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What Major Do You Need To Be A Police Officer

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Homeland Security And Emergency Management

What its like to be a new police officer | The Recruits

Studies in homeland security and emergency management often combined are ideal for preparing students for careers protecting the nation and handling emergency situations. Typically, homeland security and emergency management majors complete courses in domestic security management, international and domestic terrorism, crisis management, disaster management, network defense, information security and border-transportation security. While some of the coursework in this major pertain to police officer roles, such as classes in conflict negotiation and interviewing and interrogation, many of these courses prepare students to work in other government agencies, like the FBA, the Secret Service, FEMA and the TSA.

Picking The Right Program

Once you know which program level you want to pursue, its time to figure out which one best suits your needs. When researching the schools that make it onto your all-important shortlist, keep the following questions in mind:

  • Is the school regionally accredited?
  • Can you afford the tuition?
  • Does the timeline fit with your future goals?
  • Does the program have a high success rate?
  • Does the program provide POST exam prep?

Career Outlook For Police Officers

Police officers are expected to experience job growth of five percent between 2018 and 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics . Although the need for qualified police officers to provide public safety will continue to grow, how many are actually hired is often dependent on local and state budgets.

As of May 2018, police officers nationwide earned an average annual wage of $65,400, but their wages ranged from $35,750 to $101,620. The average hourly wage for police officers across the nation was $31.44. Police officers earned the highest wages in the states of California, Alaska, New Jersey, Washington and Illinois.

Working as a police officer can be extremely rewarding but can also be stressful and dangerous. While earning a degree in criminal justice may not be necessary to become a police officer, it can be beneficial and can also help the police officer advance to leadership positions in the field.

Maxim Sorokopud

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Police Officer Jobs By Jurisdiction

Another aspect of law enforcement to take into consideration is the jurisdiction of the agency you want to work for. Across the U.S., there are city, county, and state levels of law enforcement. City police officers stay within city limits and often patrol the streets or work on citywide investigations. Police detectives usually require a bachelors degree as well as experience in street patrol.

County law enforcement typically consists of a sheriff and several deputies who serve warrants, subpoenas, and respond to rural civil disputes. Bailiffs and constables are under the sheriffs department and often serve the courts.

State law enforcement officers patrol highways, interstates, and county roads the jurisdiction of a state patrol officer is designated to a region of the state and includes those jurisdictions covered by city and county officers. Each law enforcement agency, no matter the size, has specialized units such as narcotics and SWAT, and offer specialized training through the academy for each unit.

Federal agents often travel across the nation or are assigned to various states, which can be a bit unstable if you have a family. For example, working as a federal air marshal requires air travel across the nation to secure domestic and international United States flights. The hours and requirements can be physically and emotionally demanding with little recovery time between assignments.

Eclectic Nature Of The Job

The Police Officer Requirements You

For those who are averse to monotonous professions, life as a law enforcement officer may provide the desired variety. Because the needs of communities vary, and the specific directives of a police department may shift over time, police officers may find that no two days are alike. As the Houston Chronicle notes, the daily responsibilities of a police officer may involve directing traffic, patrolling a neighborhood, responding to calls from concerned citizens, making an arrest or even testifying in a legal proceeding.

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What Degree Should You Take If You Want To Be A Cop


A career in law enforcement will give you the opportunity to make an impact on your community and receive competitive compensation. While you don’t need a college degree to get into this career, it’s worth researching the best degrees for cops. Police officers with a major in criminal justice, law enforcement or social sciences are more likely to climb the ranks and land a high-paying job.


One-third of police officers have a four-year college degree and more than half hold an associate degree, according to the National Police Foundation. A bachelor’s or master’s degree in criminal justice, law or social sciences may lead to faster career advancement and higher pay.

Work Environment About This Section

Police and detectives held about 795,000 jobs in 2020. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up police and detectives was distributed as follows:

Police and sheriffs patrol officers 671,200
Federal government 8

Police and detective work can be physically demanding, stressful, and dangerous. Officers must be alert and ready to react throughout their entire shift. Officers regularly work at crime and accident scenes and encounter suffering and the results of violence. Although a career in law enforcement may be stressful, many officers find it rewarding to help members of their communities.

Some federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Secret Service, require extensive travel, often on short notice. These agents may relocate a number of times over the course of their careers. Other agencies, such as U.S. Border Patrol, may require work outdoors in rugged terrain and in all kinds of weather.

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What Are The Requirements For Becoming A Police Officer In New Jersey

The individual must:

  • Possess a valid and current drivers license.
  • Must be at least 21 years of age at the time of application.
  • Meet the following education requirement:
  • The candidate must have a bachelors degree from an accredited university or college. OR
  • The candidate must have 80 college credits from an accredited university or college and must have earned a Bachelors degree to enter the selection process. OR
  • The applicant must have earned 60 college credits or have earned an associates degree from an accredited university or college, AND should have completed a minimum of two years of military/employment experience.
  • The candidate must have earned 30 college credits from an accredited university or college AND should have completed a minimum of two years of active duty military service.

