How to Become a SWAT Officer: Requirements & Salary

Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams are among the most elite police units in the world. Read on to learn about how to become a SWAT officer, including SWAT requirements, training, job skills and salaries. View article »

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  • 0:03 Becoming a SWAT Officer
  • 1:15 Earn a Degree
  • 1:41 Work as a Law…
  • 2:38 Advance to SWAT Team

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Video Transcript

How to Become SWAT

SWAT teams are specialized police units that respond to unusually dangerous threats to public safety, including hostage situations, barricaded gunmen and riots. You might be wondering how to get into SWAT. The SWAT officers usually start as ordinary patrol officers before being promoted to these elite Special Weapons and Tactics teams. The chart below shows the education and training requirements, job skills and salary ranges for SWAT officers.

Education Required A high school degree or the equivalent; in some jurisdictions, a college degree
Training Required Specialized weapons, tactics and fitness training
Key Skills Physical fitness, marksmanship, incident resolution tactics, interpersonal skills
Job Growth (2016-26) 7% (all police and sheriff's patrol officers)*
Mean salary (2018) $65,400 (all police and sheriff's patrol officers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is a SWAT Officer?

SWAT units, also known as Tactical Response Teams (TRT), consist of law enforcement officers who are specially recruited, trained and equipped to resolve critical threats to public safety that are beyond the capabilities of ordinary police officers. SWAT officers are focused on the resolution of high-risk incidents, including suicide intervention, snipers, terrorist response and high-risk warrant service or apprehensions.

Educational Requirements

Almost all police and sheriff's departments require a high school diploma or the equivalent, and some require postsecondary degrees such as associate's or bachelor's degrees. Studies in criminal justice are most helpful to break into this field, although experience, training and proven dependability on the job are the qualities sought most.

SWAT Team Requirements

Most police jurisdictions require candidates to graduate from a police academy, which involves fitness, firearms, procedural and ethics training. SWAT officers are generally chosen from the ranks of ordinary police officers who have proven themselves in the field.

SWAT officers undergo rigorous introductory training in physical fitness, weapons, operational tactics, threat assessment, reconnaissance, surveillance, negotiation, and breaching techniques, followed by even more training that is competency-based. Additional skills and tactical training hours are then required each year. Some types of specialty assignments may require more hours of training in critical, related skills.

SWAT Job Skills

Learning when not to shoot is crucial, but if you have to shoot, you don't want to miss. SWAT officers must be cool-headed law enforcement professionals with high moral standards and tremendous expertise in all aspects of incident resolution. A peaceful ending to a crisis situation is always the goal, but in a lethal situation, protecting the lives of civilians and neutralizing threats to public safety are paramount.

SWAT Team Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, all police and sheriff's patrol officers earned a mean (average) salary of $65,400 as of 2018. But a SWAT officer salary will generally be higher than the average cop's, reflecting greater experience and training. Police employment is expected to increase by 7%, from 2016 through 2026, roughly as much as the average for all occupations, reflecting an ongoing demand for public safety.

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