How To Become A Police Officer: A Quick Guide
If you are interested in becoming a police officer, you will need to learn about the requirements for becoming one and the process you will need to follow. How to Become a Police Officer provides important information for prospective cops, including the comprehensive steps for becoming a police officer* and the specific requirements of each state and major US city. We also offer information on the best educational paths leading to a law enforcement career, the various career possibilities within policing, extensive salary information, expert law enforcement advice, and a jobs tool to find police jobs in your area.
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, there are nearly 900,000 police and sheriffs patrol officers, criminal investigators, detectives, and first-line supervisors of police and detectives in the US.1,2,3 Below you will find a step-by-step, practical guide for becoming a police officer to help you along, no matter where you are on your journey.
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Pass The Post Exam & Become A Police Officer
In order to work as a police officer, aspiring applicants must pass the Peace Officer Standards and Training or Police Officer Standards and Training exam. Commonly known as the POST exam, this is required for each state except Hawaii . Each state has subtle differences in their testing procedure, requirements, and the test itself, so its important to do in-depth research on the test your particular state requires.
Examsfor police officers include not only the POST written examination which includes an evaluation of grammar, reading comprehension, andwriting but other points as well, such as physical agility,medical health, psychological fitness, background review, and an oralinterview. Some states might add other requirements, such as apolygraph test. Once these tests are satisfactorily passed, graduatesare ready to work as police officers. The procedure it takes to getfrom passing the tests to wearing the badge depends on the state andin some cases, the department itself.
Law Enforcement Salary And Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, police officers in the US earn an average salary of over $63,000 per year.5 The outlook for police and sheriffs patrol officers is also positive, with an overall 7% increase in job openings expected through the year 2026, which is about the same as the average for all occupations.6 This equates to about 4,700 new police jobs added to the workforce every year including replacement positions, however, an average of 49,500 annual openings are expected each year.6 So while the projected growth of new positions is around average at 7%, the real opportunity is in replacement hiring, where nearly 50,000 jobs are expected to be available every year during that same 10-year period.6 Sue Rahr, retired King County Sheriff, agrees: There was massive police hiring done in the late 70s and early 80s. Were all getting ready to retire. I think this is the best time to become a copright now.
While there is a wide range of income potential for cops, which is strongly correlated to the size of the department, location, and other factors, becoming an officer remains an excellent middle-class career option for those seeking job growth and security. For more information on law enforcement pay and benefits, see our Police Officer Salaries page.
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Become A Police Officer: Step
In Georgia, the peace officer certification process is regulated by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council . Therefore, some of the processes and paperwork you must complete will be through POST, while others will be completed directly through the GPSTC regional academy where you will receive your training.
Students attending basic training who are not employed by a law enforcement agency are referred to aspre-service candidates. Below are the steps that pre-service candidates must take before being accepted into a police academy to become certified as a Peace Officer in the state of Georgia.
Qualifying To Become A Criminal Investigator At The County Level In Michigan
County-level criminal investigators in Michigan may be found within sheriffs departments. Not all sheriffs departments in Michigan have investigative units or detective bureaus, as some concentrate more on corrections and jails. The following county sheriffs departments in Michigan do, however, employ criminal investigators:
- Macomb County Sheriffs Office Detective Bureau Located in Mt. Clemens, detectives working within this bureau conduct all manners of detective duties, including collecting evidence and conducting interviews. They investigate crimes occurring within Macomb County, including computer crimes, in the townships of Harrison, Armada, Richmond, Lenox, Ray, Bruce, Washington and Macomb.
A Detective Lieutenant is in charge of the bureau, with an Administrative Sergeant as second-in-command over the bureaus Detectives.
One cannot become a detective in Macomb County without first becoming a Police Officer within the Sheriffs Office.
Requirements for this job include:
- 18 years of age or older
- U.S. citizen
- Hold a high school diploma or GED
- Have a valid Michigan drivers license and good driving record
- Pass the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards police tests in writing, reading, and physical agility
- Pass the Michigan Sheriffs Coordinating and Training Councils exam for corrections officers
Training for new police officers in Macomb County will be at least 160 hours in duration, per Michigan state law.
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What Are The Minimum Requirements To Become A Police Officer In Michigan
In Michigan, the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards or MCOLES is the authority which sets the professional standards for law enforcement and criminal justice. Candidates aspiring to become licensed law enforcement officials must meet the minimum selection criteria set by MCOLES and gain its approval.
