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 recruits receive classroom, hands-on, and physical training at a specialized academy to prepare them for their career. Only a high school education or equivalent is required for this job, but many departments demand college coursework as well.

Essential Information

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 or GED 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 (2014-2024)* 4% for all types of police and detectives
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $58,320 for police and sheriff's patrol officers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Enrollment Requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that police academy applicants usually need a high school diploma or its equivalent ( 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.

Program Requirements

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.

Career Outlook

Police officer and detective jobs are predicted to grow 5% from 2014-2024, which is 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 $58,320 in May 2015, reports the BLS.

The only prerequisites to enter a police academy are a high school diploma or equivalent, and possibly completion of an associate's or bachelor's program in law enforcement/criminal justice. After passing the necessary admission exams, recruits will go through nearly six months of training at the police academy to become qualified for the job.

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