Police Officer Careers – Police Officer Jobs

Police officer careers are in high demand and will continue to be for years to come. There are many police officer jobs in the law enforcement career field, thus an opportunity for a life of adventure.

People depend on police officers to protect their lives and property. Law enforcement officers carry out these duties in a variety of ways depending on the size and type of their organization. Police officers pursue and arrest individuals who break the law and then issue citations or give warnings. The majority of police officers patrol their jurisdictions and investigate any questionable events they observe. In most jurisdictions, they are expected to exercise authority when necessary, whether on or off duty.

The day-to-day activities of police personnel varies depending on their professional area of expertise – such as police officer, detective, or game warden – and whether they are employed at a local, State, or Federal level. Duties also differ considerably among various Federal agencies, which enforce different aspects of the law. Regardless of job duties or location, officers at all ranks are required to write reports and maintain precise records that will be needed if they testify in court.

Police Officer Requirements

Most police officers must be U.S. citizens (born or naturalized). To start a police officer career, a person must pass a written test, a physical exam, and be at least a high school graduate – see Education and Training below for more info.

Education and Training

Many police departments require only a high school diploma for one to be eligible for a police officer position. However, there are numerous agencies that require at least an Associate degree or a college credit equivalent. Some metropolitan departments require a minimum of a Bachelor degree. Most state and federal law enforcement agencies will only accept police officer candidates that have a 4-year degree or a combination of significant job experience and education.

Police officer training is for the most part provided through state certification programs and/or police academies. Law enforcement certification programs and academy sessions usually last several months. Police career hopefuls that need to attend an academy may be required to stay on academy grounds at all times throughout training, with exception of weekends. This is dependent on the agency in question, but in most cases, a police recruit will spend about 8 hours on weekdays at the academy and is free to go home at the end of the day.

Training includes classroom instruction in constitutional law and civil rights, State laws and local ordinances, and accident investigation. Recruits also receive training and supervised experience in patrol, traffic control, the use of firearms, self-defense, first aid, and emergency response.

It is highly recommended that police officers continually upgrade their education, especially those with little or no college education. As time on the force goes by, opportunities for advancement are often granted to those that invested in their self-development through agency sponsored training, certificate programs, and completion of Bachelor level or even advanced degrees. Police officer salaries are often gauged on the amount of training and formal education an individual possesses. Take advantage of the fact that many agencies pay all or part of the tuition for officers to work toward degrees in criminal justice, police science, administration of justice, public administration, criminology, and others.

Police Officer Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Police and sheriff’s patrol officers had median annual earnings of $47,460 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $35,600 and $59,880. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,310, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $72,450. Median annual earnings were $47,190 in local government, $52,540 in State government, and $43,510 in Federal Government.

The salary information will be updated here with a new release of salary statistics by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, so don’t worry about years of difference – it’s just a formality. Salaries for the current year are not that far off, but for the most accurate information call or visit the agency in question. Many police departments offer salary, benefit, and hiring info right on their website.

Career Opportunities

Police officers have many criminal justice career opportunities that can be obtained through tenure, training, and education. Some of the police jobs include: Detective, Crime Scene Investigator, Community Liaison Officer, Narcotics Officer, and SWAT Officer.

Take a look at other great Criminal Justice Careers.

Article written by Radek Gadek

Radek holds a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University. He is currently doing consulting work and runs this blog to provide relevant information on criminal justice degrees, colleges and related careers.

188 comments… add one
  • david

    i am 34 years old is it to late to go in to this line of work

    • Radek M. Gadek

      No, it’s not too late. Many police departments, including those policing agencies on a state and federal level, allow candidates who are 37 years old or younger. I have also come across some that don’t have an age limit, but impose a retirement limit (for example: imposed retirement at age 55). If you are interested in police work, you should find out more info from the police department that you would like to work for. You can do so by visiting the police department website (most municipalities should have some info) or by calling your local police department. Also, you can pay them a visit if you would like.

  • Colton

    I want to become a SWAT officer after i graduate from college. i want to know how to become one and also the possible salary. thank you

    • Radek M. Gadek

      In order to become a SWAT officer you must first be a law enforcement officer (police, sheriff, state police, or federal). You won’t be considered for a SWAT position usually for a number of years (anytime after your probation period up to 5 years or more). Then, you may be considered for the SWAT career track. Each law enforcement agency that has a SWAT team coordinates hiring differently. It would be a good idea to speak with the agency in question about how their career advancement works. SWAT positions are rare, and are usually offered to superior officers. An initial written and physical assessment may be required before you’re even considered to step foot in the training class room.

      Salaries vary, but are for the most part more than that those of a police officer without SWAT training. If you know which agency you would like to work for, you should do an Internet search for their website. Most law enforcement agencies have a website with current career, salary, and requirement info.

      • Miguel arias

        That’s good to know thank you very much I’m working so hard in everything so i can become a S.W.A.T. Officer and i will be happy once that happens.

  • Teran

    i’m 18 years old and i want to be a police officer, i was wondering if there was anything that i could study in my time that would get me ready for training.
    thanks for the tips..

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Most people that will be going through an academy – where they will physically attend classes and participate in all training – can do very well just getting through the application process first. While in the academy, there will be lots of stuff that one must learn. Through that one can learn what their strengths and weaknesses are and adjust accordingly.

      If not going through an academy, you’ll still most likely have to take a mandated state certification program. There you’ll also learn, but most bigger law enforcement departments claim that their training is better. In most cases, I must agree with that assertion.

      It’s always good to learn good communication and social skills. That’s a given.

      If there’s a certain sub-field of policing that interests you (CSI, detective work, SWAT, or victim services… to name a few) you should naturally read a little more about it. It will open your eyes to the many career positions in policing that deal directly or indirectly with police.

      One thing that all trainers from police agencies across the United States don’t want you to learn prior to starting training is shooting a gun. Their philosophy is that if you know how to shoot a gun, most likely your technique is not proper and will require more adjustment than those that are newbies. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” – one police trainer told me. Yes, it’s a cliche, but even if you can teach an old dog how to shoot he or she will be more convinced that their personal touch is the best.

      So there you go. Hope this helps a little. Good luck with everything.

  • Jordan

    I have signed up for Criminal Justice to be a police officer and eventaully build byself up to anything else that I want to be in the law enforcement, should I put it off and go straight to the Acadamy with a high school diploma and then attened the college after I get done the acadamy?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I can’t make that decision for you, but I will add this: a college educated employee is more likely to get promoted, demand higher salaries, and all this in a course of less time than compared to a high school grad. Of course, exceptions apply. Sorry I can’t help, however depending on YOUR situation, both options are viable.

  • Stephany

    Hello, I’m starting my Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and I’m leaning more towards Law Enforcement for a Major, is there any kind of criminal justice job I could do while getting my bachelor’s degree or am I going to have to wait until after college? and also, which websites could I go on to look at different police officer training near Harrisburg, Pa?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Many police officer careers and correctional careers can be obtained while you’re in college, or without any college credit whatsoever (although I wouldn’t recommend it). Pick a city that’s of interest to you, then go to their municipal, state, or federal website and look for career or recruiting information. Nearly all law enforcement and correctional institutions have websites nowadays with comprehensive info. I recommend the Google search engine and typing

      Harrisburg PA Police Department
      OTHER CITY Police Department
      SOME COUNTY Prison

      you get the gist. Good luck!

    • brian

      I went through a police academy right out of high school. I got my associates degree and did my state mandated training at the same time. I found the academy to be rather easy for me BUT….do not think that getting a job is easy. Don’t make the mistake I did and think that just because you were top of the class and did the best in firearms training is going to land you the job, because it won’t. Unfortunately, becoming a police officer is highly political and it very well may come down to who you know not what you know. I was passed over for a local dept because the guy they hired, his family is tied into the cities politics.

      Make a hundred copies of all your certificates and resumes and keep them packeted together in your car and EVERY single town/city/department you drive through or pass, drop one off to the department. You may end up getting hired at a smaller department and thats ok because at least you’re getting experience and keeping your certification because if you’re like me and don’t get hired for two years, it runs out.

      Another thing, if you have any friends, girlfriends or wife that is working at bars or into drugs/crime anything get rid of them. My girlfriend went through another police academy as I was going through mine and afterwards she made a mistake and got a DUI. She was a single mother and the father didn’t pay any support. She found herself working at a strip club and because of that I was told by a local police chief that I most likely wouldn’t find a job because her profession was considered a CONFLICT OF INTEREST; so I was guilty by association. This was 11 years ago.

      Not a day goes by that I still wish I was a police officer because I know I could do the job and do it better then most. I see all these stories of bad cops, cops who are an embarrassment to their profession and to that BADGE.

