What Qualifications Do I Need to Be a Policeman?

Working as a police officer is a job that is both physically and mentally demanding. The specific qualifications vary by the type of law enforcement agency (federal, state or city), but in general, the requirements of an applicant to this government job are similar.

Officers make a median wage of £33,416, and the job outlook for this career is "average," according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (information as of 2008).


To become a police officer, you need a high school diploma or equivalent. In most cases, you need a college degree (two- or four-year) or at least some college credits to be considered for a career in law enforcement. Officials want to know that you have the smarts to decipher and reason through difficult situations.

Clean Background

To work as a police officer, you need to have a clean background. You cannot have a felony on record or a similar serious offence that would cause officials to question your character. Drug testing is required, and if a hard drug is found in your system, that probably would disqualify you. In most cases, you also must take and pass a polygraph (lie detector) test before acceptance into a police academy.

Physical Fitness

Because of the stressful physical requirements of working as a police officer (you have to be on your feet a lot, jump fences, and run when necessary), you must pass a physical fitness and medical examination. You must prove that you have the strength, endurance and health for success in this very demanding position. The medical examination also includes a vision test, and 20/20 vision is commonly required of police officers, who must keep a close eye on their surroundings. In most cases, the candidate can have vision that is "correctable" to 20/20, meaning that glasses, contact lenses and eye surgery are acceptable.

Entry Tests

Police departments require applicants to take and pass a rigorous series of knowledge tests. These tests seek to discover the applicant's knowledge of common police procedures and the law. The tests may include both oral and written parts.


If accepted, applicants must attend a police academy and go through an arduous training period, which commonly lasts up to 14 weeks. The training combines classroom experience with hands-on training in a number of areas including self-defence, use of weapons, and the proper way to respond to emergencies.