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SWAT Training Program Information and Requirements

Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams are elite groups within police departments. They handle especially demanding law enforcement scenarios that are above and beyond their respective departments' basic responsibilities. SWAT team members are typically experienced, certified police officers who complete specialized training at approved police academies, which in some cases may be local colleges or universities.

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Essential Information

Aspiring SWAT team officers will find that the rules and regulations for training and certification will vary from state to state, based on individual states' Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) guidelines. For admission to such a program, an applicant must first be a certified police officer, and must typically hold a minimum amount of law enforcement experience, such as a year in the field. These programs are commonly offered through police academies, as well as community colleges and universities. It should be noted that aspiring SWAT officers hoping to reach higher positions, such as commander or team leader, may be required to complete more advanced coursework.

SWAT Training Programs

SWAT teams are tasked with responding to high-risk situations, such as hostage standoffs, civil unrest and riots, suicide interventions and terrorism threats. Accordingly, SWAT officers must be physically fit and trained in tactics such as perimeter creation, use of chemical agents and heavy firearms, building entry, crisis negotiation and team communication. Police departments usually assign high-performing officers to their SWAT teams, or these officers may volunteer to join.

Training programs for SWAT officers are designed in accordance with the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) guidelines of their respective U.S. states, which govern the training and certification of all state law enforcement personnel. In most states, officers must pass a basic SWAT course, which may range from a week to several months in duration, before entering field operations. Advanced coursework is available, and is typically required in the cases of incident commanders and other SWAT team leaders. Recurrent monthly training for all SWAT officers is required by many departments.

Education Prerequisites

To become SWAT team members, individuals must already be certified as police officers via completion of their states' POST programs, or be U.S. military personnel. One year or more of law enforcement experience is usually required. Potential SWAT members must also meet minimum physical requirements in terms of their bodily fitness and proficiency with firearms.

Course Topics and Training Regimens

SWAT officers are expected to be proficient in a wide range of core competencies related to high-risk incidents and to demonstrate their abilities in practice scenarios. Topics for a basic SWAT training course include:

  • Chemical agents
  • Civil liability
  • Criteria for SWAT deployment
  • Distraction and diversionary devices
  • Entering and searching buildings
  • History of SWAT
  • Movement in SWAT teams
  • Negotiation tactics
  • Operations planning
  • Stress management

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that police officers and detectives will see a ten percent growth in total employment from 2008-2018 ( In May 2010, the BLS stated that the mean annual wage for all police and sheriff's patrol officers was $55,620.

Continuing Education and Advancement Info

All police officers are eligible for promotion in rank based on job performance and written exam scores. Within SWAT teams specifically, members may be promoted to incident commander positions based on similar criteria.

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