  • Joseph Diaz

    Hello, My name is Joseph Diaz, and I just finish graduating at high school. I was wondering if there is any Jobs under law enforcement category to make my background look excellent. When I finish my bachelors in Mathematics I would love apply a Police Officer Career. If you know any jobs in the age of 18 I can work at please respond me back and leave any website, links, or so that I can search around my hometown area of zip code 78596. I really appreciate it as I am trying to gain some experience before I become a police officer or so.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Weslaco, TX seems to be a small city in a rural area. In reality, many police departments hire recruits right out of high school. Some recruits will need to meet the educational requirement 4 years later (on average) while still being employed by a law enforcement agency / police department. So you might want to see if you can be a police officer and study Mathematics at the same time.

      Other than that you won’t have too many choices at your age. Ask for a “ride along” with a police officer to see what the job is all about. Not all police departments do it, but it’s worth asking. Paid / unpaid internships can also help a lot. The most important thing is that you don’t get into legal trouble and keep your grades up while in college.

  • wen

    WHY is there an age restriction??? I just turned 38 & am FINALLY ready to pursue my lifelong dream! I’ve been having babies for the last 16 yrs & am disheartened to learn that it may be too late for me!!! :’(

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Good question. It’s mainly due to the aging process, as we get older our reflexes slow down, ability to think and react decreases, and so on… As police officers, we have to protect not only ourselves, but the community we serve as well as our fellow police officers.

      BUT, before you put a dagger through your dreams, I would contact the police agency in question. There are some that have ages around and above your age requirement, some have waivers, and others don’t have “real” restrictions on age. However, I wouldn’t wait. Get on it now and pursue your dreams NOW – before it’s too late. I know that at your age you can still be considered for a law enforcement position; perhaps not in your immediate vicinity, but considered nonetheless.

      Good luck!

      • wen

        Thank you for that encouragement!! Our City’s website says 36 @ the time of hire, but have you ever known that to be flexible, although there’s a stated age limit??

        I have personally met our C.O.P., so I sent him an email to inquire. Here’s hoping!! :)

        Thanks again! God bless you,

      • Radek M. Gadek

        It really depends. More often than not they are pretty right on the money when it comes to age. Flexibility is the exception to the rule.

  • Jovan

    Hello,I’m a 30 year old male from Florida who would like to become a police officer. I have my A.A. in criminal justice and experience in juvenile correction . I recently been convicted of a DUI and would like to know is it possible to become a police officer? That’s the only thing on my driving record and criminal record.I appreciate your time you took to read my questions.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Jovan,

      Great question, one that I find very hard to explain as it has many answers. The short answer is YES & NO – it all depends:

      1. Some agencies have zero-tolerance policy for ANY DUI conviction
      2. Some agencies may allow one DUI conviction only
      3. Some agencies allow a time frame where your DUI may be a “thing of the past” in the scope of the employment opportunity
      4. Some say that if you get your record expunged you should be fine, although I’m not too sure about that one
      5. Some take candidates on a case by case basis and consider further – more positive – attributes of the potential recruit

      Your police officer career can hinge on things like which agency you would like to work for, in what city, county, and state. In all honesty, I would ask the HR / Recruiting Department of the agency you have interest in. Call in anonymously and find out straight from the horse’s mouth. Also, very often – and I mean VERY OFTEN – you’ll be able to find out everything you need on the police department’s website; just make sure to click around as some of the most important info can be hidden quite well.

      I welcome input from current and future Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) regarding this issue in hopes of helping those who may be in the same predicament. Perhaps, with enough constructive and detailed input, I’ll be able to write a decent post about this topic. So, please join in.

  • Martin

    Hello, I am 20 and I am just starting college this winter. I am going to a community college for my Associate degree in criminal Justice…I was just wondering if I should just go ahead and get my bachelors or try to get a job after my associate degree? Will I still have a good chance with just an Associate degree or not? I have a wife and a 4 month old just trying to get into the saddle so to speak, as fast as possible.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Many police departments don’t require an ounce of college education before you get hired on. However, many police departments are state mandated to have their police officers get an Associates Degree OR an equivalent of, which is usually 60 semester credits, within 3 to 5 years from getting hired on (average). Each dept. is different, so I would get in touch with the one you want to get on to to find out more.

      As for higher education in the law enforcement profession, I think it wouldn’t hurt. Many agencies offer pay incentives for those with a Bachelor’s or a graduate degree. For some it can be – more or less – 10% to 30% increase in salary depending on the department and educational level completed. Promotions and other incentives may hinge on higher education, especially in mid to large police departments.

      There may be fewer monetary benefits in relation to education in small police departments. If you live in a rural community check out your county Sheriff’s Office or the State Police for opportunities.

  • Almedin Ajanovic

    Is applying at more than one agency a bad idea and what should a person do if both agencies called and you went to both agencies for a physical exam already and passed that?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I personally don’t think it’s a bad idea, however it can go up in your face when both employers want to pull you in their direction. Hopefully the agency that you like most will inquire about your first.

      It is good to keep your options open, but at one point you will have to make a decision. Either jumped the hopes now and decide later or decide now and jump through less hopes right now. I wish you all the best.

  • luis mendez

    hello my name is luis and im am currently un college i still dont have any degree with me. i am also not a citizen of the u.s can i still become a police officer?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      most, if not all, Police Department’s require for your future police officers to have US citizenship. For the most part, it is a nonnegotiable requirement.

  • Rhiannon Ahrens

    Hi, I am 16year old female, and a Junior in High School still.
    I plan to go to college after my senior year and i still have no idea how to figure out what would be best for me to major and minor in. My dream is so be a police officer and i’d like to go straight into that dream as soon as i’m done with my four year in college. Again, i am not sure what i need to become this. I already know the college i plan to attend but i am not sure where i’d like to become a police officer. I’d settle for anything i’m sure, but what would best and average as far as education to become this. Also, are there any tips from here on out you can give me, as far as being a female going into law enforcement, or how to go about college in this state of mind. Anything would be greatly appreciated!
    Thank you!

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Please read: http://criminaljusticeonlineblog.com/03/criminal-justice-degree-not-always-a-requirement/

      Now, more than ever before, the law enforcement community is very open to female police officers. I don’t think you should worry too much. Make sure you stay out of trouble and keep your grades up. In college, this is even more important, as many police departments ask for college transcripts that contain your grades and GPA.

      And.. Don’t settle for just anything… Always strive for being the best and getting the best you can.

  • Caprice

    I am a senior in high school and I look forward to going to college for criminal justice. I am going to work my way up to Homicide and I was wondering how would I get use to the surroundings of dead bodies. I mean im ok when it comes to funeral but how would I train myself to work with them?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Great question. I guess you “just do.” There’s no prep course in dealing with homicide or accident victims. The only feasible way to learn this is either on the job OR interning in a morgue or a funeral home.

  • James Webbeley

    Im in my Junior year of college and im starting to look in the direction of law enforcement. I will have a bachelors in Criminal Justice but im having trouble getting experience in the field. Ive been told to find volunteer work for the police departments but my ideas are limited. What would you suggest?

  • Sherri G

    Hello I am in College online for my bachelor’s in CJ and wanted to know what volunteer opportunities would look good on my resume or anything you can think of that would look good on my resume?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Volunteer opportunities look great on a resume. If you would like to become a police officer, then a volunteer position at a police dept. will work. You won’t be granted powers of arrest and you might do some “intern type” work (paper work, etc.), but it looks good. It’s not always a necessity to be a volunteer first, but if you have the time it’s worth a try.

      Also, there are volunteer police officer positions, although very rare nowadays. These positions give you limited responsibilities – unlike a full-fledged law enforcement officer – but if you can be a volunteer police officer, I think that’s even better than the first option. Again, chances of finding such a position are extremely remote. I just thought I would at least bring it out there.

  • kristina duncan

    HI, MY NAME IS KRISTINA AND I JUST RECENTLY START GOING TO EVEREST UNIVERSITY FOR MY A.A DEGREE IN CRMINAL JUSTICE. I’VE RECENTLY HEARD THAT ITS NOT A GOOD SCHOOL BUT SO FAR I’VE HAD NOTHING BUT A GOOD EXPERIENCE THERE. I WANTED TO KNOW DOES IT MATTER WHERE YOU GET YOUR DEGREE FROM IN ORDER TO GET HIRE IN LAW ENFORCEMENT?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      It’s a decent school, but at this time it has no regional accreditation which is highly important (search for “accreditation” on my site for more info). It is, however, nationally accredited which entitles you to seek employment from local to federal levels (where degrees are required).

      Yes, the name of the school may matter when applying to competitive police departments.

