Police officers are an extremely valuable asset to society – they keep the population safe and address crimes as soon as they arise, which has meant that they have become widely recognized as an integral aspect of the U.S Criminal Justice System. While the crime rates have dropped in many U.S states in the last few years, the need for police officers has certainly increased due to the heightened threats of terrorism that are very much present in society – both in the U.S and across the world. If you have a keen interest in becoming a police officer, this guide will provide some useful information on how to turn your dream into a reality with some helpful tips, as listed below:
1. Meet the Application Standards
Becoming a police officer isn’t as simple as applying for a job role and getting accepted. Several hoops need to be jumped through before you are considered a serious candidate. These regulations vary from state to state, and some offices may be more strict than others. However, the most basic regulations that need to be followed include:
- Being a U.S citizen
- Holding a valid driving license
- Be age 21 or above
- Meeting the mandatory fitness requirements
- Hold no previous or current criminal convictions
- Be educated to at least a high school diploma level (many states now require candidates to be educated to degree level)
- Pass the relevant health and medical tests
You should also expect to undergo a rigorous interview process to determine your suitability for a role within the policing sector. Due to the nature of the job, you’ll likely undergo thorough checks, including your history of substance use, criminal history, and financial situation, to name just a few.
Another key aspect when applying would be to undergo a psychological assessment to determine whether you are mentally competent for such an intense career option. The nature of policing isn’t suitable for everyone. Some cases can be extremely hard-hitting, stressful and have a profound impact on some individuals over others. Tests are typically combined through a written examination and interview process with a psychologist to gain an understanding of your mental capabilities for the role. These tests will help psychologists gain an insight into pre-existing anger issues, mental health issues (including anxiety, OCD, and depression), as well as your general mindset on life as a whole.
2. Determine Whether It is the Correct Industry for You
While you may have a keen interest in the policing sector, you may need to carefully consider whether it is realistically a niche that is suited to you. Some of the most important aspects to consider include the intensity of the role, the shift patterns, and, of course, the day-to-day nature of the tasks you’ll be expected to carry out. If you’re in any doubt about what policing entails, it would be wise to connect with current police officers and ask any questions that can help you make a well-informed decision in regard to your future career plans. Some of the most common tasks you’ll be expected to carry out include but are not limited to:
- Dealing with sensitive/traumatic cases
- The ability to problem-solve with immediate effect
- Work both independently and as part of a larger team
- Make well-informed decisions based on your education and experience
- Stand up and give evidence in court
- Be adaptable regarding working hours and location
If any of these factors worry you or are not suitable for your lifestyle, you may want to reconsider whether policing is the correct career option for you.
3. Get the Right Training and Education
A few years ago, the only educational requirement for police officers was a standard GED qualification. However, the criteria have become much stricter to hire the very best professionals for policing jobs. Many current police officers now have a minimum of a degree in a law-related field, including the likes of criminal justice, policing, or standard law. However, some courses can be studied while working as a professional police officer to further boost your knowledge and skillset. A top-up policing degree can prepare you for leadership roles and stand out from the crowd when applying for new positions after several years of working in the industry.
Acquiring a degree is significant for police officers to progress within their careers. Not only will it give you the edge over other candidates, but there is also a much greater chance of being promoted at a much quicker rate than co-workers. What’s more, the nature of these courses helps individuals develop their soft skills within their job roles, including the likes of teamwork, leadership, emotional resilience, and communication.
4. Volunteer Beforehand
There are opportunities for volunteering within the police service that will give you a first-hand insight into what it would be like to work within the sector on a full-time basis. There are typically different areas of policing you can choose from and specialize in to best meet your interests. Although you will have to undergo the relevant training even on an unpaid basis, having this experience under your belt could put you one step ahead of the competition when applying for roles within the policing sector later down the line.
5. Take an Oath as the Final Step
Within the U.S, it is a standard procedure to swear an oath before becoming a police officer. This is an essential act to prove your dedication to the role and their service through both a verbal vow and a written contract. After this oath has been taken, police officers will receive their guns, arms, and insignia to carry out the role effectively.
Deciding to become a police officer is not always easy. There are risks associated with the role which need to be taken into consideration, as well as determining whether you would be able to cope with the emotional impact. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that policing is also a rewarding career option, with plenty of progression opportunities to take on should you wish to.