How to Become an Undercover Cop

Written by jared lewis
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How to Become an Undercover Cop
Undercover cops wear plain clothes and make arrests whenever necessary. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Undercover cops play an important role in law enforcement. Undercover cops are plain-clothes cops who investigate crimes by disguising their identity to gain access to information or individuals associated with a case. Becoming an undercover cop requires nerves of steel and a little bit of acting ability also. Undercover detectives, like other detectives, typically earn their position after several years of proven ability with the police force. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for police officers is expected to remain steady from 2008 to 2018.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Earn your high school diploma or GED. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that a high school education is the minimum qualification to work as any type of police officer. Taking additional courses in communication can be helpful in this line of work.

  2. 2

    Complete two years of college or an associate degree. Not all law enforcement agencies will require you to have a degree or even college classes, but in cities where undercover police work is fairly common, it is typical to need an associate degree to get a job. You can pursue a degree in criminology, criminal justice, psychology, forensics or even some other field so long as you take some courses related to police work and those that involve investigation and research.

  3. 3

    Apply for positions with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Submit as many applications as possible to ensure that you get hired. Applying to a law enforcement agency is usually a fairly lengthy process. Once your application has been reviewed you will likely be contacted to take a written aptitude test and a physical fitness test. Once you have passed these, you typically will have to pass a medical examination, psychological evaluation and an extensive background check.

  4. 4

    Complete police academy training. Much of your initial training to become an undercover cop begins with a 12-week or longer training period. During this time you will likely train at a facility designated for police training where you will learn firearms control, self-defence, law and policy and procedures.

  5. 5

    Gain on-the-job experience by serving as a patrol officer. Most undercover detectives will have to learn the ins and outs of the streets before they can advance to an undercover position. Additionally, most serve as patrolmen before they advance to become detectives. The time needed to do this can vary, but it can take as many as five or more years to even receive consideration for such positions.

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