What is a Police Officer

Whoop, whoop. That's the sound of the police. Oh, wait. It's just you. Being a police officer isn't easy. You'll go through so many emotions, all in one shift. From feeling fulfilled to depressed and even satisfied, there's no telling what your day will bring you. But, there's one thing that will never change. Doughnuts will always be there for you.

That's another thing. You'll probably get sick of the doughnut jokes. But that's part of the job, so you'll have to learn to cope with it. Maybe lean into the skid. Even though sometimes you'll want to yell at the person for making such a joke because you're super tired.

Why are you super tired? Oh, that's because you'll be working some pretty crazy hours. Maybe you'll take a couple overnight shifts. Or maybe you'll have a weekend shift. Either way, criminals don't just stop because the moon comes out. So that means you don't either.

What Does a Police Officer Do

Police officers protect lives and property. Detectives and criminal investigators, who are sometimes called agents or special agents, gather facts and collect evidence of possible crimes.

Learn more about what a Police Officer does

How To Become a Police Officer

Education requirements range from a high school diploma to a college degree. Most police and detectives must graduate from their agency’s training academy before completing a period of on-the-job training. Candidates must be U.S. citizens, usually at least 21 years old, and able to meet rigorous physical and personal qualification standards. A felony conviction or drug use may disqualify a candidate.

Education

Police and detective applicants must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent, although many federal agencies and some police departments require some college coursework or a college degree. Many community colleges, 4-year colleges, and universities offer programs in law enforcement and criminal justice, and agencies may offer financial assistance to officers who pursue these, or related, degrees. Knowledge of a foreign language is an asset in many federal agencies and geographical regions.

Fish and game wardens applying for federal jobs with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service typically need a college degree; and those applying to work for a state’s natural resources department often need a high school diploma or some college study in a related field, such as biology or natural resources management.

Federal agencies typically require a bachelor's degree. For example, FBI and DEA special agent applicants are often college graduates.

State and local agencies encourage applicants to continue their education after high school, by taking courses and training related to law enforcement. Many applicants for entry-level police jobs have taken some college classes, and a significant number are college graduates. Many community colleges, 4-year colleges, and universities offer programs in law enforcement and criminal justice. Many agencies offer financial assistance to officers who pursue these or related degrees.

Training

Candidates for appointment usually attend a training academy before becoming an officer. Training includes classroom instruction in state and local laws and constitutional law, civil rights, and police ethics. Recruits also receive training and supervised experience in areas such as patrol, traffic control, firearm use, self-defense, first aid, and emergency response.

Federal law enforcement agents undergo extensive training, usually at the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, or at a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Detectives normally begin their careers as police officers before being promoted to detective.

FBI special agent applicants typically must have at least 3 years of professional work experience in areas ranging from computer science to accounting.

Other Experience

Some police departments have cadet programs for people interested in a career in law enforcement who do not yet meet age requirements for becoming an officer. These cadets do clerical work and attend classes until they reach the minimum age requirement and can apply for a position with the regular force. Military or police experience may be considered beneficial for potential cadets.

Cadet candidates must be U.S. citizens, usually be at least 21 years old, have a driver’s license, and meet specific physical qualifications. Applicants may have to pass physical exams of vision, hearing, strength, and agility, as well as written exams. Previous work or military experience is often seen as a plus. Candidates typically go through a series of interviews and may be asked to take lie detector and drug tests. A felony conviction may disqualify a candidate.

Advancement

Police officers usually become eligible for promotion after a probationary period. Promotions to corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, and captain usually are made according to a candidate's position on a promotion list, as determined by scores on a written examination and on-the-job performance. In large departments, promotion may enable an officer to become a detective or to specialize in one type of police work, such as working with juveniles.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Police, detectives, and fish and game wardens must be able to speak with people when gathering facts about a crime and to express details about a given incident in writing.

Empathy. Police officers need to understand the perspectives of a wide variety of people in their jurisdiction and have a willingness to help the public.

Good judgment. Police and detectives must be able to determine the best way to solve a wide array of problems quickly.

Leadership skills. Police officers must be comfortable with being a highly visible member of their community, as the public looks to them for assistance in emergency situations.

Perceptiveness. Officers, detectives, and fish and game wardens must be able to anticipate a person’s reactions and understand why people act a certain way.

Physical stamina. Officers and detectives must be in good physical shape, both to pass required tests for entry into the field, and to keep up with the daily rigors of the job.

Physical strength. Police officers must be strong enough to physically apprehend offenders.

What is the right job for my career path?

Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the right jobs to get there.

And if you’re looking for a job, here are the five top employers hiring now:

  1. City of Atlanta, GA Jobs (61)
  2. Police Department Jobs (121)
  3. City of Tucson Jobs (73)
  4. The Philadelphia Housing Authority Jobs (134)
  5. Richmond County Jobs (84)
Average Salary
$48,353
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
5%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
60,726
Job Openings
resume document icon

Don't Have A Professional Resume?

0 selections

Police Officer Career Paths

Top Careers Before Police Officer

Top Careers After Police Officer

Police Officer Jobs You Might Like

What is the right job for my career path?

Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the rights job to get there.

Average Salary for a Police Officer

Police Officers in America make an average salary of $48,353 per year or $23 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $65,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $35,000 per year.
Average Salary
$48,353
Find Your Salary Estimate
How much should you be earning as an Police Officer? Use Zippia's Salary Calculator to get an estimation of how much you should be earning.
See More Salary Information

Calculate your salary

Use Zippia's Salary Calculator to see how your pay matches up.

