Police Officer: An Overview of Police Academy Training
Becoming a police officer requires either a little college coursework or none at all. Learn about job duties and police academy training to see if this is the right career for you.
Police academy training prepares individuals to seek roles as police officers. This required training is often paid, and some programs provide tuition reimbursement. Apart from academy training, aspiring police officers must hold a high school diploma and, in some cases, an undergraduate degree in a field like criminal justice.
|Required Education||High school diploma or equivalent at minimum; some departments require college coursework|
|Other Requirements||Completion of police academy training program; additional requirements vary by department but could include passing a physical fitness test and a psychological evaluation|
|Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)||5% for all types of police and detectives*|
|Median Salary (2013)||$56,130 for police and sheriff's patrol officers*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that police academy applicants usually need a high school diploma or its equivalent (www.bls.gov). In some cases, at least some college coursework or a degree is necessary. Additional qualifications may include a valid driver's license, a clean criminal record and a physical fitness report from a doctor. Some academies also require completion of a hearing test and a psychological evaluation.
Students can begin preparing for the police academy while in high school. Electives such as criminology, legal studies, physical education, sociology and psychology are helpful for aspiring police officers. In addition, police academy admissions officers may look for applicants who have completed college coursework in criminal justice or law enforcement. Some academies prefer candidates who hold an associate's or bachelor's degree in one of those fields.
An associate's degree program in law enforcement covers community policing, racial relations, sociology, legal issues, criminal investigations and psychology. Some law enforcement associate's degree programs are integrated into police academy programs.
A bachelor's degree program in criminal justice, police science or a related discipline can also prepare students for careers as police officers. Common topics include the criminal justice system, criminology, emergency planning, crime prevention, crisis communications and U.S. government.
After gaining acceptance into the police academy, recruits participate in classroom and practical instruction. They learn state laws, criminal investigations, patrol procedures, firearms training, traffic control, defensive driving, self-defense, first aid and computer skills. Police academy recruits also undertake physical training and fieldwork that demonstrates their comprehension of classroom instruction. Field exercises include investigating mock criminal scenes, directing traffic, operating police vehicles, arrest techniques, using firearms, fingerprinting and interrogation methods. Police academy training usually takes 22-27 weeks to complete.
Police officer and detective jobs were predicted to grow 5% from 2012-2022, which was a bit slower than average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment opportunities at state and local governments are affected by department budgets. Police and sheriff's patrol officers earned a median yearly salary of $56,130 as of May 2013, reports the BLS.