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Police Education and Training Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a police officer. Get an overview of the requirements - including police training programs and job responsibilities - to find out if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Police officers are individuals tasked with the responsibility of enforcing laws. Individuals interested in law enforcement careers must fulfill a minimum amount of education and training, including the completion of a police academy program.

Required EducationHigh school diploma or equivalent at minimum; some agencies require postsecondary education
Other RequirementsPolice academy training
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)*6% (police and sheriff's patrol officers)
Average Salary (2013)*$58,720 (police and sheriff's patrol officers)

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Information for Police Officers

Specific education guidelines for police are set by individual agencies following state or federal laws. City, county and state police officers are often only required to have a high school diploma or pass all General Educational Development (GED) examinations. Departments prefer applicants with some college experience, while law enforcement professionals employed by the federal government often have bachelor's degrees. Courses in foreign languages, criminal justice and political science might prove useful during a career as a police officer. In addition to formal education, applicants to police training academies often have military experience.

Some dedicated police officers enhance their real-world experience with advanced education, such as a graduate degree in criminal justice, public administration or police science or even a Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.). Police officers with advanced or professional degrees can seek administrative positions.

Training Requirements

Aspiring police officers must complete training programs specific to individual law enforcement agencies. Many of these programs last a minimum of 12 weeks and include substantial physical fitness components; all cadets in police training programs must meet minimum fitness and age standards.

Cadets in police academies learn about self-defense, firearms operations and first aid. Training for police officers might also involve hostage negotiation, investigative techniques and traffic control. Some departments incorporate high-speed driving skills, conflict resolution tactics and crowd management in their basic cadet training programs.

Law enforcement professionals are expected to possess a reasonable understanding of the legal process, and police education and training often focuses on subjects relating to law and criminal justice. Courses in legal terminology, civil rights and the penal code are mandatory portions of police training. Cadets are also instructed on the proper handling and questioning of suspects, maintaining the integrity of evidence and laws relating to searches and seizures. Upon graduation from the academy, police officers might continue to take courses on providing legal testimony, taking witness statements and adhering to evidentiary guidelines.

Employment Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that, between 2012-2022, job opportunities for police and sheriff's patrol officers will increase six percent, which is slower than the national average for all occupations. Salaries for police officers vary; in 2013, patrol officers made an average of $58,720 annually, while transit police averaged $58,200 per year, as reported by the BLS. Detectives made $79,030 on average in 2013, and police force supervisors and managers averaged $82,710 per year.

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