  • Robert Boland

    Greetings – my son is currently attending a Criminal Justice program at a technical college, in hopes of being a policeman. While I keep reading that most police forces don’t have a minimum “size” requirement, I am still concerned because he is small – 5 feet 4 or so at last measure. He’s in good shape (I’m recently retired Army and I am teaching him the basics of fitness, fighting, shooting, etc.) but still I wonder…..will he be a “target” because of his stature? Here in Augusta Georgia there is a huge “hate the cops” attitude among the population, so will he be passed on for hiring while the force hires people with more size + strength? I know policing is more than physical confrontations, but human nature is what it is…..projecting an image of confidence + fearlessness is easier when you are at least as intimidating as the local thugs you will certainly encounter.
    Police here in Georgia are commonly assaulted. Is law enforcement a viable career option for the young man?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Georgia is a beautiful state but there are counties with excessively high crime rates. I think that as long as your son wants to pursue this career then he should. Height can be a disqualifying factor at some agencies. I would check with the agencies your son is interested in. Also, it is a common fact that if a person perpetrating a crime may consider all options, including fleeing and assault, in order to remain free. I think that shorter persons may be more prone to an assault. Saying that, I still think that proper training and response mechanisms can help in preserving the life of a police officer despite his or her height.

  • Anas Kmail

    Hello, I’m a freshman in college right now and undecided for a major but I’m leaning towards a criminal justice major next year. My question is what kind of jobs are there in this field, and if I decided to become a police officer what are the chances of finding a job in MA. Also should I finish all 4 years in college right now or is there a better option?
    Thank you

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Click around and you’ll see that there are many career options in the criminal justice field.

      Chances are just that, a gamble. It all depends when and if the departments will have a need for new recruits. Be cognizant that when planning to work in Massachusetts, you might want to seek schools that have programs that are Quin Bill certified. Read my post on the best criminal justice schools in MA to get more info.

      In my opinion, the best option is to finish college, but there are cases where you don’t even need a college degree to become a police officer. It’s all about preference really, but I would want to be positioned for higher salary right of the bat AND for possible promotions that are training/education sensitive.

  • SHANE

    HI IM ABOUT TO GO TO COLLEGE NEXT YEAR AND I WAS INTERESTED IN LAW ENFORCEMENT..THE ON LY THING IS IM AFRAID I AM TOO SHORT..AND PEOPLE WOULDN’T TAKE ME SERIOUSLY IF I BECOME A COP..WILL MY SIZE HAVE AN EFFECT ON MY SUCCESS IN MY CAREER?

  • Neal

    shortly i will be graduating high school and advancing to college, right now im torn between two schools and two majors. personally, i want to go for law and justice studies but have a lot of questions. im unfamiliar with the major and looking for a bit of advice. my main concern to studying this major is that im under the impression, it can be taken as a pointless major. i have heard things like once you retire at the imposed age of 55 you wont have a job after, because of the major choice. so my question is, can you briefly elaborate on that topic and help me conclude?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      There’s no brief elaboration.

      Criminal Justice related majors are vocationally centered, unlike a business degree, for example. I keep hearing about people getting a criminal justice degree, but they don’t pursue or even remotely work in law enforcement or the criminal justice system, or have felony records, domestic abuse arrests, and other disqualifying factors for most law enforcement jobs.

      I think that if you’re not sure if you would want to work in the criminal justice field, you should not take it. Period. Take a more general degree like Business (or whatever strikes your fancy), which I think offers a lot of qualities that nearly all fields, including Criminal Justice, would love its employees to have. Now if you know you will be working in the criminal justice field, because that is what you aspire to do (ie. Police Officer, Sheriff’s Deputy, US Marshal, and etc.) then taking a more specialized degree (like the one you’re contemplating) is of benefit, but not a necessity.

      After the imposed retirement age of 55 you should have enough experience under your belt to land work. Now saying that, if you enjoy a certain field more than criminal justice, and you know you can use the degree in an event of layoffs, imposed retirement, etc. then take it. Most agencies would like a competent college graduate, not necessarily a CJ major, although I would recommend it if you’re seeking managerial roles within a law enforcement agency, for example.

      There are no pointless majors… there are pointless decisions to take on a degree program that is far from “the real you”.

  • Gaffney

    I’m currently in the navy as an aviation ordnancemen. We get firearms training, first aid, hand to hand, and some security work on the base and ship with watches…I want to get my bachelors in criminal justice and become a cop when my enlistment is over. I’m 19. How do I go about doing this and what kind of chance would I have getting an I guess superior position at a police station once I’m out?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Firstly, you might NOT need a criminal justice degree to get your foot in the door.

      Even with your experience, “superior”, or I think you meant supervisory, positions are available to those that pay their dues — and that’s not always a guarantee. If you meant superior (or something of that nature), like Gang Squad, Detective or SWAT, you still have to pay your dues. Besides time, possibility of testing, educational requirements, and other merit based factors, you have to take into consideration that the higher you want to go up the ladder the more “political” it gets.

  • Danielle

    What kind of job can you get in Law Enforcement straight out of high school? And can you qualify for the same position when you earn your GED? I’m 26 and studying for my GED right now. Since I waited to earn it so late will that count against my chances of obtaining the same position as a high school graduate?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Many police departments don’t require college education in order to START working in law enforcement, so a high school diploma or a GED will usually be enough. That said, you may be required to complete a number of college credits or a degree program while on-the-job (it’s usually a State mandate that needs to be accomplished with a number of years from the date of hire).

  • Joshua

    Ive gotten told that going to college for a CJ degree would be a waste of time pretty much until later on a degree would help to get promoted, that’s it. I got told not no one can just appear and apply at a police academy and that you would have to work at a department to be a jailer, corrections, etc. and work your way into the academy around 21, 22 year of age. What would your personal opinion would be on that? Like what would you do?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      That may be true at certain departments / or probably counties, which may require someone to be a correction officer prior to going on patrol — it’s the “understand crime from the inside” perspective, which can be of value. However, municipal police departments, a number of other Sheriff’s departments, the State police, and the Federal Govt. will not, in all likelihood, require you to work in a jail prior to being a police officer, a Sheriff deputy, a state police officer, or a FBI special agent, for example.

      As for the education, it’s a matter of perspective and often it’s true that it may not be required initially – I wrote an article on degrees and police work <– check it out!

  • Salvador

    Hello, my name is Salvador and I will be obtaining my BA in criminal justice next spring. What should I do as soon as I graduate to get a job as a police officer or in the criminal justice field? I was an intern as a paralegal for a non profit organization this past year. Do you think that’ll help me? Also I’m thinking of applying for an internship for the Universities police department. Do you think that will help me get a job faster? thank you for your time.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I don’t know what exactly will help you, but based on what you stated in your comment, many of the efforts you’ve made so far OR are planning to make can get you so much closer to the top of the list (not always, but more often than not). Usually, you can’t get the job faster, as training commences once or twice a year at most police departments, sometimes even less often.

  • Michael Ngo

    I wanted to know if i have a misdemeanor charge for assault & battery would i not be able to become a police officer? I am 20 years old, working on my general education. I’m sure by the time i am done with college, it would be ex-sponged. Also, another factor that i am wondering about is tattoos. I have a tattoo on the back of my neck of my last name, along with a full sleeve right arm tattoo. Would they not allow law enforcement with such tattoos? I am only 130lbs as well, is there a certain ht/wt requirement to becoming a police officer?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Assault & battery convictions are taken seriously and are often an automatic disqualifier. That said, there maybe some agencies that may take things like recency and circumstances of the even into consideration.

      I can’t recall for sure, but even if it’s expunged, you’ll still have to include the information on your application and definitely during your panel interview. Expunged doesn’t always mean “erased” from the databases law enforcement has access to.

      As for tattoos, please see my post on tattoos and police work. Many LE agencies are okay with them (within reason or hidden), but some aren’t.

      For any of the questions you asked I would ask the agency you want to work for directly. Either way things will come into light and perhaps being forthright can give you some brownie points… maybe no points, but some concrete answers.

  • Alex

    is there a state that does not have an age limit to attend an academy. i am only 20 years old and i’ve been looking into becoming a police officer and it seems that all academy’s require you to be 21 years of age.

  • Lindsey

    Hi, I am 21 and i have always been interested in law enforcement One of the jobs I would love to do is a police officer but I am a little woman I am afraid of getting hurt on the job, and so is my husband. what other jobs are there available with a associate degree in criminal justice that are less dangerous. I really need to pick a degree to go with I keep changing my mind please help me

    • Radek M. Gadek

      A criminal justice degree is a great accompaniment to a law enforcement position, like a police officer job, but given that this degree is narrow it best serves those who will work in the criminal justice field. There are very few jobs available for graduates with an associates level education as opposed to those with a bachelor’s or a master’s, for example. Your competitive edge narrows or widens depending on the amount of education you have. I would recommend that you think about your future (ask yourself who you would like to become, how much salary is enough, and etc.) and perhaps consider choosing a wider reaching degree or something you will really like to do.

