Find out the steps to become a police officer that you need to follow in order to become a part of this esteemed law enforcement profession. The guide below outlines the basics of entering this field, along with providing some details on the salary potential and job outlook.
What Does a Police Officer Do?
Police officers are responsible for performing various duties such as keeping residents safe, testifying in court, maintaining records, patrolling, making arrests, observing suspects' activities, and preparing cases. The duties of a police officer would vary greatly based on the police officer type and rank. For instance, police and sheriff's patrol officers conduct regular patrols, make arrests, and look for criminal activities in their jurisdiction. On the other hand, fish and game wardens patrol hunting and fishing areas and carry out search and rescue operations.
Police officer duties also vary with rank. Higher rank officials are more focused on leadership duties, which involve directing an entire team or a project.
Steps to Become a Police Officer in the US
To join this prestigious field, candidates must follow certain steps. These are listed below:
Step 1: Earn a High School Degree
As per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is the minimum level of education required to become a police officer. However, some departments might require college degrees or credits for eligibility to join the police.
Step 2: Fulfill Other Requirements
In addition to meeting the basic eligibility requirements, such as minimum age, citizenship, etc., candidates will also be required to pass a criminal background check, a physical exam, and a psychological test. Each department would have its own set of basic requirements, so make sure you get in touch with the department you plan on applying to, well in time.
Step 3: Get a College Education (Optional)
Even though getting a college degree is not mandatory, it is highly recommended. This is due to the ever-increasing competition for a limited number of open positions for entry-level police officers. More and more police departments are now showing a preference for applicants with higher educational credentials. A 2-year long associate's degree or a 4-year long bachelor's degree in criminal justice is considered sufficient.
Step 4: Attend a Police Training Academy
After being shortlisted for the position, candidates are required to complete training at a police academy. Here they will be taught the practical and theoretical aspects of working as police officers. This would include instructions on firearm usage, emergency response, and first-aid, among other things.
How Much Does a Police Officer Earn in the US?
According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, police and sheriff’s patrol officers in the US made an annual mean income of $67,600 in 2019. State Government was the top paying industry in this sector, giving out an annual mean wage of $75,110, followed by the Local Government, which paid $67,480. The states that paid the most to police and sheriff’s patrol officers were California ($105,220), Alaska ($87,870) and New Jersey ($86,840).
Job Outlook for Police Officers in the US
Jobs for police officers are expected to experience a growth of 5% from 2018 to 2028. This is nearly as fast as the average for all occupations. The demand for police officers will be greatly impacted by the location and local budgets. Even as crime rates continue to fall, demand for these law enforcement personnel is expected to remain high.