Police officers hold at least a high school diploma, and have received police academy training. Most training programs have age and fitness requirements that are specific to local, state or federal law enforcement agencies. Learn more about the training requirements for becoming a police officer and about career opportunities in this field.
Police officers are professionals tasked with the responsibility of enforcing laws. Individuals interested in law enforcement careers must fulfill minimum education and training requirements including completion of a police academy program.
|Required Education||High school diploma or equivalent (minimum requirement); some agencies require postsecondary education|
|Other Requirements||Police academy training|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)*||5% (police and detectives)|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$61,380 (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.
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.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that between 2018 and 2028, job opportunities for police and detectives will increase only five percent, which is slower than the national average for all occupations. Salaries for police officers vary; in 2018, police and sheriff's patrol officers made a median salary of $61,380 annually, while transit and railroad police made a median salary of $74,030 per year, as reported by the BLS. Detectives and criminal investigators made $81,920 as a median salary in 2018, and first-line supervisors of police and detectives made a median salary of $89,030 per year.
Police officers serve the public by enforcing laws. They need to have a high school diploma or equivalent at a minimum, although some may hold an associate's or bachelor's degree. They receive training at police academies where they learn about law enforcement topics such as criminal justice, firearms, first aid, and investigation.