  • Abraham

    Hi, I’m abraham and I turned 26 a couple of months ago. I’m extremely concerned about obtaining a career in law enforcement due to my history. I’ll begin with my arrest history. I was arrested 6-7 years ago for a paint ball incident, however, I was never convicted. Despite that huge bump that i encountered i managed to attend a college and about to graduate in the fall. My job history isn’t quite commendable to some extent. What worries me is that i’m obtaining a degree in criminal justice and that in the end i wont be able to work anywhere. I worked extremely hard to get this far and I would be devastated if i cannot become a peace officer. Can you suggest something please….Im so lost…

    I forgot to mention that i was arrested for shooting a paintball at a civilian, however, i was arrested but never convicted, i never saw a judge. this is connected to my first post…

  • gilbert

    hey im 18 years old i want to become a detective. but first i have to become an officer right? then from there what happens?

  • Damian

    can you become a police officer if you are a resident?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      The short answer is YES, but most states and agencies require for law enforcement officers to be US citizens, leaving a handful of states that don’t. Others require that you must be eligible to apply or have filed for US citizenship before hire.

      The best way to find out is by going to the department’s website where most of the time the citizenship / permanent resident requirement is listed. If not, give them a call, anonymously if you feel that will help. I also recommend checking police departments in proximity, in case that info isn’t readily available on your first try.

  • Alberto

    I’m currently 18 years old and looking forward to become a police officer, im going to a two year community college first and after my two years. Should i enroll myself to a criminal justice program and will it benefit me for the best? Or should i keep going to a community college for two more years ?

  • Eddie Medina

    I want to be a Police Officer for the Phoenix AZ Police Department. I am currently 17 1/2 years old and am about to enter my Senior year in High School. I turn 18 in January 2012 and will be halfway done with my final year in H.S. I live in Auburn, WA and currently work at a local Subway restaurant. When I turn 18, should I keep my Subway job until I finish High School? Or should I try and get a criminal justice job, probably in or around the Seattle area? After graduating, I plan on moving down to Glendale, AZ and hope to find a job for the city of Phoenix that will prepare me to become a Police Officer after I get my B.S. in Criminal Justice/Homeland Security & Counter-terrorism degree from Kaplan Online University. For the 4 years while I’m in college, what jobs should I look for in Phoenix? What advice would you give to a 17 year old who knows what he wants to do for school and where he wants to be, but has no idea what to do for a job? I want to become a police officer in Phoenix ASAP, but I also want my Bachelor’s degree. What do I do!?

  • Kyle B.

    I’m 17 and planning to go to college for criminal justice and obtain a Bachelors degree. It has always been my dream to be a LEO. The one problem is that I have cystic fibrosis. I am in good shape and even went to the extreme to look up department physical fitness requirements and met most of them. Is CF a disqualifier? If it is, is there anything else in law enforcement I can do?

  • yadriel

    Hi , I’m a US resident and been living in Florida for 3 years and half , in 1 year i will take mi citizenship test. I’m 19 years old and i want to study Criminal Justice ( law enforcement officer ), Can i Go to a criminal justice Institute if i’m a resident ? because i was thinking about obtain a Bachelors degree so i have time to become a US citizen and then Start Looking for a job . Can i go to a criminal justice institute ? Please help me.

  • MANDY

    hi so im getting out the army with a general under honorable condition I was in for 2 years and getting out with a chapter 14 basically for popping hot on a piss test I went through a substance abuse program Im but how much of a chance would i have for them to accept me in the police academy

  • Chris

    I am in my second year at a community college in Connecticut, as a 19 year old is there anyway possible way besides internships to gain experience? I plan on getting my bachelors then going in to police academy.

  • Lindsey

    What job can i really get into with just my AS Criminal Justice Degree? I will have it come Spring 2012 from a community college from Minneapolis, MN and have no idea if it was a waste of time not just going for my Bachelors Degree or Masters Degree. Ideally I want to get into Investigations but am either looking to work my way up or go back to school later. Now ideally I’d like to get into being a correctional officer, probation officer, or juvenile officer. Can any of those happen with just my Associates degree? If not, what would be the best path to take? What can I start doing?

  • Dierra Evans

    i like this website because it helps and tells you the requirements. i am looking forward to becoming a Homicide Detective or what ever i put my mind to i have not decided yet but thankz

  • Ryan

    for anyone who an answer this question for me, I am in college at the moment and I am majoring in Criminal Justice and plan on taking other courses such as public speaking and communications to potentially help my chances of landing a job in any of the CJ careers, my dad is a police officer and former Marine and I’m trying to get in his police department. But the problem I think will come up is I was once in the Marine Corps and was discharged with a re-enlistment code RE-3P with CMC authority required for reenlistment, but I have read certain discharges could ruin your chances of becoming a police officer can anyone answer or give me some kind of direction to lean towards?

  • Mandisue

    Hi there i am curious so i thought i would throw this out there. i am a 27 year old women and i was thinking of pursuing a career in my local police department or even surrounding area. Is there anything that i could do with out being a police officer the whole uniform thing and all i am just looking for something inside rather than out. What position do they normal have and what would i need to do to get to that point. I live in southern New Jersey.
    thank you

  • Chris

    I have a shunt or hydrocephalus. Can I still have a chance to become a police officer?

  • Eliza Torres

    HeLLo! Im a full time student, working on my Criminal Justice Degree.I want to be a police officer and work my way up, but ive been doing some thinking because noone is actually hiring and i feel like i need to change my major if i want a job right after i get my degree near my home! which would be around Merced, Fresno or Visalia. Will what im trying to ask is what else can i do with a AA degree, although i am taking transferring classes to one day get my bachelors in criminal justice while being employed.

  • J. Feliz

    I am 20 years old and i am planing to go to a police academy in North Carolina. Can i become an officer in Florida with this training.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      You’ll most likely have to get certified in the state of Florida.

      • J. Feliz

        thank you.

  • Mary Wilson

    Hi, my question is what is the PHYSICAL test? What are you required to do? I have very bad asthma and have very weak arm strength. I can’t even do ONE push up…..

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Very often you have to lift at least your own body weight (multiple times), perform many situps within 60 seconds, perform sprints and be able to run a mile and a half in under 13 minutes, on average (time gauge depends on the department). There are more tests that test your agility, endurance, accuracy, responsiveness, and even finger strength. Many, and I mean many, police departments have a lot of great information right on their website with the requirements for the physical test.

  • Anush

    Hey I’m still in high school but i was wondering if I go to Uni and get my bachelors degree in Criminology would that help me achieve my goal as becoming a SWAT officer or do I need to go to the army and get experience
    Thanks alot !!

  • Daija

    I wear glasses and I wanted to know is that going to be a problem with becoming a police officer? I heard you have to have 20/20 vision uncorrected.I live in NYC.

  • John

    What field in Criminal Justice provides a salary of $60k+ and $100k+ and how do I get to those positions?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      High population areas can start you off at near $60k. For example, I heard Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office pays pretty well. Otherwise, Federal law enforcement, like FBI, DEA, ICE, and etc. would be the next best thing. Salary will also depend on the level of education, experience, and skills (prior special weapons training (SWAT), military experience, or ability to speak other languages). Unless you’re near a metropolitan area, or in a position to move, $60,000+ initial salary is very rare and you may need few to several years to work your way up to it (depending on some of the factors I mentioned).

  • James

    What kind of jobs would you recommend for a non citizen wanting to work as a police officer in the future

  • Anthony

    I am 20 years old im in the military active duty army served 3 years already. I have a GED but am working on an associates degree in criminal justice. Any tips on how to start my career as a police officer?
    thank you

  • J C Delgado

    I have a huge question, and haven’t really found a direct answer for it. I have been going to school for criminal justice in becoming a police officer for the past 2 years; however, am I wasting my time? Considering I have had a past with some drugs and some tickets, for example; I have done ecstasy when I was younger, have smoked marijuana, and have a drinking in public while the age of 18…Ever since, I have stopped with the drugs and immaturity. Now at the age of 21. Although this has all been in the past, I feel as if this while greatly impact and affect my eligibility towards being an applicant for a police officer. What do you think?

  • Andre Roberson

    I was wondering what the best way to get started on becoming an officer. Do you think I should be a recruit or volunteer my time at the police station I want to work at? or should I just finish working on my bachelors in criminal justice then apply and then go to the academy? I am not sure what the best route is to become an officer. By the way I am 19 and a freshman at University of Phoenix.

