To protect and serve has been adopted as the credo for many a police department since 1955. With over 12,000 police departments throughout the United States, police officers and detectives can enjoy a great career no matter if you prefer living in the city, suburbs, and country.
But there’s a lot of work that goes into becoming a police officer. And if you want to make detective, be prepared to do a lot of studying.
Before you join the police academy, read this article. We’re giving you a complete career overview for what it takes to become a police officer and detective.
Minimum Qualifications to Meet to Become Police Officers
In order to be accepted into the police academy, you must meet certain minimum requirements. Check with your local police academy as qualifications vary by agency.
Typically, you must be a U.S. citizen, be 21 years or older, and have no felony convictions. If you have a misdemeanor, don’t fret. While not good, they are handled on a case-by-case basis so you may still have a chance.
It’s also not uncommon for a department to look into your financial history. Many departments are looking for financially responsible applicants.
You must also pass medical, vision, hearing, and physical fitness exams. Be prepared to go through a series of interviews, pass a written exam, and undergo a psychological evaluation.
They will also conduct a background check. There are also educational and training requirements you must pass.
How Long Your Training and Education Will Take
While some are okay with a high school diploma, many departments are now looking to hire candidates with an associate or college degree.
Most departments encourage their officers to continue their education in criminal justice and law enforcement throughout their career. Those who served in the military can use the GI bill to help them pay for courses.
The hiring and training process will usually take between 12 to 18 months. Upon graduation, you’ll be a probationary officer. Until you’re taken off probation, you’ll be heavily supervised and given only limited responsibilities.
What You’ll Learn While Becoming a Police Officer
After graduating from the police academy, you should be able to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the criminal justice process. That includes starting with an investigation and ending with an arrest that leads to court and prison.
A police officer also needs to apply legal concepts. This includes using force, search and seizures, and due process.
You’ll learn how to understand delinquency risk factors and how to prevent issues before they arise. You’ll study crime activity while using tested techniques and methods.
You’ll also learn the latest crime-solving technologies and how to utilize them to solve crimes.
What it Takes to Become a Detective
Most detectives start their careers by joining the police force. They typically work as a police officer for at least six years before they are considered for a promotion.
If you’re looking to become a detective, it’s a good idea to continue your education in law enforcement while you pursue your career. You also need to keep yourself in great physical and mental shape.
The most important (and difficult) part on the path of becoming a detective is passing the detective’s exam. Some departments officer preparatory courses while other departments rely on you acquiring your knowledge through job experience and/or independent learning.
Expected Salaries of a Police Officer and Detective
How much do police officers make? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2017, the median wage for police is $62,960.
However, it’s possible to make more or less depending on several factors. Some officers make less than $35,000.
Your salary will depend on which agency you work for, the geographical location you work in, your job performance, and the amount of experience you have. If you have a higher degree, military experience, investigative experience or speak more than one language, it will increase your chances of finding a better paying job.
As a detective, you’ll have more experience and education. As a result, you’ll earn more. Detectives and criminal investigators earn around $83,320. Detectives with more experience can earn as much as $135,530.
Typical Personality Traits of Law Enforcement
There are several personality traits that are common to those who pursue careers in law enforcement. The most important trait is to possess good communication skills. You’ll spend a lot of time speaking with people to gather facts.
If you’re not comfortable speaking with strangers, this isn’t a good career for you.
You must also possess empathy. You’re going to meet people from all walks of life who are handling stressful situations. You must have empathy in order to understand their perspectives.
Skills that are Necessary When Under Pressure
Good judgment is a great quality to possess. Obviously, not everyone will be honest or forthright with you. There will be tough calls you’ll need to make in a split second.
Being perceptive will help you determine the actions or reactions of a person in less than ideal situations. When you can anticipate things ahead of time, you can prevent future problems.
As a police officer, you’re a highly visible member of our community. You must possess good leadership skills in order to assist others in emergency situations.
While there’s been a long-standing joke about cops consuming too many donuts, in real life, you must possess excellent physical stamina and strength. It’s a rigorous job that often puts you in life or death situations. Being in physically good shape means you can keep everyone, including yourself, safer.
The Truth About Female Police Officers
If you’re a female who wants to pursue a career in law enforcement, that’s great. Studies show that women police officers use less force than their male counterparts. Females also deploy their weapons less often.
There are many situations where a female presence helps de-escalate tension. But it’s also a tough field, still largely male-dominated, and your chances of being injured on the job are much higher than at most other jobs.
But most women find they love the challenge and love helping others in their community.
Start Your Career Today
Police officers put their lives on the line every day to make the streets safer for everyone. If you’re looking for a career that changes every day, puts you in contact with the public, and isn’t dull, then a career in law enforcement is a good choice.
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