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How To Become A Police Officer Out Of High School

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Finish Your Field Training

Saguaro High School resource officer connects students with music

The learning doesn’t stop after graduation from the academy. There’s still a field training program to get through.

Field training teaches candidates what it’s really like to work on the street. You take on progressively more responsibility as you are evaluated on every aspect of the job, from your investigative abilities to your observance of officer safety and everything in between. Of course, once you’ve finished field training, the real learning begins, as you get on-the-job training patrolling the streets on your own.

How To Become A Police Officer In Ontario

The police officer occupation is one of the few jobs where education is not a barrier to earning potential. According to the Ontario government, the average annual police officer salary in Ontario with a high school diploma , earned $106,788 in 2016 compared to police officers with a bachelors degree who earned $106,543. Interestingly enough, degree holders earned $245/year less.

This is great news for those who only have a high school diploma but are looking for a fulfilling career with high-earning potential.

While education barriers are relatively low, becoming a police officer in Ontario is not a job that just any high school graduate can land.

In this article, we outline key information to help you land your dream job including:

Police Education Requirements By City

The education required for prospective police officers can vary widely between major cities. For example, the New York City Police Department requires that candidates have earned at least 60 college credits with a minimum GPA of 2.0 if they have not previously served in the military, and the Houston Police Department requires 48 semester hours of college with a GPA greater than 2.0 for non-military applicants. Currently, Minnesota is the only state that requires a two-year degree to become a peace officer statewide, while most other states POST educational requirements are more lenient. The Arlington Police Department and the Tulsa Police Department have among the most stringent educational requirements for law enforcement recruits, as both require those without a military background to have a bachelors degree.

City Police Department

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Police Officer Salary And Job Growth Expectations

Salaries in law enforcement vary significantly. Your salary will depend on whether you work in a rural area or a large city, whether you have seniority or youre fresh out of the academy, and whether you take overtime or leave at the end of your shift.

That said, the median detective and police officer salary nationwide was $63,380 as of May 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics . Those working for the federal government did especially well, earning an average of $87,130. You should also calculate the value of benefits into the compensation package. Police officers typically enjoy paid vacation, sick leave, medical and life insurance, and uniform allowances. Plus, thanks to pensions, they can often afford to retire at a younger age than most.

As for getting into the field, the BLS projects job growth of 5% nationally for police officers from 2018 to 2028, which is on the low side for such a typically stable occupation. However, this outlook depends heavily on city and state budgets, which can fluctuate. The low rate of growth will create stronger opportunities for police officer applicants who hold a bachelors degree in criminal justice or a related field.

The top 10 states for police and sheriff patrol officer earnings in 2018 were:

  • California: $104,790
  • New Jersey: 19,950
  • Become A Police Officer

    Rolly: Retiring Utah cop hopes to become an armed high school teacher ...

    Choose a career that makes a difference! The OPP is actively recruiting qualified candidates for the full-time position of Provincial Constable. We offer competitive salaries, pensions, paid vacation, benefit coverage and room for advancement. We also have career opportunities for experienced officers.

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    Four: Tell Us About Yourself: Complete A Suitability Assessment And Undergo A Right Fit Interview

    This stage assesses whether you possess the core competencies, core values, and traits required of an RCMP police officer. This stage consists of two interviews:

    • the RMAQ Interview and
    • the RFI .

    The RMAQ Interview lets us know if there are actions or behaviours, from your past, that could prevent you from becoming an RCMP police officer. Following a review of your RMAQ, an interview will assess the severity, recency and repetitive nature of your actions. A heavy focus is placed on honesty. It is strongly recommended that you disclose all actions and behaviors in your RMAQ.

    The RFI is an interview designed to evaluate your ability to meet standards in eight core competencies. You will be required to respond to both behavioural and situational questions using the STAR and ARC articulation methods.

    What About Basic Training

    Completing a basic police academy prior to your hiring is dependent on the agency you apply to. Some will only hire upon completion of the academy others hire you and then send you through the academy afterward. Check with the agency youre applying to for further information.

    If youre from another state, keep in mind that California POST does not have reciprocity with other states. POST does offer a Basic Course Waiver process for out-of-state cops that you can learn more about here.

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    Is Becoming A Police Officer In Your Future

    While the steps to becoming a police officer may seem lengthy, completing them is absolutely necessary if you want to achieve the fulfilling career youve set your sights on. And a good law enforcement program will help you navigate the process.

    Now that youre familiar with the process of how to become a police officer, you may be curious if you have what it takes to excel on the job. Learn more in our article, Often Overlooked Qualities of a Great Police Officer.