12 Police Officer Resume Examples

Learn How To Write a Police Officer Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Police Officer resumes and compiled some information about how to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Police Officer Resume Examples And Templates

And if you’re looking for a job, here are the five top employers hiring now:

  1. City of Atlanta, GA Jobs (61)
  2. Police Department Jobs (121)
  3. City of Tucson Jobs (73)
  4. The Philadelphia Housing Authority Jobs (134)
  5. Richmond County Jobs (84)

Choose From 10+ Customizable Police Officer Resume templates

Zippia allows you to choose from different easy-to-use Police Officer templates, and provides you with expert advice. Using the templates, you can rest assured that the structure and format of your Police Officer resume is top notch. Choose a template with the colors, fonts & text sizes that are appropriate for your industry.

Police Officer Resume
Police Officer Resume
Police Officer Resume
Police Officer Resume
Police Officer Resume
Police Officer Resume
Police Officer Resume
Police Officer Resume
Police Officer Resume
Police Officer Resume
Police Officer Resume
Police Officer Resume
Police Officer Resume
Police Officer Resume
Police Officer Resume
Police Officer Resume

Police Officer Demographics

Police Officer Gender Statistics

male

83.2 %

female

16.8 %

Police Officer Ethnicity Statistics

White

64.9 %

Hispanic or Latino

16.8 %

Black or African American

12.1 %

Police Officer Foreign Languages Spoken Statistics

Spanish

70.5 %

French

4.8 %

Arabic

3.3 %
Job Openings

Find the best Police Officer job for you

0 selections
0 selections

Police Officer Jobs You Might Like

Police Officer Education

Police Officer Majors

Police Officer Degrees

Bachelors

48.5 %

Associate

26.5 %

High School Diploma

10.7 %

Top Colleges for Police Officers

1. Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
$18,454
Enrollment
40,108

2. Michigan State University

East Lansing, MI • Private

In-State Tuition
$14,460
Enrollment
39,208

3. California State University - Bakersfield

Bakersfield, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$7,309
Enrollment
9,142

4. University of New Haven

West Haven, CT • Private

In-State Tuition
$39,270
Enrollment
5,041

5. California State University - Long Beach

Long Beach, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$6,798
Enrollment
31,503

6. Northeastern University

Boston, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,522
Enrollment
13,760

7. University of Maryland - College Park

College Park, MD • Private

In-State Tuition
$10,595
Enrollment
30,184

8. North Carolina State University

Raleigh, NC • Private

In-State Tuition
$9,101
Enrollment
23,708

9. University of Connecticut

Storrs, CT • Private

In-State Tuition
$15,730
Enrollment
18,830

10. University of Washington

Seattle, WA • Private

In-State Tuition
$11,207
Enrollment
30,905
Job Openings

Find the best Police Officer job for you

0 selections
0 selections

Police Officer Jobs You Might Like

Online Courses For Police Officer That You May Like

Criminal Law in 120 Minutes: A Fast Track Course
udemy
4.8
(289)

A 2 hour fast track summary of Criminal Law, targeting all common law LL.B examinations!...

Hot Topics in Criminal Justice
coursera

The American criminal justice system is in need of reform. We incarcerate too many people. We pay insufficient attention to scientific advances that can help separate out the most and least culpable and dangerous. We grant the police far too much power to use force and technological surveillance. As a way of thinking about dealing with these problems, this course examines two over-arching issues: What should we do with people who have committed crime, and how should we identify who they are? On...

Introduction to International Criminal Law
coursera

About the Course - From the Nuremberg trial to the case against Saddam Hussein, from the prosecution of Al-Qaeda terrorists to the trial of Somali pirates - no area of law is as important to world peace and security as international criminal law. Taught by one of the world's leading experts in the field, this course will educate students about the fundamentals of international criminal law and policy. We will explore the contours of international crimes such as genocide, war crimes, terrorism, a...

Show More Police Officer Courses
Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Top Skills For a Police Officer

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 9.1% of Police Officers listed Police Department on their resume, but soft skills such as Communication skills and Empathy are important as well.

Best States For a Police Officer

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a Police Officer. The best states for people in this position are Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California. Police Officers make the most in Alaska with an average salary of $72,883. Whereas in Washington and Oregon, they would average $72,085 and $64,664, respectively. While Police Officers would only make an average of $61,824 in California, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. California

Total Police Officer Jobs:
5,849
Highest 10% Earn:
$85,000
Location Quotient:
1.29
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Washington

Total Police Officer Jobs:
1,131
Highest 10% Earn:
$82,000
Location Quotient:
1
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Oregon

Total Police Officer Jobs:
631
Highest 10% Earn:
$76,000
Location Quotient:
0.98
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
Full List Of Best States For Police Officers

How Do Police Officer Rate Their Jobs?

Working as a Police Officer? Share your experience anonymously.
Do you work as a Police Officer?
Rate how you like work as Police Officer. It's anonymous and will only take a minute.

Top Police Officer Employers

Police Officer Videos

Becoming a Police Officer FAQs

How long does it take to become a Police Officer?

It takes 4 years of professional experience to become a police officer. That is the time it takes to learn specific police officer skills, but does not account for time spent in formal education. If you include the normal education requirements to complete a college degree, then it takes 7 to 9 years years to become a police officer.

Learn more about this question

Search For Police Officer Jobs

0 selections
0 selections