Joseph Libowsky,
former Special Agent

Starting a job as a law enforcement officer is often a much-desired career path by people at different ages. Quite often, however, prospective candidates are hesitant as to whether they should apply at all and one of the most common questions that comes to their mind is “Am I too old to go into law enforcement?” If you do a bit of research, you will find out that in most of the cases the answer is “No!” 

There are many who begin a law enforcement career later in life and often as a second career. Those candidates have a lot to offer in terms of life experience and many agencies put a lot of value in that. 

You can start browsing the law enforcement job openings and looking for the best option for you, while keeping in mind the following requirements.  

Maximum Age Requirement 

Each state sets the requirements to be a police officer in their state, and this is referred to as the Peace Officer Standards and Training requirements, or P.O.S.T requirements. Some states, not all, include a maximum age that someone can begin work as a police officer. You can determine if you state has a maximum age by checking the requirements to be a police officer in your state. Often there are exceptions to the age which may include prior military service and changing jobs from one law enforcement agency to another.   

Individual agencies may then set their own minimum requirements which may include a maximum age. Their minimum age requirements must meet or exceed those of the state. As an example, the POST minimum requirements in New Jersey have a maximum age of 35. However, individual agencies in New Jersey could set their own maximum age as long as it is less than 35.  

Often applicants believe that this maximum age is related to someone’s physical ability to perform the tasks of a police officer. However, with many agencies the maximum age is related to their retirement system. If an agency has a requirement that officers retire by the time they are 57, then in order to have a full 20 years in to qualify for complete retirement benefits, they must begin by the time they are 37. 

There are many states that do not have a maximum age requirement, and many departments in those states do not have such requirements as well. If you are an older applicant, it is recommended to check the minimum POST requirements for your state, then check with the requirements for individual departments you are interested in working for. 

The most important thing to keep in mind is that your age may actually be your competitive advantage over the other applicants. It depends entirely on your performance in the different parts of the hiring process, such as the physical ability test or the oral interview, to prove it.   

Finding the Right Department 

Many agencies value the life experience of older applicants and encourage non-traditional applicants to apply. However, this appreciation for life experience does not apply to all departments. When you are considering applying for a law enforcement position and you are an older applicant, it is a good idea to get a sense of which agencies you are interested in applying with encourage older applicants to apply. The fact that an agency does not have a maximum age requirement, does not mean that it encourages older applicants. Unfortunately, this is not the type of information you can get in the job posting or by calling. It is best to set up a meeting with a recruiter for that agency and during that meeting ask them if you would be a “competitive candidate.” You will get a pretty good sense during that meeting if they welcome older applicants and whether you are encouraged to apply. 

Keep in mind that there might be a difference in the attitude towards age depending on the level of the law enforcement agency you want to join. It is possible that a local law enforcement department is better suited for older applicants and ready to have them join their agency compared to state or federal entities. Still, the best way to find out if you are a match is by seeking a personal meeting with a representative from the agency you have chosen.   

The physical requirements 

No matter if there are established maximum age requirements or not, you will still be required to take the Physical Agility Test. Passing this test demonstrates that you can perform the physical tasks required of a police officer.  

It is a must to determine what the Physical Agility Test covers for that agency, the details will often be posted online, and then practice specifically for those requirements. Often, the physical agility is a pass or fail test. As an older applicant, it is not expected that you will be a top-performer in the physical agility and your efforts in this elusive goal will not be rewarded. Your energies should be directed at doing well on the written exam and getting a top score in the Oral Interview.  

The Written Exam 

You want to show the hiring agency that your age and life experience is an advantage for you. Therefore, you want to get a great score on the Police Exam. Sgt Godoy has a very popular and highly rated online Police Exam practice tests to help you pass the exam with flying colors. Remember, that for the written exam it actually matters how well you have performed, it is not simply a question of whether you have passed it or not. Investing some time and efforts in preparing, especially with the right assistance, will pay back.   

The Oral Interview 

For most agencies, the Oral Interview will be the main determining factor on whether or not you get hired. As an older applicant, this is where you need to show the panel that your extensive life experience will benefit you. Prove that you have excellent decision-making ability, and that you have experience in dealing with people from a variety of backgrounds. It is not good enough for you to know these things, you have to demonstrate it to the police interview panel. Mastering the Police Interview  will help you prepare for the Oral Interview. It is important to be able to reveal your full potential to the panel and make a great first impression that can put you on the top of the list of candidates.  

While age matters as a factor in selecting the best police candidates, in many cases it may turn out that it can weigh the scales in your favor. Make sure that there are no legal requirements that prevent you from applying and take the right steps to make your law enforcement dream career come true.