Police officers are the fundamental building blocks of any efficient law enforcement system. They are responsible for maintaining law and order by ensuring public safety, compliance with traffic rules and regulations, fighting crime in its various forms, etc.
If you would like to join the police force in your state, then this is the right place to gather important information. This piece will guide you through a step-by-step process which you can follow to become a police officer.
What Does a Police Officer Do?
In the US, police officers are usually employed by the state as well as local law enforcement entities. They are responsible for a number of different activities like patrolling areas within their jurisdiction, carrying out surveillance on suspected criminals and those with a shady past, enforcing traffic laws, coordinating security for major public events in the city/state, etc.
In the years to come, employment opportunities for police officers are likely to grow significantly. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 5% rise in jobs for Police and Detectives from 2018 to 2028.
Steps to Become a Police Officer in the United States
If you aspire to join the police force in America, here is what you need to do.
Step 1: Finish High School
Earning a High School Diploma or the alternative GED (General Educational Development) Certificate is the minimum educational requirement to be eligible for a career in law enforcement. You must also be at least 18 years old. However, some states set the minimum age for applying at 20 or 21.
Step 2: Complete Post-Secondary Education
While you do not necessarily need postsecondary education to become a police officer, it certainly enhances your career prospects within your department. For this purpose, people often opt for an Associate’s or a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or law enforcement before applying for a job with their local police department. The more educated you are, the more likely you will be to get to senior level positions within the force.
Step 3: Pass All Initial Evaluations
After applying to your local/state police department, you will have to undergo a number of assessments to become eligible for police academy training. These include a written exam, physical evaluation, drug and polygraph tests and a thorough background investigation to make sure you do not have a criminal record.
Step 4: Complete Police Academy Training
Once you have cleared all the initial screening tests, you will be eligible to undergo training at your local/state police academy. This usually lasts anywhere between 3 to 6 months with coursework covering areas like standard police response protocol, emergency first responder training, law and civil rights, physical fitness buildup, self-defense techniques, firearm usage and safety, administering first aid, hostage negotiation, communication, etc.
Step 5: Join the Force
When your training is complete, you will be sworn in as an officer in your local/state police department.
How Much Does a Police Officer Make in the US?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives earned $94,950 in annual mean wage in 2019. The median income for the same 12-month period was $91,090. New York (13,230) was the state with the highest number of First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives. California was the top-paying state with a mean annual salary of $158,120. New Jersey ($135,700) had the next best wages followed by District of Columbia ($121,150), New York (119,180) and Alaska ($115,930).