Should I Become A Police Officer

Do You Need College To Be A Police Officer?

Do you have the zeal to fight crime? If yes, then you might want to kick-start your career as a police officer. Before you decide to join this profession, you should acquaint yourself with the basic training and education requirements. These are mentioned below:

  • Education Required
  • Annual Mean Salary -New Jersey
  • High school diploma/college degree.
  • Individuals have to graduate from a training academy.
  • N/A.
  • Good Judgment, Leadership Skills, Communication Skills, Physical Strength, andStamina.
  • $67,600
  • 5%
  • $86,840

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What Are The Minimum Requirements For Ontario Police Officer Applicants In Ontario

Before applying, ensure that you meet the minimum requirements. The following list of application requirements applies to most police agencies in Ontario:

  • Minimum 18 years of age
  • Fluency in English
  • Canadian high school diploma or equivalent
  • Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident
  • Valid current standard first aid / CPR C certification
  • Class ‘G’ driver’s license, full driving privileges, and a maximum of 6 demerit points
  • No criminal convictions which have not been pardoned and no criminal charges pending

In addition to the above, the Toronto Police Service requires candidates to meet the following requirements:

  • Possess a valid O.A.C.P. certificate,
  • Be able to pass a security clearance as well as a background investigation, credit check, and reference check.

Willingness to serve anywhere in the province is an additional requirement for those applying to the Ontario Provincial Police.

Police Officer Salaries In Ontario

The provincial hourly rate ranges from $30.05-$57.69/hr with a median hourly wage of $46.15/hr. The salary range for police officers in Ontario is $56k-$117k/year, while the median annual salary is $97,115/year.

The median employment income in 2015 for police officers in Toronto was $107,627. The median employment income in 2015 for police officers in Ottawa was $105,533, and the median employment income in 2015 for police officers in Hamilton was $106,485.

The starting salary at the Toronto Police Service is $70,643.30/year. By the fourth year, expected the annual salary to be $100,923.48/year. Benefits include paid vacation, family medical and dental benefits, life insurance, pension plan, and paternal and maternity leave.

The starting salary at the Ottawa Police Service is $67,615.92/year. By the fourth year, depending on your performance reviews, the annual salary is expected to increase to $99,434.93/year. Benefits include education reimbursement programs, a generous pension plan, medical, dental and vision coverage, life insurance, as well as long-term disability insurance.

Meanwhile, if working for the Ontario Provincial Police , the average salary is roughly $100,500/year.

Here is a list of average salaries for police officers in Ontario, according to Glassdoor:

$98K – $104K

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How Long Does It Take To Become A Police Officer In Ontario

There is no set time period for the hiring process. It varies between police agencies and also depends on the successful completion of all the stages in the application process. You can expect to set aside 6 months for the application process.

If you are not successful in any part of the process, some police agencies may require a one-year waiting period before another application can be submitted.

To find out how long it takes at the police agency of your choice, contact the police agency directly.

You can also read more about the general guidelines for becoming a police officer in Canada here.

Types Of Police Officer

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When you work as a police officer, you will be in a setting where rank and seniority make a big difference. Like the military, there is a direct hierarchy of authority whereas a private-sector boss can make a request, the head of a police department gives an order, and its your duty to follow these orders.

The exact structure of a police department can vary by region and size, but it generally starts with police officers, the most common rank. These are the professionals who complete ground-level duties of patrol and emergency response, forming the backbone of law enforcement across the country.

Next in rank are detectives, who perform crime scene investigations and work on individual cases.

From there, the structure of a police force, from lowest to highest rank, looks something like this:

  • Corporal Essentially an entry-level supervisor, often in charge of a small group of administrators.
  • Sergeant First-line supervisors, usually overseeing a group of officers and detectives.
  • Lieutenant In charge of a group of supervisors.
  • Captain Commanders of entire districts and units.
  • Staff Inspector Responsible for overseeing large units and multiple districts.
  • Chief Inspector Commanders of a bureau or large group of units.
  • Deputy Commissioner In charge of large sections of departments and districts.

In other cities, the police department can be headed by a chief, and there are other rankings and titles that can be found depending on the region.

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Prepare For Your Career In Law Enforcement

For those considering a career in law enforcement in California, there has never been a better time. With great salaries and police shortages across the state, now is the time to put the wheels in motion.

Employment in the security industry is a great steppingstone and starting point to prove to Californian police departments that you have what it takes to meet their requirements and join the force. At PalAmerican, we offer industry-leading training for Security Officers to equip you with the necessary skills for a successful application. Through specialized courses, continuous mentorship and coaching, we ensure that our employees are ready to perform with the tools and confidence they need to be successful. Contact our Sacramento location to gain valuable training and experience in the security industry in California.

