may support police operations, such as traffic control, work on criminal investigations and perform administrative duties at police stations.
Police cadet job duties vary according to each local agency. For example, some cadets assist police officers with road hazards, traffic accidents and crime scenes, while others may go on ride-alongs with police officers to learn how to handle real-life situations. Police cadets may also patrol parades, school functions, state competitions and fundraising events, as well as perform vacation house checks. Other duties may include helping with dispatch, enforcing parking requirements and informing students and young adults about police officer responsibilities.
Each cadet academy has its own application requirements, but many police bureaus set age requirements for police cadet candidates to be between 16 (with parental consent) and 21. A valid driver's license and good driving record are usually required to enter into a police cadet training program, as well as a clean criminal history. All police cadets are either U.S. citizens or have authorization to work in the U.S.
A high school diploma or its equivalent is often required, and police cadets may have to enroll in college courses or be willing, or eligible, to take college courses relative to law enforcement. A minimum grade point average may be required while participating in the program. Many police cadet academies require applicants to pass a medical exam, including a drug screening and vision test. Some cadet programs also include a polygraph test, personal interview, written exam, psychological assessment and background investigation.
Once accepted into the police cadet program, participants may be required to live at a training facility for the duration of the program. During their training, cadets perform rigorous physical conditioning, including self-defense, boxing, weight training, swimming and aerobic activities. They also learn driving techniques, first aid, crime scene control and how to use firearms. Classes on laws, ethics, report writing and policing philosophy are also taught.
Police cadet salaries vary across the U.S., but in general cadets earn less than police officers. For example, as of 2015, the Baltimore County Maryland official government website lists a starting salary of $25,024 per year for police cadets and $48,100 for police offers. The Pensacola Police website lists a starting annual salary of roughly $20,758 for police cadets and $32,968 for officers. According to the San Jose Police Department website, academy pay is $32.19 per hour, whereas the starting salary for a police officer is $78,000 per year. Police cadet positions may also offer attractive benefits, including paid college tuition, medical and retirement benefits, and paid meals and lodging.
Higher education may determine a higher starting salary, and cadets may earn a raise after their first year at the academy. For example, according to the Louisiana State Police Academy website, a police cadet's annual salary increases from $42,732 for academy entry to $46,857 after their first year. Successful cadets may follow this path to become police officers once they have reached the minimum age and completed all training requirements.