    If youre already set on becoming a police officer, visit our Law Enforcement degree page to learn how we can help you take the next step toward becoming a police officer in Minnesota.

    The Law Enforcement programs at Rasmussen University are not aligned to the standards of any professional licensing body other than the MN POST and are not intended to satisfy professional licensure requirements of any professional licensing agency in any other state.Editors note: This article was originally published in June 2016. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2020. Insight from Shetler and Plantinga remain from the original.

    Stage 3 Full Vetting Checks And A Possible Final Interview

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    Many UK Police Forces are now requiring applicants to sit a final interview in addition to the competency based online assessment centre interview. Due to the pandemic, the final interview is sometimes carried out before the Online Assessment Process and is known as the in-force interview. In addition to this, you will also undergo a number of vetting checks to ensure that you meet the minimum eligibility requirements for becoming a police constable.

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    Applying To Join The Police

    You’ll first need to check that you meet the minimum eligibility requirements. These vary between police forces, but in general you should:

    • be aged 18 or over
    • be a British citizen, a European Community /European Economic Area citizen, or a foreign national with indefinite leave to remain in the UK without restrictions
    • have lived in the UK for the last three years
    • possess a qualification equivalent to A-level, have been a special constable who has been signed off for independent patrol service in the last two years or have served as a police community support officer for 18 months.

    You may not be accepted if you have certain criminal convictions, debt problems, or tattoos that could be deemed offensive. Members of certain extreme political groups are not allowed to apply. A valid driving licence is often essential, and you’ll also have to pass medical, eyesight and fitness tests.

    You can’t apply if you’ve made an unsuccessful application to a police force in the last six months.

    Visit the recruitment website of the police force you’re interested in joining to confirm their full requirements and determine whether you’re eligible.

    The application process involves several stages:

    • undergoing medical and fitness tests
    • passing background/security checks
    • any additional assessment stages, such as a second interview.

    The police force you’re applying to will be able to provide more details about their recruitment process.

    Looking for a meaningful career?

    Phds In Criminal Justice

    Getting a Ph.D. in criminal justice would put you in rare company, especially if you want to work at an agency. Although 29% of chiefs and sheriffs have a bachelors and 32% have a masters, only 3% have a doctoral degree.

    Yet a Ph.D. in criminal justice opens several possibilities. If you want to teach at a university or conduct research, its essential. Even if academia isnt your thing, you could work to create or change policy.

    Ph.D. programs are, by nature, individualized. Your main output is a dissertation, which is written after conducting original research. By the end of the program, you will be an expert in a small sliver of the criminal justice field. But what sliver? Depending on the program, you could, for example, bone up on budgetary procedures and strategic planning, both of which are necessary to run a department, or you could explore the social determinants of a specific type of crime in a specific area.

    A Ph.D. in criminal justice will likely include the following courses:

    Weve written about doctoral degrees in criminal justice at length, including about the different types of criminal justice doctorates. Specifically, check out our interview with a criminal justice program director to see if a Ph.D. is worth it for you.

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    Police Officer Education Requirements

    Education requirements for how to become a police officer range from a high school diploma to a college degree, depending on a police departments jurisdiction. For example, you may have to have a high school diploma and obtain a specific number of college credits. That said, 68% of our police officers have their bachelors degree, Vincent says.

    What Education Certification Or License Is Required To Be A Police Officer

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    You will need a minimum of a high school diploma, or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice depending on local requirements and successful completion of a police academy program. Police officers must have CPR and first aid certification and be skilled in the use and care of firearms. A driver’s license is required, and in some cases, a special motorcycle license will be required.

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    Applying To And Attending The Police Academy

    Once youve met the age and schooling requirements for your state, you will need to pass a background and drug test. Additionally, aspiring cops must take a written exam and pass a physical agility assessment. While the written part of the test assesses factors like reading comprehension and vocabulary, the physical test includes components such as running, doing push-ups, and performing sit-ups. The goal is to assess flexibility, endurance, and muscle strength, among other factors. Some states also require applicants to pass a psychological exam prior to being admitted to the program.

    After youre accepted to the police academy, you will undergo training in a variety of areas. Along with topics like firearm usage and self-defense, prospective officers learn about first aid, conflict management, and emergency driving techniques.

    While the average program takes around six months to complete, requirements vary by state, and some police training programs last longer or shorter. During this time, you can expect to spend around eight hours a day training to be a cop.

    Are There Voluntary Certifications Available For Police Officers

    There are a variety of voluntary certifications you can pursue as a police officer, including:

    First Aid and CPR Certification

    Police officers are often required to help in emergency situations, which may require them to perform life-saving first aid procedures. With this kind of certification, a police officer will know how to address minor injuries and administer CPR. This certification can be earned before, during or after the police academy.

