Police officers are our "keepers of the peace." They protect properties, people, and the common good through patrolling and investigating crimes. While most law enforcement officers provide the vital law enforcement services necessary to keep criminals off the streets, there are also a wide variety of specialized careers. In addition to the traffic enforcement, 911 response, and criminal investigations that are critical to keeping residents and motorists safe, there are also law enforcement units dedicated to counterterrorism, SWAT, K-9 handling, and digital forensics.

The following course will provide you with step-by-step instruction for pursuing a career in law enforcement. There are various requirements-both mental and physical- that you will need to master
in order to gain entry into this line of work. By the time you complete this course you will be prepared to complete each set of requirements. Successfully completing this course is your first step toward a career as a police officer.
Why Become a Police Officer?
Are you cut out for a career in law enforcement? Do you have the skills, stamina, and mental edge to work in this highly demanding field? There are many benefits to being a police officer, but they come with a lot of hard work. The sources in this chapter will offer perspectives on why you should consider a career in law enforcement. They will also give you information about entry and median income as an officer and an overview of the basic requirements for the job.
What Do Law Enforcement Officers Do?
The duties of a police officer are many. Law enforcement officers are expected to use cutting edge technology, interview members of the community, physically apprehend suspects, and prepare written reports. And that is just the start. The following sources will give you a much broader understanding of what law enforcement officers are expected to do during the course of their work. Additionally, these sources will inform you about the various jobs available in law enforcement.
The majority of police departments require applicants to have a high-school diploma or equivalent. Currently, only two states require a four year degree, but many individual departments are beginning to require an associate's or bachelor's degree. In precincts where there is intense competition to become an officer, having a degree will give you a distinct advantage. Having a college degree may also start you off at a higher pay rate and give you the edge when it comes time for promotions. The following links will help enable you to weigh whether you should pursue a college degree and, if so, what majors will be the best fit for a job in policing.
Physical Fitness
Law Enforcement is a physically demanding job. It is important for officers to be in top physical condition. In order to ensure this is the case, police departments will require all applicants to pass a series of physical ability tests. These tests are designed to assess a person's physical strength, muscular endurance, coordination, and agility by performing basic physical tasks that professional police officers will use throughout their career. The following sources provide information about what kinds of physical ability tests you can expect to take, and what level of physical fitness you need to have in order to pass these tests.
Needed Skills, Community Service, & Criminal Record
In addition to a formal education and being physically fit, police departments look to hire applicants who possess a host of other relevant skills. Officers are expected to make sound decisions in high pressure situations, to work well with a team, and to be able to interview countless people from a wide range of backgrounds. Additionally, officers are representatives of the community, and as such it is important for applicants to demonstrate a record of community service. Finally, no candidate with a criminal record is eligible for consideration as a law enforcement officer. Should you have a blemish on your record, you might consider the information below about having your record expunged.
The Written Police Officer Entrance Exam
All Law Enforcement Candidates must take and pass a written exam. It is important to study ahead of time for this test. Below are four sources that will offer tips and advice for taking the written test. The video, "10 Tips to Passing the Police Officer Test," will provide an indepth look at the test and what you need to do to prepare for it. Tests.com also offers both a guide to the test along with a practice test.
The Oral Board Interview
The final test for the law enforcement candidate is the oral board interview. For this interview you will be asked a series of pointed questions by a panel of department officials. For many, an interview can be an intimidating process, especially in front of a panel of interviewers. Knowing what the situation will be like and what kinds of questions you will be asked will provide you with a confidence to interview well. The sources in this chapter will prepare you for the kinds of questions you will be asked and provide you with confidence boosting tips on how to nail your interview.
Police Academy
Police Academy is the basic training of Law Enforcement. There is, however, more than one path to police academy. In some states police academies are held at community colleges and have open enrollment. In others, there may be one academy for the entire state or for one police agency. These will most likely require that a cadet already have been hired by a specific police department. In either case, police academy lasts from 5 to 8 months and requires intensive sessions of study both in and out of the classroom. In order to succeed at police academy, we have assembled the following sources. These will provide you with an overview of the academy process, tips for applying, and measures to ensure that you succeed.
Police Job Listings
If, after completing this course, you have decided that pursuing a job in law enforcement is right for you, then the following sources will help you in finding your first job. The following tools will help you sort through many of the job postings currently listed based upon job type and state. You will then find information about the job and the application process.