  • Sula

    I am originally from CA but had lived in WI for 3 years now. I will be earning my degree in CJ soon from a college here in WI. I plan to move back to CA after college and work in the law enforcement field. What should be my concerns about moving back to CA, since each states have different laws? Should I gain experience here first and later do a lateral transfer? I really don’t like it here in WI for many reasons. One thing for sure, I don’t want to retire here. What can I do?

  • Roxanne

    Hi, I am currently a freshman in college and am studying criminal justice. I was wondering what career opportunities are available to me in the field that won’t require me to attend a police academy. The whole idea of going to one scares me, because I don’t think I could handle all of the physical fitness requirements.

  • Rafid

    Dear Sir,
    My name is Rafid I was working with the Us Army in Iraq for 5 years as interpreter I’m Iraqi and I came to united states within 2 years to built my future I have 35 years now and I decide to study a criminal justice to be an police officer so if I start I will finish with about 39 so can I try

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Rafid,

      You might need to consider applying now vs when you are 39, because of the imposed age limits by law enforcement agencies (37 is a common age limit). Many police departments allow to acquire educational requirements while on the police force. Also, consider that most law enforcement agencies in the US require a candidate to have US citizenship, which you can obtain through naturalization, however, it’s a time consuming process and there are requirements that must be met under the immigration laws.

  • Stefani

    I’ll be graduating high school this upcoming summer. I am going to college for my bachelors degree in criminal justice. I was just curious as to how high in demand or the possibilities of a career for women police officers. And where the best academy would be to attend.

  • Dove

    Hello. I am a 17 year old female, turning 18 in 3 months. I live in the Augusta, GA area. I had a few questions pertaining to policing. During high school I goofed off my sophomore and junior year, so my transcript is not top notch. I’m applying to get my GED, and I should have it soon. Will my goofing off in high school affect my chances of getting accepted into an academy if I have a GED? Also, my parents are in the military, so we move around allot. I was wondering, if I do however apply to a police academy or for a volunteer position, will the agency allow me to transfer from their academy or agency to an agency or academy in the area I move to?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Your high school grades may matter in pursuit of employment, especially if you don’t plan to go to college. A GED is an acceptable alternative to a high school degree and most law enforcement departments will allow one to apply with such a diploma. Be aware that many police departments, especially the mid to large agencies, will want at least some college or even a Bachelor’s degree at time of application or before attending the academy / before getting hired on OR within up to several years of obtaining employment.

      As for transferring while attending police academy, I don’t think it would work in your favor. The job market, as I write this reply, is fairly fragile. And, even if certain agencies worked with each other closely, the staggering amount of money invested in each recruit who attends the academy (and then transferred to another one) would be an equivalent to “flushing money down the drain.” In essence, even if you went to the first academy and decided that the second location would be better, you would still have to start from scratch and you would forfeit your place at the first location and in all likelihood “burn your bridges” at the first police academy. Hope this makes sense.

  • Luke

    I am trying to figure out what type of law enforcement degree to start with. I don’t quite understand the differences between an applied science degree in criminal justice and an applied science degree in law enforcement. I am not a hundred percent which direction I want to go in my law enforcement career. I was wondering if one type of degree is better then the other or which direction they tend to lead you. Any information can help. Thanks

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Think of a criminal justice degree as a broader major when compared to a degree in law enforcement. The criminal justice system, as a whole, consists of law enforcement, corrections, and courts (just a few major sectors of the criminal justice system). Even forensic science and victim counseling falls under CJ. What a criminal justice degree will teach – in most cases – is the understanding of the different parts that make the criminal justice system what it is.

      A law enforcement degree may only focus on the intricate inner workings of a law enforcement agency; especially, how it operates. Saying that, I have seen a number of colleges and universities mislabel their degree offerings where a degree in law enforcement or police science was eerily similar to the broader criminal justice degree. Make sure to research each school’s degree offerings and ask the admission staff questions if you’re not sure.

      I can’t say which degree might be better, although I have a slight bias towards the criminal justice program.

  • kyle

    im about to go to school for criminal justice and would like to know is there are still jobs out there in law enforcement people have told me there are and others have told me that there are not

    • Radek M. Gadek

      It all boils down to location, location, location… Despite the economy roughing things up a bit for everyone, law enforcement agencies are shifting gears as well; some are hiring and some are on hiring-freezes, or even downsizing in some instances. It’s all about where you are, and better yet, where you are willing to go in order to get work. I gotta say it has been a little rough in the last few years. Hopefully this new year will bring growth in the police job market.

  • noname

    i just want to know if you don’t have a high school diploma can u still go to college and study, police foundation courses and get a job?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I am 100% certain that you will need a high school diploma or a GED in order to obtain a job as a police officer.

  • Brandon Cole

    Sorry if this has been asked before, but i have always been interested in policing, and now at 30 find myself at a place where I could pursue the dream. I am in okay shape, but am thin for my height 5’9. Given my age and smaller stature, and unrelated college degree (BA, with no criminal justice training), would i have any chance of making it into the NYPD or a Federal law enforcement branch?

    Thanks in advance for your feedback.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Hey Brandon, I know many police officers that are shorter than you, so you can defenestrate that myth. Also, I have been trying to get this notion out of people’s heads that a degree in criminal justice is not the only option. Imagine a police department that was made-up of just CJ grads, or lawyers, or accountants… it wouldn’t offer much of a diverse workforce now, would it? I don’t know what your Bachelor of Arts is in, but given all you have mentioned you should have a shot at the agencies that interest you. The NYPD and Federal law enforcement employment is some of the toughest to obtain, however. Keep that in mind and look elsewhere just in case.

  • Charles Wilcox

    I am 22 yrs old. and will be getting a bachelors in history and a minor in criminal justice. I’ve played college baseball for 4 yrs, and I know I can be a cop as far as the physical and mental aspects are concerned. My real question is will having the BA in hist w/ a crim. justice minor hurt me as far as getting hired? And are the hours for most cops the 12 hour shifts in which they have to work graveyard?

    Would it hurt me if I didn’t have a criminal justice minor and only had a history degree? I ask this because my university does not have a criminal justice minor.

  • J C Delgado

    I have a huge question, and haven’t really found a direct answer for it. I have been going to school for criminal justice in becoming a police officer for the past 2 years; however, am I wasting my time? Considering I have had a past with some drugs and some tickets, for example; I have done ecstasy when I was younger, have smoked marijuana, and have a drinking in public while the age of 18…Ever since, I have stopped with the drugs and immaturity. Now at the age of 21. Although this has all been in the past, I feel as if this while greatly impact and affect my eligibility towards being an applicant for a police officer. What do you think?

  • Frank

    I’m currently attending the Massachusetts Reserve Police Academy. And I’m a sworn Auxiliary Police Officer. My wife and myself are looking to relocate to Florida in a year. My question is do I have to attend the academy in Florida to secure a job with a Florida Law Enforcement Agency? Or what would I have to do to secure a job with a sheriff’s office or police department seeing i have training from another state?

  • Leo

    Names Leo, i just finished high school and im ready to pursue my childhood career, i don’t want to study cj rather go straight to the academy, what would i put down in my application? Do i have to fill it in still? What if ive smoked pot how long would i have to wait in order to apply as a cop, are they more lenient in Cali because of their laws. Please help im really confused with all this. Thank you.

    • jackie

      Hi, I live in Houston first year in college for criminal justice and ultimately I want to be on a S.W.A.T team and I was wondering what steps would u take to get there…should I go ahead and get in the police academy or wait?…and do u have to have 20/20 vision?…and I have a DWI and a differed adjudication probation on my background I know its not great but would I even be able to achieve the job that i want with that on my background?

  • Grant

    Radek,

    I will be graduating high school here on the Florida treasure coast along with my general AA at Indian River State College this Summer. I plan to go to UCF and pursue a degree in Criminal Justice this Fall. While I’m there, what are the possibilities of obtaining a job centered around law enforcement? I’d love to be going to school while having a small part time job as a police officer or something. Your thoughts?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      If i was you, I would focus on school, making sure I finish my Bachelor’s with great marks. Most agencies are not prone to hiring right now and their investment of thousands of dollars into your training for a part-time position would probably be imprudent. However, smaller municipalities, especially in tourist towns, may need a few State certified rookies for seasonal jobs. I don’t know Florida’s certification procedures, but that’s something to think about.

  • luis

    I have a degree in business economics but want a job within the police department but i don’t want to go out in patrol are there any office jobs within? Thank you.

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Most medium to large police departments have support staff. Many municipalities and counties post openings on their websites.