    K-9 Unit Certification

    This certification is necessary for officers who work with police dogs on patrol and special cases. They complete specialized training that involves bonding, learning commands and running drills with a police dog.

    Specialization certifications

    If there is a certain field of law enforcement you’d like to work in, such as narcotics or arson, you could complete the necessary education, training and examinations to earn a certification.

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    Psychology For A Better Bond

    While not a high school requirement, students must meet specified numbers of elective units prior to graduation. Psychology not only full-fills elective requirements, it can help police officers better understand how people think, how perceptions and beliefs affect actions and what underlying forces may motivate criminal behavior, including mental illness or previous trauma. This knowledge can help police officers interact with community members more compassionately.

    Importance Of Physical Education

    Police Officers : Requirements to Become a Police Officer

    Make no mistake, police officers spend hours at their desks writing reports, documenting crime incidents and researching cases. But police officers must be ready to spring into action any moment, which may involve running, climbing or grappling with an uncooperative suspect. Many high schools ask students to complete one or two years of P.E. to fulfill graduation requirements.

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    Sample Police Officer Interview Questions

    Q. Please provide an example of where you have worked as part of a team to achieve a difficult task.

    Tips for Structuring Your Response:

    TIP 1: Try to think of a situation where you volunteered to work with a team in order to achieve a difficult task. It is better to say that you volunteered as opposed to being asked to get involved by another person.

    TIP 2: Candidates who can provide an example when they achieved the task, despite the constraints of time will generally score higher.

    Sample Response Structure:


    Explain what the result/outcome was. Try to make the result positive as a result of your actions.

    Now explain what had to be done and how you overcame any obstacles or hurdles.

    Explain how it was decided who would carry out what task.

    Explain why the task was difficult and whether there were any time constraints.

    Now explain who else was involved and what the task was.

    Explain what the situation was and how you became involved.

    What Do Police Officers Do

    Dont believe what you see on the TV show Copsits not an accurate depiction of police work.

    At the core level, a polices officer primary job is to patrol a section of the community in order to make the community feel safe, Vincent says, as well as to respond emergency calls for anything from suspicious behavior to felony crimes.

    In addition to patrolling their assigned areas, police officers typically conduct traffic stops and issue citations, observe suspects, and testify in court against criminal defendants. They also spend a fair amount of time at their desk doing paperwork, such as writing detailed crime reports and filling out forms. Check out Monsters police officer job description for more info.

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    How Much Do Police Officers Make

    According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for police officers is $63,150 per year. Transit and railroad police officers get paid more, earning on average $71,820 per year, while detectives and criminal investigators make a median annual salary of $83,170.

    Pay can vary by state. Police officers in California rake in an annual mean wage of $105,220 meanwhile, police officers in Texas earn $63,740 a year on average. You can look up the average salary for police officers in your location by using the Monster Salary Guide.

    Gain Experience As An Officer

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    Once trainees have graduated from the police academy, they can begin working for the police force on a conditional basis. New officers are placed on a 12-month probationary period in which they work as a police officer but receive continuous training from more experienced officers on a daily basis.

    After their probationary period, they can take on a permanent position. Depending on the department they have chosen to work for, they may also be able to obtain additional training, acquire new skills and receive performance reviews that can help them advance their way into higher-ranking positions and police specialties.

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    How To Find A Police Officer Job

    Ready to earn your badge? Make sure your police officer resume and police officer cover letter are in good shape. Then, check out all the open positions for police officer jobs on Monster.

    As for where the jobs are, according to the BLS, these are the top five states with the most job openings. Click through to find job opportunities on Monster:

    How To Become A Police Officer Without A College Education

    Although state police departments and federal agencies require you to have a college education, many local police forces will allow you to become a police officer from high school. Prepare for you police career early by taking high school courses in psychology, sociology, government, and social studies. You should also participate in sports and other physical activities so that you stay in good shape and learn to work as part of a team.

    Get work experience. Without a college education, you will need to have some work experience to be hired as a police officer. Even part-time and summer jobs will show that you have a strong work ethic, are reliable, and can work as part of a team.

    Make sure you have good credit. Police officers must have a good credit score. For young police recruits, this is often an obstacle since they haven’t had the opportunity to build credit. If you are considering a law enforcement career straight out of high school, open a bank account and ask your parent or guardian if they will add you as an authorized user on one of their credit cards.

    Take the preliminary written exam. Before you can begin training to become a police officer, you will need to pass a written exam that tests aptitude and basic knowledge.

    Pass the physical exam. After you take your written test, you will need to complete a physical exam that will test your eyesight, hearing, agility, and speed.

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