The precise selection criteria are listed in the Employment Standards for Michigan Law Enforcement Officers.
- Be at least 18 years old at the time of application, although there is no upper age limit
- Be citizens of the United States
- Be a resident of the state of Michigan
- Have a valid Michigan drivers license
- With respect to educational background, have at least a high school diploma or GED
- Not be convicted of any felony or misdemeanor. In other words, have a clean criminal record
- Have an irreproachable moral character
- Not suffer from any disability, chronic disabilities, physical defects, or emotional/mental instabilities
- Have good vision including proper perception of color as well 20/20 corrected vision in each eye
- Have good hearing
In addition to the requirements, a candidate is required to:
- Clear a drug test
- Pass a physical fitness test, the MCOLES physical fitness pre-enrollment examination
- Complete basic training in the MCOLES mandatory basic training curriculum
- Pass a reading and writing exam
- After completing basic training, pass the MCOLES licensing examination
- Participate in an oral interview
Apply To Become A Police Officer
The application process for cops consists of more than just completing an application. Getting hired as a police officer usually means you have been vigorously vetted in a multi-step process. While this process varies with each police department, you can typically expect some combination of the following:
When an agency posts an announcement, it may want a preliminary online application, to be followed later by the most extensive paper application that most people will ever see in their lives, or it may ask for the latter right away. Either way, the application may precede the written examination, or in some cases, applicants submit their applications when they report for the entrance exam.
The Entrance Examination
The Physical Abilities Test
Sometimes called a physical agility test or physical fitness test, this may occur on the same day as the written test, or the department may schedule it separately. PATs vary greatly from agency to agency, but they are designed to measure a recruits general health and fitness. Recruits may be required to run a moderate distance, perhaps a quarter mile, for speed, or a department may prefer to measure recruits endurance with a run from one to two miles that they must complete within a maximum allotment of time.
The Oral Board
The Background Investigation
The Polygraph Examination
The Psychological and Physical Examinations
The Executive Interview
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Police Training Academies In Michigan
One of the basic requirements set by MCOLES for all law enforcement officers in the state is to complete an approved police training academy program. These programs are designed to be intensive and provide new recruits with training in the essential areas of police work. This includes firearms training, traffic codes, criminal law, ethics, and physical fitness. Some academies are based on college campuses and are combined with two-year associate degrees in criminal justice. The list of MCOLES-approved police academies comprises 21 institutions, including:
- Lake Superior State University Sault Ste. Marie, MI
- Washtenaw Community College Ann Arbor, MI
- Oakland Police Academy Auburn Hills, MI
- Grand Rapids Community College Grand Rapids, MI
- Detroit Metropolitan Police Academy Detroit, MI
- Kalamazoo Law Enforcement Training Center Kalamazoo, MI
For a complete list of the approved academies see the MCOLES website.
Qualifying To Become A Criminal Investigator In Michigans Cities
Some of the larger city police departments in Michigan employ their own criminal investigators and detectives. These include:
- Detroit Police Department the number of criminal investigators within Detroits Police Department totaled just fewer than 100 in 2012. They work out of the Central District and Schaefer Station offices. These investigators investigate crimes occurring throughout the city of Detroit, including homicides and sex crimes.
In order to become a Detroit detective, one must first qualify as a police officer, which entails:
- Being at least 18 years old
- Being a U.S. citizen
- Having a valid Michigan drivers license and good driving record
- Meeting hearing and visual acuity standards
- Having a high school diploma/GED
- Having no felony convictions on record
- Passing the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards pre-employment test
- Passing the MCOLES Physical Fitness Test
- Passing interviews, background checks, psychological exams, physical exams
If hired, new Detroit police officers must complete 19 weeks of training proscribed by the MCOLES and pass a certification exam. Then, police officers in Detroit may rise up the career ladder as detective positions become available.
- Lansing Police Department Investigations Division This division within Lansings Police Department investigates crimes occurring within the city through these units:
- Cold case homicides
- Special operations- violent crime initiative
- Dive team
- Gang resistance education
- Domestic assault
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Step : Minimum Qualifications
First, you must determine if you are eligible to become a Peace Officer in Georgia. According to Georgia Law you must meet or be willing to meet all of the criteria below to become employed or certified as a peace officer:
How Important Is Accreditation
Accreditation refers to an outside organization reviewing a particular school or program to ensure it meets certain standards of quality. Accreditation is important for police training programs because it serves as a mark of quality graduates who complete their education and training can be confident that what they have earned will be accepted by future employers and peers. The specific entities that offer accreditation will vary depending on the program. For instance, many associate or bachelors degree programs will not be accredited at the program level, but the school offering the degree will be accredited. This will usually be a regional or national accrediting organization recognized by the US Department of Education.