  • Karl Jean

    Hi, my name is Karl and I am looking to go into Law Enforcement. I currently attend Penn State University and I am (well was) majoring in Industrial/Electrical Engineering. However I just realized how bad I want to work with the Law and I decided to change my major to criminal justice. People keep telling me that it’s not a good major because everybody is doing it and it’s not a highly demanded major. My goal is to either become a police officer and then work for the FBI or go directly to the FBI after graduating college. Could you give me some advice about what I should do if I want to go into Law Enforcement and what major would best suit this career as a student at Penn State.? Because I don’t want to go into criminal justice and not find any job after I graduate.
    I like what you are doing with this website man. Keep it up!

    • Radek M. Gadek

      Karl, Penn State is a great school and its graduates are some of the more desirable. I finally got to writing a post about everything you asked and worry about: Is a Criminal Justice Worthless?. Good luck with your education and thanks for stopping by.

  • Adam

    San Francisco Police Department has no age limit.

  • Tanika

    I am 20 years old and just finished my first year of college attending a community college in Arizona. My major was general studies, until I found out how interested I was in studying criminal justice. I was wondering what should I do? Should I finish with my generals and start taking Intro to Criminal Justice? I am halfway through with it and want to continue with my career goal and hopefully graduate from here with an Associate’s degree in Administration of Justice….

  • Sierra

    I’m pursuing my education in criminal justice at Everest college in California. I have been getting a lot of negative feed back on this school. I’m terrified I won’t be looked at or my degree won’t be good enough to become a police officer. Any word on police departments not wanting to hire an Everest grad?

  • M.

    I’m very interested in law enforcement and have been for many years. I’m 32 and have a Masters in Cultural Studies from Dartmouth. I am also a single parent. I’ve been researching online about being a single parent and an officer and have found good and bad responses to single parent officers.

    I spent time working as an EMT and in violence prevention and have experience with traumatic situations as well as experience working in a male dominated work environment. To be honest I never had any problems with discrimination, on the contrary I loved my work, and had a great time working with the guys. They were all firefighters, therefore maybe I’m a bit naive when it comes to officers. I’ve always been comfortable working in these kind of environments where being a woman can be questionable. I figure if you do your job and do it well people cannot complain. Again, I may be naive. (I also grew up with brothers too.)

    I just want to know if being a single mother and attempting this journey is not advisable, or if it’s possible? Passing all the physical tests doesn’t worry me because I had to do that for the firefighter exam. None of the exams worry me. But, I’m not exactly young anymore and struggling with discrimination because I’m a single parent is not something I want to tackle, maybe when I was 23 but I’m just not up for it now. I would really love this job and am very passionate about it, but maybe there is another job within law enforcement that would better suit me. Any suggestions would be welcome.

  • Michael Luigi

    I am a member of the National Guard as an MP, am receiving my bachelor’s in criminal justice at Alfred University, and plan on getting a tattoo commemorating my military service on my forearm. I was just wondering if this would screw up any chance of getting a job as a police officer or any other job in criminal justice?

  • Pete

    Radek,
    I am a permanent resident green card holder in the US, however I served as a Police Officer in the UK for 7 years before moving to this country.
    Are there any states, cities, roles, positions etc that allow non-US citizen applications?
    Any of the law enforcement agencies would be of interest.

  • Chris B

    Hey Radek,

    I am currently taking classes online while deployed to finish my degree in criminal justice. I was wanting to try to get on in South Carolina once I get back home after Christmas. I am about a year away from finishing school. I also have k9 training the Army sent me to last year where I got certified by Vohn Liche kennels for a 120 training hours. This cert is also signed by SLED. So I have school and military, I’ll be 28 when I come back home. My only concern is that I was charged with a felony (that I did not commit) a couple years back. Once the evidence was brought to court, the charges were dismissed and expunged from my record. Will this cause a problem? Thanks!

    • Radek Gadek

      If there was no conviction AND charges were completely dismissed then you should be fine.

  • Steve

    Is it very beneficial to be a local police officer for a few years and then applying for a federal law enforcement position?

    • Radek Gadek

      It can be. However, other factors will still play a role. Some as basic as your job track record or education. Also you will be competing with other well qualified applicants, who may have veteran’s preference, language or specialized skills.

  • adam

    does having my lpn help with getting a job as a police officer? seriously thinking about taking criminal justice classes but worried there wont be as many job opportunities as i have now.

  • Fernando Vazquez

    I want to be a police officer always have since I was a young kid (I’m 18 but have to be 21 to join ) but I’m going In to college to study criminal justice and hopefully try to get in to Chicago police and hopefully transfer to my little town in Michigan :)

  • Jesse Garner Abarca

    I am 22 years old and I am in the Army Reserve, I want to be a police officer, do you recommend obtaining a degree before getting hired to be competitive? American Military University is regionally accredited would it be fine to gain a degree from that online school?

    • Radek Gadek

      Many medium to large police departments will require at least 60 semester credits of college level studies. Some may require a Bachelor’s degree (a rising trend). It’s also beneficial to have college education under one’s belt as there will be many applicants with similar or better educational accomplishments. Among other important factors, proper education is considered to be key.

      AMU is a good school, one that was on my list when looking at my Bachelor and Master studies. I personally ventured from the for-profit school arena for my grad school studies. I wanted to get the best education I can get and avoid the stigma associated with for-profit education. I believe that there are great for-profit schools, but in the current job market I would worry about “just fitting in” vs “standing out.” Although you should consider AMU, remember that all other schools look out for Military members (in some shape or form). If you were deployed, for example, you shouldn’t worry no matter where you go. You GI Bill is also accepted at accredited colleges and universities nationwide. My advice, besides laser focusing on just American Military University, look into other more reputable schools. Then, make your decision. Still, I think AMU offers a pretty decent cost of tuition, and those that voiced their opinion to me about that school, have very positive things to say.

      • Jesse Garner Abarca

        Thank you for your reply Radek and the great information you have submitted on your website, the reason for me to choose online vs. traditional would be my civilian job schedule. I work graveyard shifts and I am also considering University of Maryland University College, would that be a good reputable school? Your feedback would be appreciated, thank you.

        • Radek Gadek

          UMUC… I don’t know. There aren’t that many data points for me to say “this is a good school.” It certainly has the markings of one, like: accreditation, and the University of Maryland brand. Mind you, U of M College Park is ranked as one of the best criminal justice schools. Besides this school, I would apply to others as well.

  • eileen

    hi, i’m working on my degree in criminal justice. i’m not sure yet what i want to do mainly looking into probation, or LAPD.. my question is i have used drugs before in my “party days” i dont do any drugs now and dont wish to ever, i just wanted to know if this is going to affect me from pursuing my dream.
    thank you

  • Kevin

    I’ve routinely seen hiring (in Minnesota specifically) be VERY saturated. I’ve tested against 500-2000 applicants for 1 position. Do you see those ratios improving anytime soon?

    • Radek Gadek

      When the economy is down, like it is now, I don’t expect such ratios to improve by much. For one, those already employed in the field don’t want to squander the security of a steady paycheck. Those who wanted to retire earlier often find themselves unable to do so. And, those who would never consider working in the criminal justice field are applying “to get a job” – often taking spots from those who truly are passionate about a true career in the field. The current economic climate has everything to do with the numbers you stated. This doesn’t happen everywhere, as some agencies are hiring, but it’s no “hiring boom” by any means.

  • Sara

    I´m a U.S. citizen married to a 38 year-old Spanish Police officer. We want to move back to the states and would like to know if there are possibilities for a 12-year veteran of the local police force in Spain in California. Thanks

    • Radek Gadek

      The citizenship of your husband would be the only thing stopping him from being considered. I am yet to see a police department, or any law enforcement agency in the US, forgoing the US Citizenship requirement. It’s a nationwide standard.

  • Tamas

    I’m currently trying to transfer to a university. However, I live in California where due to the financial difficulties it is harder and harder to get into local universities. Recently, I have started to search online and found some accredited state universities (not in California, but like in Arizona) offer BS degrees online. I think they could work well for me since even though I cannot get into a local university, I could still receive a BS degree in a timely manner. I could also keep my job while in school.

    My question is: Do police departments (federal agencies) generally accept these state university online degrees (not talking about National University, or Phoenix)?

    • Radek Gadek

      If it is a State university, like Arizona State University (ASU), for example, then it’s a YES. Make sure to find out that the school you pick is properly accredited. Seek regional accreditation when possible (ASU has it). And, to clarify, a diploma from a school like ASU will not say “online” on it. So there’s no worries about whether law enforcement agencies will accept it. Read what the school has to offer on their website or request further information when needed.

  • Gerardo

    Hi, I’m 19 years old and I’m a high school graduate. I will begin attending community college in september to obtain my associates degree in criminal justice after college would I still need to go to a police academy or does college train me and stuff?

    • Radek Gadek

      You would still need to get your training through the police academy or a State mandated law enforcement program.

