How to Become a Police Officer

If you want to know how to become a police officer, the first thing to learn is that earning a college degree will open doors in your career that would otherwise be closed.

Police officer requirements vary by state, but a smart pathway to beginning a law enforcement career is to start with a B.S. in criminal justice. One reason for this is: Most states give preference to applicants who hold a degree. In addition, a degree not only provides fascinating and invaluable knowledge about your chosen career, but will also allow you to take advantage of degree incentives. That means officers who have a college degree make more money.

Also, once you have a degree in criminal justice or related concentrations, your career path opens up significantly. Interested in joining a canine unit? Most federal, state and local departments require the bachelor’s degree. Here are a few officer specializations and promotions for which the police officer requirements usually include a bachelor’s degree (or most people holding these jobs have a degree):

  • correctional probation officer
  • police sergeant
  • detective
  • state trooper
  • crime scene investigator
  • SWAT
  • Tactical Police

General police officer requirements

Most states require that their officers graduate from a police academy, have no serious criminal records, are at least 21 years old, and can pass a basic physical fitness test. This last requirement is normally a combination of running, sit-ups, and pushups.

For state troopers, the standards are higher and the benefits are usually better. Accordingly, in almost every state, requirements are higher than regular police officer requirements. In Louisiana, for example, candidates must have completed 60 college credit hours (although if he or she is honorably discharged from the U.S. military after three years of active military service, that requirement may be waived). The same goes for Texas State troopers, but in Alabama there is no college degree requirement. (That’s one of the exceptions).

As you can see, each agency has its own particular set of requirements. Even if you enter the force without a degree, your supervisors will encourage you to take college courses in the law enforcement subject areas. They help you learn the law and understand the criminal justice system and criminal behavior.

Learn about the LSUA BS in criminal justice online program.

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