The Training and Education Required to Become a Police Officer


The job of a police officer is far from easy. In fact, it is one of the most physically, psychologically and emotionally demanding professions. It involves dealing with people from all walks of life, in both simple and complex circumstances, and in a wide variety of different environments. This article provides an overview of the training and education required to become a police officer.

Those who are interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement should educate themselves on the demands of pursuing such a career. It is wise to understand the requirements for education (both previous and continuing) and the types of training required to become a police officer. Following is an overview of the general requirements:

Basic Requirements to Become a Police Officer

Although requirements will vary from state to state, and even from department to department, there is a certain set of basic criteria that every individual must have to be a police officer, such as:

  • Must be a citizen of the country
  • Must be over 21 years of age
  • Must have a valid driver’s license
  • Must have a High School diploma or an equivalent general education diploma (GED) score or education
  • Must not have any prior criminal convictions

If you satisfy the basic requirements, you can set out to pursue a career in law enforcement. If not, it is best to identify another career path. Prior to applying to a law enforcement agency, there are a number of things you can do to strengthen your resume to improve the odds of landing a job.  Here are some helpful tips.

  • Take courses in criminal justice or criminology (to improve your chance, complete a two-year or four year degree program)
  • Study a foreign language (this will help you communicate with a diverse community)
  • Take a class in psychology
  • Take a class in public relations
  • Practice good communication skills, possibly taking a Toastmaster’s course

The Police Training Academy

Once you have been accepted by a law enforcement agency, you will be enrolled into a police academy. The course normally lasts for about twelve to twenty months and will include classroom work, learning in simulated environments and on-the-job training. At the academy, you will be taught the many laws, ordinances and codes that you will be required to enforce as an officer in addition to undergoing specialized physical education. The physical aspect involves instruction on firearms and weapons, how to operate various vehicles, hand-to-hand combat and defensive tactics which include use of lethal and non-lethal force and much more. Some of the additional training sections include:

  • Communicating with dispatch and other officers
  • Search methods and how to conduct a search safely
  • Techniques involved with apprehending and arresting a suspect
  • How to handcuff suspects
  • Self defense tactics, how and when to use them
  • How to properly and legally read Miranda Rights

In addition to attending classroom-style lectures and learning the laws involved in police work, cadets will be trained on effective and essential methods required on duty as a cop.

Firearm Instruction

Cadets will be taught how to use their weapon safely, work on marksmanship and how to care for, carry, store and maintain their weapon. New recruits are also taken through tactical firing and marksmanship exercises.

Physical Fitness Programs

The job of a police officer is physically demanding and requires officers to be in top physical condition. During various courses at the academy, cadets are taken through rigorous workouts. Recruits are also educated on the importance of good nutrition and the benefits of health and wellness. A daily work regimen, physical training involves running exercises, push-ups, sit-ups and stretching to increase in overall flexibility.

Recruits may participate in role playing scenarios that might require the safe and unharmed capture of a suspect. Other aspects such as practice arrest and booking procedures, firing paint or blank bullets, and other patrol procedures are rehearsed.

The recruits also receive education in first aid measures and CPR.

Emergency Vehicle Operation

In this section students are familiarized with skills and techniques required to drive various law enforcement vehicles in diverse terrains and high-pressure situations. Recruits also learn how to tow and trailer vehicles for use in a variety of traffic situations. 

Trainees that excel in particular areas are sometimes are called on to carry out more specialized tasks and be part of elite units (such as SWAT, snipers, etc.), based on their knowledge and unique skill set.

Additional Resources

Following is information on police training, seminars and conferences, training and continuing education resources. Whether you are currently working as a cop, or simply interested in pursuing a career, these resources will help you understand the type of opportunities available to obtain or improve your skills.

Many private detectives have prior experience as a cop and thus have knowledge of the processes and procedures used in the field. Obtaining professional development in such areas is beneficial to private eyes and will help you build your resume and offer more services to your clients.

  • Federal Law Enforcement Training Center – The FLETC serves as an interagency law enforcement education organization for more than 80 Federal agencies. Provides services to state, local, and international agencies.
  • – Provides information about seminars, conferences, continuing education and industry events.
  • – Probably the best website you’ll find on this topic. Provide an extensive amount of information including articles, equipment, networking opportunities and more.
  • Police Agency Training Council – The largest privately held law enforcement skills improvement company in the nation offering a curriculum of over one hundred topics of academy quality education programs throughout the United States by open registration, in service and co-hosted programs. Public Agency Training Council instructors bring years of hands on experience in their area of expertise and instructional fields.

If you have any questions about the training and education required to become a police officer, please post a comment below.


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