We’ve seen many portrayals in film and TV, but what is it really like to be a cop or police officer? For starters, the work is incredibly exciting and rewarding. And for all the inherent dangers, there are also large benefits, including pay and job security. There’s also the fact that no two days are alike, and you spend your time keeping your community safe.

You also have a lot of opportunities to diversify your job tasks. For instance, you may start out as a patrol officer and discover it doesn’t hold your interest. No problem, you can see about transferring into investigations or becoming a K-9 officer.

If you are someone with unique skills who is motivated to make a positive difference in people’s lives, then a career in law enforcement may be for you.

Career Description

Police officers play an important role in their communities. Because they carry big responsibilities in protecting lives and property, they are required to go through rigorous training at the police academy.

To become a police officer requires an individual to possess physical and mental strength to help them deal with stressful and dangerous situations on a regular basis. In fact, police officers tend to have one of the highest rates of illness and injury related to occupation.

On a day-to-day basis, police officers enforce local, state and federal laws within their personal jurisdiction. These law enforcement officers are on the front line of defense against criminal activities and are in charge of protecting the public.

Responsibilities of police officers include:

  • Preventing criminal activity
  • Investigating crimes
  • Assisting in the apprehension and conviction of criminal offenders
  • Public safety
  • First response to motor vehicle accidents and medical emergencies
  • Public relations
  • Enforcement of criminal statutes
  • Enforce traffic laws
  • Conduct safety inspections on roads and highways
  • Court case preparation and presentation

Beyond these common duties, police officers often provide public service and safety through school education programs, citizen police academies, and other programs that are designed to help local citizens be more involved in the prevention of crime.

Once a police cadet finishes training, he or she will begin working for a department, specializing in a particular area such as fingerprinting or chemical training. Some may work as officers on college campuses. Rookie cops generally must work their way up the ranks from patrol officer to the more coveted positions such as homicide detective.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay in 2018 for police officers was $63, 380. The BLS also estimates that the employment of police officers and detective is projected to grow 5% from 2018 to 2028, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. Although demand for officers may vary by location, in general, the continued need for public safety is expected to lead to new job opportunities.

>> Read more about what a career in law can offer you.

The Path to Becoming a Police Officer

If you’re ready to embark on one of the most exciting and rewarding careers, here are the steps you’ll need to take:

Step 1: Obtain the Necessary Education

A high school diploma or GED is typically the minimum level of education required to become a police officer. College degrees, such as a bachelor’s degree, are recommended though since it will most likely appeal to prospective employers and set you apart from other candidates. Consider obtaining a bachelor’s degree in criminology, police science, public administration, homeland security or criminal justice, especially if your goal is to work your way up to detective.

Regardless of which major you choose, be sure to see how OnlineDegree.com could help you as well.  You can take free courses toward your degree and utilize tuition discounts we’ve organized at universities across the country…we provide all of this for free as part of our mission to make college a reality for everyone.

Step 2. (optional) Take Foreign Language Courses

Police officers are regularly required to work with people from various cultures and backgrounds, including individuals who don’t speak English. A proficiency in a foreign language like Spanish is a skill that will get you noticed.

Step 3. Apply to Become a Police Officer

Once you have obtained your degree, you’ll need to apply to your local police department. Once accepted, you will be placed into a pool of eligible candidates for future officer opening. If there are current openings, you may be lucky enough to be moved right into a training program.

You’ll also need to pass required tests to become an officer, such as drug, fitness and lie detector tests, along with a civil service test that ensures you have the qualities needed to become a professional in the field.

Step 4. Graduate from Academy Training Program

Once accepted into training, you’ll spend anywhere from 12-14 weeks in an intensive program. Coursework will cover the law and civil rights as well as proper police protocols and responses to myriad situations. You’ll also learn self-defense and proper firearm usage.

Step 5. (recommended) Continue with Higher Education

If your ultimate goal is to move up the ranks to captain or sergeant, you will face a lot of competition. Continued education in law enforcement will help an officer obtain desired promotions.

Getting Started on Your Dream Career

With the first step being obtaining a bachelor’s degree, here are a few additional resources to check out to get started on your path to becoming a police officer:

  • Why Online Education Might Be Best- If you’re like a lot of working adults, you don’t have a lot of free time or extra money to put toward your higher education. An online degree offers flexible scheduling for adult students who have other work/life commitments. This means, even if you’re a parent that also works full-time, an online program can work around your schedule to help you reach your dream career.
  • Salary and Other Data on Law Enforcement
  • How OnlineDegree.com Can Help- To make college a reality for everyone, we provide free courses that could apply toward your degree, tuition discounts at universities across the country, and much needed guidance.  All free.

If you’re ready to get started toward becoming a police officer, enroll with us today!