Check out our careers page for countless high-profile, dynamic and challenging work locations where you can hone your skills, gain experience, enhance your resume and prepare yourself for a career in policing.

For how to become a Police Officer in Texas or Florida, click on the links.

Consider A Bachelors Degree

There are many reasons why earning a bachelors degree may be an important step in becoming a police officer. Becoming a police officer does not automatically require one, but some employers may favor candidates who hold a relevant degree.

Police officers who want to pursue more advanced or specialized forms of police work are typically interested in supervisory roles, management positions, criminology sciences, governmental advisory positions, or security jobs in private institutions. Although it is possible for police officers without bachelors degrees to advance to these roles, having a higher education may give these candidates competitive advantages.

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Earning A Degree To Be A Cop

Part of what makes the preparation for a police officer job such a puzzle is that there arent any definite answers. Educational requirements for police officers vary from state to state and from police department to police department, as well as across different law enforcement jobs. There is no one specific course or program of study that is meant as a major for police officers.

However, there are some degree paths that are more relevant than others to the work of law enforcement officers. Many aspiring police officers choose to major in criminal justice, police science, political science, public administration, paralegal studies and homeland security or emergency management. These programs of study give you practical skills or foundational knowledge or both to help you be a better police officer.

For example, going to college for one of these majors may help you develop qualities like communication skills, perceptiveness, the problem-solving skills that lead to good judgment, empathy for others and leadership skills, which the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported are among the most important characteristics for police officers. You might also learn the fundamentals of the most important knowledge areas for police officers, which O*NET identifies as public safety and security, law and government and psychology, among others.

Other Useful Skills For Police Officers

Police Jobs : How to Become a Police Officer Without a Degree

As a police officer, its a good idea to learn a foreign language to interact with people from all backgrounds. Dallas Police Department is just one organization that gives officers bonus pay for being able to speak a foreign language.

If youre looking to pick up a new foreign language, census data from 2011 reports that Spanish and Chinese are the most common languages spoken other than English. Learning American Sign Language may also be useful for interacting with deaf populations.

If you just want to pursue an associates degree, consider entering a two-year program to get your EMT and paramedic licenses. You never know when medical training will come in handy, and the education will help qualify you to become a SWAT medic.

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Police Now Graduate Schemes

Police Now is an independent charity with a mission to transform communities by recruiting, developing and inspiring diverse leaders in policing.

The organisation works in partnership with police forces to attract, recruit and train outstanding graduates with leadership potential to be inspirational detectives and police officers through their award-winning national graduate programmes.

Equipping participants with core policing skills, Police Now’s two-year national graduate programmes help to develop leadership, communication and problem-solving skills that will serve graduates, and the wider community, for a lifetime.

The two graduate programmes are:

  • National Graduate Leadership Programme which trains and develops graduates to become leaders in neighbourhood policing. Participants are placed in some of the most challenging communities in England and Wales, getting to know the issues up close and developing innovative ideas and techniques to tackle the challenges residents are facing.
  • National Detective Programme which is designed to equip graduates with the core policing skills required in modern investigative work. Throughout the programme, participants play an important part in solving crimes while developing leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills.

Both programmes involve the completion of a Graduate Diploma in Professional Policing Practice with the University of Huddersfield.

To be eligible for Police Now’s national graduate programmes, you must:

Criminal Justice As A Law Enforcement Degree

Similar to seeking a degree in Criminology, a degree in criminal justice can also be a helpful stepping stone to reach the next level in your career. Rather than trying to understand the motivations and behavior of criminals, criminal justice is a broader concentration which covers the multiple facets of this field.

It is another common degree among law enforcement professionals as students of criminal justice will develop a better understanding of courtroom procedures, criminal laws, and procedures, and increase their knowledge about the entire criminal process from arrest to incarceration. This degree is a solid choice for police officers looking to take on leadership roles.

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Training Institutions For Police Officers

Now that you know what options there are for becoming a police officer, its important to know where they are offered. There are many schools that exist to help you move into the law enforcement career of your choice. Here are the options:

Vocational/trade schools

These post-high school institutions focus their programs and curriculums on skill-oriented or hands-on training. This training can come in the form of what effectively amounts to an in-house police academy. Vocational and trade schools can provide the fastest way to obtain the training necessary to become a police officer and allow students to receive police academy training without attending the official police academy. Its also fairly affordable compared to earning a college degree. Keep in mind that graduation doesnt guarantee a job in law enforcement and may not result in an academic credential that provides opportunities for professional advancement.

Best for? Those confident in obtaining a job offer after graduation and want to serve as a police officer as quickly as possible.

Community colleges

Best for? Students who would like to earn a college degree along with their law enforcement training.


Best for? Those who love serving their country or community will benefit from the rewarding experience that can come from military service.

Four-year schools

Best for? Aspiring police officers who want an extra way to stand out from the pack of applicants, as well as those looking for federal work.

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