What qualifications do you need to join the police force?

Updated March 23, 2017

Society depends on the courage, bravery and skill of police officers to help protect us from society's dangerous elements and to help enforce the law. Daily activities, including patrol work and accident investigations, require police officers to have appropriate education and training to perform the work appropriately and within legal requirements.


Applicants should obtain a high school diploma or equivalent, such as a GED. Some postsecondary education is required in certain police departments. Employment with a federal agency, such as the F.B.I., requires a college degree. Also, knowledge of a foreign language can be helpful when applying to urban police departments or federal agencies.


State and local police departments train recruits in their police academy for about 12 to 14 weeks. Instruction covers constitutional law, civil rights and accident investigation. Training encompasses patrol work, traffic stops, firearms, self-defence tactics, first aid and emergency procedures. The physically fit are at an advantage, because agility and stamina are tested during the academy.

Prospective officers under the minimum age of 21 can join police officer cadet programs offered in larger police agencies. While performing administrative tasks, cadets can gain valuable knowledge that will help prepare them for the force.

Additional Qualifications

Candidates must be U.S. citizens and meet physical and background standards. Tests for vision, hearing, agility and strength will be completed before employment. Appointment to the force is based upon a combination of experience, education and test performance, including a written examination.

Police officers should have the ability to work well with everyone, be honest, of sound judgment, calm under pressure and always act with integrity. Obviously, a background investigation must reveal no criminal history. Some police agencies will first require a personality test, lie detector exam and drug testing.

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About the Author

Nicole Long is a freelance writer based in Cincinnati, Ohio. With experience in management and customer service, business is a primary focus of her writing. Long also has education and experience in the fields of sports medicine, first aid and coaching. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from the University of Cincinnati.