How to Become a Police Supervisor: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a police supervisor by watching this video. Discover the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in policing.

Should I Become a Police Supervisor?

A police supervisor coordinates and supervises members of the police department. Most police supervisors are officers who have advanced in their career by acquiring their knowledge through work experience. Some supervisory positions include police sergeants, captains, lieutenants or detective sergeants. Work may be routine, but there is always the chance of danger when potentially interacting with criminals or when firearms and other weapons may be involved.

Career Requirements

Degree Level A high school diploma is standard, although some employers prefer a bachelor's degree
Degree Field Criminal justice, psychology
Experience Varies; several years of related experience through police academy training and work as a police officer or detective
Key Skills Strong verbal and written communication skills, knowledge of email software, database software, computer-aided composite drawing software and Microsoft Office suite, knowledge of local, state or federal laws, court procedures and agency rules, ability to use handcuffs, handguns and two-way radios
Other Requirements Candidates must be 21 or older and have a valid driver's license, as well as pass a physical examination
Salary (May 2014) $84,260 per year (Mean annual wage for all first-line supervisors of police and detectives)

Sources: Job postings accessed in December 2012, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online

Step 1: Earn an Undergraduate Degree

Although a high school diploma may be all the education that is required for employment as a police officer, completion of a college degree is often necessary to advance to a supervisory position. Related programs include the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Criminal Justice and B.S. in Law Enforcement. In programs related to this field, common course topics include criminology, police operations, corrections organization and ethics.

Success Tips:

  • Build strength and stamina. Police officers must be able to lift at least 25 pounds, and often required to sprint or run to catch up with individuals.
  • Develop strong communication skills. Police supervisors must manage other personnel and communicate with other community members, in writing and verbally, so communication skills are important.

Step 2: Attend a Police Academy

In order to attend a police academy, a person must be a United States citizen, at least 21 years old, of good physical health and have no felony convictions. In some cases, a police department will hire police officer trainees and send the trainees to the department's own police academy. Other trainees attend state or regional police academies.

Academy grades and evaluations are often taken into account when being considered for a supervisor position. Education at the academy combines hands-on training with classroom learning. A cadet must pass a series of written and physical tests to graduate, and training is full-time and typically last from 12-16 weeks.

Step 3: Gain Experience

A police officer must gain work experience to obtain the knowledge needed for the position of supervisor. Police officers must complete a probationary period ranging from six months to three years before becoming eligible for promotion. During that time a police officer must gain seniority in order to project authority and demand compliance from subordinates.

Step 4: Find a Position

The vast majority of police supervisors are promoted from within their own department. Typically, an officer must pass written and oral tests in order to be promoted. Additionally, a candidate must display integrity, a positive attitude and strong leadership skills. Officers that want to become supervisors should network within the department and learn all they can about the desired position. Successful police supervisors will advance in rank based on job performance, and many may seek further promotion into upper management positions, such as chief of police or commissioner, or use their strong track record in law enforcement to run for a public office, like sheriff in areas where the office is applicable.

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