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Steps to Becoming a Police Officer:
- Meet the Minimum Requirements
All law enforcement officers are required to be a citizen of the United States, hold a high school diploma or its recognized equivalent (GED), and have a clean criminal record at any level: local, state and federal. You should be at least 21 years old at the time of your application for employment.
- Complete an Undergraduate Degree (Optional)
While positions exist for those who choose a general path, those who have a specific career goal in mind should be aware of more extensive requirements. For instance, those who want to work in federal law enforcement must have at least at bachelors degree as well as three years of related work experience. A two-year associate degree in criminal justice or law enforcement can move you up in the hiring line for non-federal jobs. Military experience or fluency in a foreign language can also help, especially if working where a language other than English is spoken commonly.
- Pass the Law Enforcement Entrance Exam
The ASSET or COMPASS test is a common official entrance exam required by many law enforcement organizations. Your exam scores will be ranked as the agency qualifies candidates for entry to their academy. The prospective employer may also conduct a background investigation, physical aptitude test, oral board interview, polygraph and/or medical exam as part of the screening process.
- Complete Academy Training
Upon hiring, youll be assigned to basic training at a law enforcement academy operated by city, regional, state or federal law enforcement agencies before youre allowed to work in the field. Youll study subjects like policing tactics, constitutional law, ethics, crime scene documentation and proper use and care of firearms.
- Advance Your Career
Law enforcement agencies have well-documented, standardized procedures for moving up in rank. Once your probation period is over, you can begin to accrue hours and study to take promotion exams. Test scores and police performance are ways that organizations rank candidates for advancement. For those who work in federal jobs, earning an graduate degree can boost promotion opportunities.
I hope this helps in getting you started!