Police Officer Video: Educational Requirements for a Career in Law Enforcement

Police Officer Video: Educational Requirements for a Career in Law Enforcement Transcript

A career in law enforcement is one of the best ways to make a difference in your community. A police officer, sheriff or peace officer enforces the law by investigating crimes and arresting criminals. At the very least, a high school diploma and completion of a training program are required for most positions. However, potential police officers should consider earning a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. This degree can lead to additional career opportunities as a corrections officer or in other law enforcement fields.


When it comes to keeping the streets safe and criminals behind bars, society turns to police officers. Behind the scenes and beyond what is shown on television and in the movies, police officers maintain meticulous records of crime statistics and other information about the areas they patrol. They also testify in criminal trials and participate in community outreach programs. A high school diploma and completion of a police training program are required for most careers in law enforcement.

Job Duties and Skills

Police officers apprehend criminals, write tickets, investigate crimes and ensure that the protections of the criminal justice system are available to all members of the community.

Most police officers are assigned to patrol a specific geographic area, known as a precinct. During their patrols, police officers respond to reports of crimes and other complaints and also enforce traffic laws. A major part of police work is writing reports and filing paperwork to create accurate records of area crime statistics. Police officers are even called upon to testify in court in criminal proceedings. They also participate in community events and activities to improve relations with area residents.

Police officers typically work with partners for support and backup during dangerous situations. In addition to the communication skills needed to develop a relationship with a partner and to interact with members of the community, police officers must possess a high level of physical fitness and an excellent memory and must hold themselves and their peers to the highest ethical standards.

Training Required

Employers, which include city, county and state police departments and several federal agencies have differing hiring standards and training requirements. At the very minimum, a high school diploma is required, although some employers also ask for an associate's or bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field. Successful completion of a civil service examination and physical fitness test may also be required.

Completion of a police academy training program is needed for most positions in state and local law enforcement. These programs include classroom study focusing on state and local laws, civil rights, investigative techniques and other law enforcement issues. Students will also learn physical skills, including self-defense, firearm use and advanced driving techniques.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation requires agents to have three years of criminal justice experience plus a bachelor's degree. Eighteen weeks of training at FBI headquarters in Quantico, Virginia are also required. Other federal agencies have similar educational and training requirements.

Career Options

Police officers are employed by cities, while sheriffs and deputies work at the county level. Law enforcement professionals at the state and federal level are known as troopers and agents, respectively. The duties of these professionals differ, but all center around protecting and serving the community and upholding the laws and the Constitution of the United States.

Some police officers, after working as patrol officers may pursue other positions in law enforcement. Detectives collect evidence and build cases against criminals. Lieutenants, sergeants and captains are law enforcement professionals who have increased administrative and leadership duties. Police officers who have completed a bachelor's degree program have a better opportunity at securing these specialized positions.

Opportunities in corrections, fish and game management and other aspects of law enforcement are available to police officers. These positions rely on many of the same skills used by police officers and many of these professionals often begin their careers as patrol officers.


Police officers are the first line of defense for the criminal justice system. They patrol the streets, arrest criminals and prevent crimes before they can happen. A great police officer is more than just a humble civil servant; he or she is an ambassador to the community, representing safety and security for everyone.

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