While formal education is not required for employment as a police officer, individuals can enroll in an undergraduate certificate program with a high school diploma or equivalent. They might complete programs in police science, law enforcement and security or basic police training before enrolling in a police academy. A certificate program in police officer training requires 24-30 credits for completion.
Students learn about government and law enforcement, investigative methods, safety procedures and psychology. Police officer candidates also gain communication and problem-solving skills. Many such certificate programs are gateways to 2- and 4-year criminal justice programs. In order to work as police officers, individuals must earn state certification by completing a comprehensive examination. In addition to state certification, prospective police officers may have to take a personal interview, physical exam and meet general fitness standards.
Police Officer Certification
Students learn through lectures and lab work. A GPA of 2.0 is typically required for completion. Topics of study include:
- Investigative procedures
- Local and national laws and government
- Civic relation strategies for law enforcement officials
- Safety procedures and first aid care
- Psychology fundamentals
- Sociology fundamentals
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Employment of police officers and detectives is expected to rise 4% from 2014-2024, estimates the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov. In 2015, police officers and sheriff's patrol officers earned an annual median salary of $58,320. Graduates of a certificate program for police officers can also work in private and public sectors as corrections officers, loss prevention specialists and security guards.
In order to apply for certification, applicants must have U.S. citizenship, a high school diploma or GED, no felonies or a dishonorable discharge from the military, be at least 18-21 and undergo a physical examination.
While police officer certification programs require only 24-30 credits to complete, it may serve as a stepping stone to an undergraduate degree program in criminal justice. With a median annual salary of over $58,000 and projected job growth of 4% over the next decade, prospective students may want to maximize their education to improve odds of employment and career advancement.