  • Kate Taylor

    I would really like to become a police officer. I want to make a difference, and get drugs/criminals off the streets. My plan is to go to college with a major in Criminal Justice. Can I still be a police officer after I graduate college? Would I have to go into the academy? Do you think I would have a higher chance of getting the job of a police officer with a degree in criminal justice? As a woman I know ill have to prove myself. Besides a police officer what other career do you think would go great with what I want? Really appreciate it, thank you! :)

  • Karina

    Hi my name is Karina and I was wondering if knowing how to read and write 100% was a requirement

    • Radek Gadek

      Yes it is. Police officers are responsible for writing up reports whether it’s at a traffic stop or a crime scene. Both reading and writing are a crucial part of being a police officer.

  • Josh

    I am curious on a few things with becoming a LEO. First I have a misdemeanor on my record for a check that bounced, it was only for $100. Also my credit isn’t good, I have a few collections and some back child support on there. Would either of those pose a problem with me joining? Also I am looking at getting into a Security career and was wondering if that would help my chances at becoming a LEO. As of right now I am a CJ major, going for my Bachelors with a concentration in Forensics, and a Minor in Psychology. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  • Paul Cannon

    Hello I am an Irish/American but live in Ireland I am 18 years old and I have always wanted to become a cop preferably NYPD and ESU or SWAT. Can you guys tell me which way is better or can ye give me advice on a different way but better way. Firstly I would go to college for criminal justice get a degree then go to police academy but this is to expensive as I have to pay for college and accommodation. My brother just graduated from the USMC in Parris Island and this inspired me so I was thinking I could go through the marines and get a free education and a job, and do criminal justice there for the four years then become a cop but can you actually do criminal justice in the USMC do they teach it or what Law courses do they teach that can help me to become a cop?. Or what is the best way?. Any advice would be hugely beneficial.
    thank you

  • Mark

    I am 34 years old and have a B.S. in Organizational Leadership and a minor in Psychology. I have been a youth pastor for 13 years, and am now coming to an age where I am no longer as relevant to the teens as I used to be. I am at a crossroads here. Do I pursue my childhood dream of becoming a cop or do I strive to go up the ministry ladder. I realize that you can not answer that question for me, but you can answer if it would be worth my time and efforts to apply to an academy or if I should go directly to the departments. The department closest to me has an age limit of 38. Would it be advantageous to look into part time work first, or go all out? As I said before, I am at a crossroads here, and feel as if I just graduated college and am looking for a job. Thank you in advance for any information you can provide. I found this blog very interesting, and informative.

    • Radek Gadek

      Mark,

      I think you should apply. Most larger departments, including many county and state law enforcement agencies have academy style trainings. Smaller departments require you to get licensed on your own time and dime (not too expensive), but it makes you a desirable candidate because you’re already licensed. In terms of the latter, I would inquire with the department first about the requirements and WHEN they need to be obtained.

      You don’t have that many years to think about this, so I recommend you go all out for this — if that’s what you want to do. Consider that unless otherwise stated, many police departments want to know that you’re committed (able to work full-time) as they’ll be investing in your training and want to be sure they get their ROI.

      I wish you all the best.

  • Ruth Ann

    I’m not old enough to start the academy, but I would love to get a start on my background experience. Is there any kind of job available for a 19 year old who wants to become a police officer?

  • Nichole Robidoux

    I am 27 years old and just started going for my AAS In Criminal Justice. I am expected to graduate after 70 weeks of training and this includes the physical tests etc. When i graduate how long do you think that it will take me to land a job as a police officer and do you think there are gunna be more obstacles in my way after this?

  • monalisa

    Hi. I’m a senior in high school with good grades and lots of volunteering around the community. I’m in good shape and healthy, but naturally skinny/underweight. Will my physical figure ruin my chances of receiving my dream career in policing? Thanks.

  • TK

    I have prescription glasses. I am currently working towards my criminal justice degree. my question is will my prescription glasses keep me from getting a job through federal or state agencies?

  • Billy Dele

    I am 18 years old, I’ve always wanted to work in law enforcement ever since i was little its a dream career for me im currently going to community college and will get my bachelors in criminal justice. But when i turned 18 i was arrested on a minor possession charge will this make me ineligible for the force?

  • Kaleb

    Hi, I am 17 and have graduated High school early. I am currently studying for a A.A in Criminal Justice (and will return for a B.A). I am looking to work as a police officer. But I have a couple questions.

    First, I am looking at varying local PD’s and different jurisdictions (City PD, Sheriffs Deputy, State PD. Which would be the best? What are the Pros and Cons?

    Second, I am wondering if you have advice on trying to gain experience in the field in the time in-between now and when I can be hired as a Police Officer.

    Thanks,

  • Shayla

    I’m going to school for criminal justice than forensic science. I’m super nervous! Never pictured myself becoming an officer, but looks like that might be the route I have to take to get some background/experience.

  • claire

    Hi I am still at school, I am on my last year and if always wanted to become a police officer, I was wondering what all GCSE grades I would need, and what I should do after I leave school?

  • Logan

    I am looking to become a police officer, but I have smoked weed in my past when I was younger. I was a kid making bad decisions and I of course no longer smoke. I was wondering if this would rule me out of becoming a police officer. Thanks

    • Radek Gadek

      No — as long as it’s in the past.

  • Justin

    I lost half my ring finger in a work accident, will this not allow me to police academy? Once healed it shouldn’t affect the function of the hand for a law enforcement job

  • michelle

    ok so I am 23 years old and will graduate in may with my associates in criminal justice..only thing is 1. I’ve never had a job, 2. I’ve got a DUI and one misdemeanor conviction, and 3. I’ve dealt with substance abuse in the past..although these are disqualifiers I am determined to follow my dream into law enforcement despite my past mistakes. I have dealt with them, and over come them, but i am afraid all my hard work will be for nothing..what can I do to increase my chances of being hired??

  • Alfonso

    I want to become a police officer I’m 21 i have my high school diploma and I work as a security officer for about a year almost but i never gone to college and i wanted to know if i need to go to college to become a police officer?…………. If you could please tell em it would help me out a lot

  • alexa

    Hello,
    When my husband was 16, he had a charge filed against him of assault & battery from a family member. After a short amount of time passed after the incident he decided to join the Army. He proudly served our country in the war in Iraq. Upon returning, he planned on working his way to becoming an officer, he went to college and got his bachelors degree and began applying to several police departments. Finally, he heard back from Placentia PD and things looked promising as he made it through almost all of the hiring process until they ultimately disqualified him due to his charge as a minor of assault & battery. He was and still is very upset about it, to have that ripped out of his hands. He hired a lawyer and had the charge expunged from his record only to find that it does not completely disappear from your record. Since then, he has only been turned away from other departments. He can’t help but feel like his country failed him. Why would he be allowed to serve in the Army and risk his life but he can’t be an officer here? Doesn’t seem right. He is now 30. This happened when he was 16… Hoping you have some advice that can help somehow before its too late for him to get hired on anywhere…

    Alexa

    • C.T.S.G

      Military will normally accept most anyone within physical and mental requirements. Even those with a record. It is a way to get your life turned around even. However, a police officer is a member of the law. Most parts of the military are not. For example, a cop can arrest you, as far as a legal stand point is, unless instructed by a commanding officer (of the law) a soldier can not do such a thing. Police officers are to uphold the law, and have those employed by them to have upheld the law in all circumstances. Its just the fine lines of laws and employment. Before someone downs policing and upraises military, remember that police too put their lives on the line for our safety on a daily basis. Not even all military members so that. That job is for front line soldiers. Rather than feel like his country has failed him, your husband should feel blessed for the things in his life his country has allowed him to have. Although something happening that young can be tragic, he was trialed as an adult for the act or the even wouldn’t be on his record at all seeing as juvenile records are thrown away once a person hits the age of 18 (with exceptions in California). If the crime were not considered a serious violent crime and he was not trialed as an adult, this wouldn’t be his case. Since he was trialed as an adult, the court found him to be in complete, mature control of his actions, and that he knew what he did was wrong.

  • Cpruitt84

    Im 25 now and when i was 15 i was arrested for sale and possession of cannibus im wanting too know if this would affect me from getting accepted into the police academy?

  • Jessica

    Hi, I am 20 years old and am very interested in becoming a police officer. Though, my height is 5.1” will that be a problem? Thank you.

  • Lisa

    Hi,
    I’m in university right now studying for a 4-5 year degree.
    I am 18 years old.

    I am a female, 5″ (very short), and a minority in terms of race.
    Do you think I’d be able to become a police officer?
    My goal was always to work in homicide, but those dreams were basically crushed when I found out i have to become a police officer first. Realistically, can a 5″ tall girl become a police officer?

  • laura

    is it stupid to be a police officer if you are a single parent? family is worried I will die. possible, but c’mon.