As for the accreditation of police training academies, the most prominent is the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies, or CALEA.
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Core Purpose / Core Values
“We deliver excellent police service to those who live, work and visit our community by deploying the most highly trained and qualified personnel in order to provide a safe and secure community.
Core Values: Professionalism, Excellence, Teamwork, Integrity, Courage
Canton Police Officers earn a competitive 2022 salary, ranging from $49,148 up to $81,460 .
Canton Police Officers also receive a hybrid MERS pension plan, healthcare, dental, optical and life insurance.
Canton Police Officers are encouraged to continue their education and leadership development with a bargaining unit agreement of full-paid tuition for coursework toward a Bachelors or Masters Degree. The department utilizes Third Party Billing direct with area universities eliminating out-of-pocket costs typically created by out-dated reimbursement programs.
Pros And Cons Of Becoming A Police Officer
Like any job, being a police officer has its perks and its drawbacks. Pursuing a career in law enforcement is a reasonable commitment and requires a high level of dedication. Those who genuinely want to serve and protect must know that it is important to consider all aspects of the job before deciding to pursue a career as a police officer. You will be expected to go through extensive and ongoing training and will be facing dangerous situations in this line of work.
Below are a number of points which can help you gain a better understanding of what to consider when making this decision:
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Step : Interview With The Academy Manager
After completing the above steps, your chosen academy will contact you to schedule an appointment for an interview with the Academy Manager. This should be considered a formal interview, so please dress accordingly. The Academy Manager will determine the candidates demeanor and suitability to become a certified Peace Officer in the State of Georgia.
Facing Police Shortage Detroit Seeks To Stop New Cops From Jumping Ship
Detroit is tired of being used as a freebie training ground for other police departments.
For years, city officials have complained Detroits police shortage is exacerbated by an exodus of recruits who receive free training through the citys police academy only to leave for a suburban force upon graduation.
Now, a bill in Lansing would allow cities throughout Michigan to claw back training money about $18,000 in wages from recruits who leave within five years.
The poaching is so bad police from other departments have shown up at Detroits police academy graduation to recruit officers, said Detroit Police Commissioner Willie Bell.
I have heard most of my career that suburban tell people, If you can get certified in Detroit, we have an opening, said Bell, who retired as a lieutenant after 32 years.
Its very frustrating to train and certify an officer and they leave in a short period of time, even a five-year window. It has a tremendous impact on your manpower.
The bill comes as crime is declining in Detroit, but it remains one of the most violent if not the most-violent cities in the nation. The number of officers in Detroit has fallen from 2,500 five years ago to about 1,700, according to FBI statistics and the Detroit Police Officers Association union.
Nearly half of the citys officers, about 800, have less the five years experience, according to the police union. And the current contingent of cops is 120 short of the citys budget.
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Get Accepted & Paying Your Way
Admission requirements can vary widely depending on the type of program and institution offering it. Another consideration is how to pay for this education and training. During your application process, keep the following pointers in the back of your mind to help you get into the best program to meet your needs and goals as a future police officer.
Entry into various degree programs in law enforcement will all require some general points, such as completing an application, paying an application fee and presenting proof of high school graduation.
The associate degree program might require:
- A personal statement
- Transcripts from any other college courses taken
The bachelors degree might require additional information:
- An essay
- Transcripts from associate degree work
- Completion of certain prerequisites
- A resume of related experience
Application process & fees
Paying for Your Program
How much a training or educational program costs depends greatly upon the degree level you want to obtain. For instance, obtaining an associate degree will cost much less than a bachelors degree will. To learn more about financial aid options and how those will affect your financial bottom line, visit our online financial aid handbook:
Attend A Police Academy
Most police hiring programs will include a police academy component for prospective officers who have passed the previous hiring steps. Most law enforcement departments have their own academy, which recruits are required to attend for a period of 12 to 24 weeks before going out into the field. Recruits will usually draw a salary during this period. Academy courses may cover topics such as criminal law, community policing, firearms training, and investigation and defensive tactics.
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