What Qualifications Are Needed to Become a Police Officer in England?

Updated July 20, 2017

You don’t need academic qualifications to join the English police, but you do have to meet certain standards of literacy, fitness and health. You also have to show that you have the right to live and work in Britain. The British Government’s Home Office has established binding guidelines regarding qualifications for the 38 area-based police forces in England.

Age Limits

You must be at least 18 years old to join the police in England. There is no official upper age limit for applicants, but the retirement age is fixed at 60, so your application is unlikely to succeed if you are much over the age of 55.


Applicants must pass two tests to prove that they have an acceptable fitness level. The endurance test involves running back and forth along a 15-meter track at increasing speeds for over three minutes. The dynamic strength test consists of measured exercises on a fixed-weights machine. Candidates who fail the fitness test can retake it up to a maximum of three times.

Candidates also must undergo a basic medical assessment, which includes eyesight and hearing tests, along with blood pressure and weight checks.


All candidates must pass the police initial recruitment test. The exact form of the test varies among police forces, but it includes written tests that assess math ability, literacy and problem-solving abilities.


You don’t have to be a British citizen to join the police. Residents of any nation can apply as long as they are legally allowed to stay in Britain indefinitely. However, they must have resided in the UK for at least the three years immediately prior to the application process.

Criminal Record

Candidates who have minor criminal convictions for such violations as driving offences can join the police. However, those who have committed serious offences, especially relating to violence, firearms or drugs, are ineligible.

Financial Status

Applicants who have court orders against them for debts and those who have been declared bankrupt are ineligible.


Tattoos must not be offensive, no matter where they are located, and may not appear on the neck or face.

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About the Author

Ken Macdonald lives in London and has been a freelance editor and writer since 1999. He has written on topics including travel, food and gardening for UKTV, Expedia and “The Guardian” website. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English studies from Stirling University in Scotland.