    • Radek Gadek

      It’s not stupid. There are a lot of single parents who are in law enforcement. However, at least that much is true, your risk or injury or death increases significantly when you become a police officer. You are going to be exposed to risky and potentially life threatening situations on a daily basis.

  • brian

    i am a legal us resident and i would like to become a police officer, is it possible to become a police officer? or do i need to wait to become a us citizen?

    • Radek Gadek

      I don’t think so. At this point US Citizenship is required.

  • Micheal

    Is it possible to become a police officer if u graduated high school with special Ed classes?

  • Kathleen

    I have been trying to get into law enforcement for the last 2-2 1/2 yrs. I have passed fit tests and oral boards, but for some reason have been unable to land a position. I have come in 2nd, 3rd, and 8th. I have gotten to the background process and for some reason some agencies at that point reject me. I have had my background checked by a sheriff deputy back home who does those things and he said no red flags came up with just the general background part. I have no previous law enforcement experience other than a short stint in dispatch. I have my masters degree in criminal justice (previous degrees are in education), no military experience, and no family ties to law enforcement. I was just wondering what it is I am missing or what I can do to stand out more. I know it is hard being female to get into these positions especially since I am up against many men with GREAT fitness and military/previous law enforcement experience. While I am still applying and trying to start my long desired career in law enforcement i am getting very frustrated. Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!! Thank you!

  • Shane Paulo

    Hi I currently live in south Africa. I am in my final year of a degree in criminology and criminal justice. It is my dream to live and work in the United States. I plan to gain citizenship in the US and I understand majority of police departments only accept citizens as police offers, are you aware of any departments that accept green cards? If not what other jobs could I work in that doesn’t require citizenship but is in the field of law enforcement or corrections?
    Thanx

  • Rob

    I’ve got a couple of questions. First, I was charged with two DUI’s, one 10 years ago and one 7 years ago, but neither of them are convictions.

    I was also convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence 6 years ago. I found out that I can’t serve in the military unless I had my record expunged, but I wasn’t sure if expungement would help me qualify for a position in law enforcement.

    I’m also 31 years old. Actually, now that I’m typing this, it seems like a long shot that I could ever pursue a meaningful career in law enforcement. But, I have since built a reputation for serving my community, working hard, and have gotten an associates degree in sociology with the hopes of pursuing a degree in criminal justice. I live in Oklahoma if that helps anything.

    What do you think? Should I change my major? LOL…

    • Radek Gadek

      The misdemeanor domestic violence may be a road block for you. Please contact the police department you want to work at to find out how they deal with it (sometimes they may have info on their website). Even though it’s expunged, law enforcement agencies may be able to find the particular instance of your arrest and even all of the details. This doesn’t mean you don’t stand a chance, it just means “it depends.”

      I talked with LEOs and their answers ranged from:

      • No, it won’t cause much trouble as long as he’s honest, to
      • I don’t know how they do it now. The laws have changed, to
      • Yes, they can dig deep if they want to and they will find everything

      Most officers are from different states, and the ones that aren’t work in different regions and jurisdictions.

      When you fill out an application, make sure to be honest. There may be questions like “have you ever been arrested” or “have you had your record expunged.” It all depends on where it is that you’re applying to. Will the background investigator dig deep?

      If this is going to pose a lot of hurdles for you to overcome, I would definitely switch my major. Saying that, I would only do that if I gave it a try first; being 100% sure that this issue is going to be a problem after all.

  • Jillian

    I am a 30 year-old single mother with a bachelors in criminal justice. I do not have anyone to keep my toddler in order for me to “live” at the academy for 12 weeks. Is there any leniency with people in my situation about actuality having to reside at the academy while attending?

  • Brent

    I wanted to join the police department in Detroit, but as I was going through the requirements, it says that I have to have 20/20 or corrected 20/20 vision. I don’t have either. I went to the optometrist and he said that in order to have 20/20 I would have to go through lasik eye surgery multiple times. Isn’t there some kind of leniency with guys who don’t see as well? Should I not even fill out an application?

  • Lagacie

    My fiance’ wants to be a probation officer but he has tattoos on his arms and hands. Does this automatically disqualify him? Who should I call to check?

  • Arlene

    Hi my name is Arlene, i’m 16 years old, have not completed year 12 but have completed half year 11. i am looking into becoming a police officer but am quite stuck on the requirements as a lot of states are different. I live in QLD, is their anything i could possibly study to help? Justice? criminology?
    What would you suggest. I plan to one day be high up in the force but need a little direction.
    Thank you.

  • april

    Question…I made a mistake on my detention deputy recruit application i sent the officer that called stating they were interested in me an email i didn’t realize the mistake or error until i reviewed my app it asked have you ever used marijuana i answered yes but the print out i have of my app has no selected what should i do?

  • Jacob Federer

    Hi, my name is Jacob and I have been interested in a form of law enforcement for a while. I am still undecided and currently in college. Recently I have been extremely interested in becoming a game warden but everything I read does not give a clear answer as to how to become a game warden, and I was curious as to if you know the best way to apply as a game warden. Thank you , and I hope to hear something back soon.

  • Alex Hernandez

    I am a 18 yr old student majoring in both psychology & criminal justice and I also play football at the university and I was wondering what I could do when I come back home from college during winter break and summer break? I would really appreciate it someone could guide me towards the right direction to becoming a police officer.

  • Chris

    Hey, I want to apply for a position for a Evidence Technician. I must take a polygraph test, and there are two questions that concern me have you ever committed a undetectable crime even a misdemeanor. 33 years ago or more I bought a few bags of pot and smoked pot for two years and bought 3 Qualudes, Another question is have you ever did drugs and I have over 33 years ago or so. Can I still get in trouble for this since I lived in the same county 33 years ago that I am applying for the job. Thanks

  • John

    I am 34 years old and I currently have 2 jobs. One is an office job, I am the director of my department, the other is a small remodeling company that I run locally. I have a wife and 3 kids with a 4th child on the way. My wife doesn’t work she stays at home with the kids. I have been thinking about becoming a police officer for the past few years. I think I would love it as a career I am also interested in the retirement and insurance benefits. Both of my jobs do not offer a retirement plan (aside from social security) or insurance. My current income is of about 80k gross. However, the way I see it no real hopes for the future unless I put aside about 2k per month for insurance and some sort of retirement plan and I am always concerned about one of the kids getting hurt and not having a decent insurance possibilities. In the long run, would a change of career be bad for me ?

  • Kimberly Hill-Harrison

    I received a DUI in GA when I was 19 years of age. GA no longer expunges DUI’s, and is considered a Class A misdemeanor. I am 42 years of age now. Will this prevent me from being eligible to apply for an officer or and or prevent me from becoming an Department of Defense employee in the Criminal Justice Department?

    • Kimberly Hill-Harrison

      I received a DUI back in 1990 in the state of GA. when I was 19 years old. I have never been in trouble with the law since then & have earned my Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. Will my DUI cause me not to be hired? I’m 42 years of age now, and have worked in my field now for years. GA does not expunge and the DUI is a Class A Misdemeanor in GA, meanwhile in TX, a DUI is considered a Class B Misdemeanor. Please advise.

  • Brian Valencia

    Hey Radek,

    First & foremost, I’d like to thank you for helping to better inform us people who are interested in criminal justice careers. Next I was wondering if you could answer a question I had. If I have an A.A, A.S, B.S, or B.A in adminstration of Justice, then attend a police academy, will that be sufficient to be hired by a police department or will I need experience? Thanks.

  • Mary Jo

    My boyfriend wants to be a police officer. I want us to go to couples therapy. He says if we do he will lose points when he applies for a police position. Is this true. Does he have to report that he went to couples therapy? Will it hurt his chances of becoming a police officer? Thanks

  • Lavassel

    I want to be a police officer. But im only 5ft tall. Can I still be a police officer?

    • ronnie

      I just turned 18 this year in april and i was arrested 3 times before turning 18. I was arrested each time for domestic violence. On one of the cases i was also arrested for resisting arrest and battery on a peace officer. Each case was dropped except for the resisting arreat and battery on a peace officer i was put on probation for those two. I am goin to be getting off probation soon and i was thinking about joining the police force after i graduated this year. Will i be able to join or will i be denied?

  • anthony

    Hey im 19 yrs old and i want to join the police academy an become a police officer But im not going college, i just want to go straight in the academy. After i get my license what should be my next step .

  • Ashley Rodriguez

    My brother had a criminal mischief charge when he was a minor, can he still attend the police academy?

  • Oliver Queens

    Hello I’m interested in becoming a police officer in Detroit, Michigan, I’m currently in college for criminal justice, but i have a felony for larceny, would this deny my goals of becoming an officer?

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