Joseph Libowsky,
former Special Agent

Becoming a law enforcement officer is often the dream career of many regardless of their age. A lot of people, however, do ask themselves if they are too young or too old to go into law enforcement. There are minimum age limits set by each state, and some states set a maximum age as well for going into law enforcement. There is a listing of the police officer requirements for each state. When it comes to actually getting hired by an agency, as does not matter as much as how well the applicant is prepared for the job, and the competitive selection process.

Mastering the Police Interview quite often turns out to be the real determining factor for the successful candidate. If you are able to handle your oral interview well, you can present your age as an advantage, regardless of the actual number. Younger candidates have the privilege of being open to learn and adopt the habits of the agency they apply for, while older applicants bring a lot of life experience with themselves.  

Yet, if you are still wondering what is the best age to apply for a law enforcement officer, below you will find more details about the minimum and maximum age requirements, as well as some useful tips on how to prepare for the job while still in your teen years.

Minimum age requirements for law enforcement candidates 

Generally, the minimum age requirement for a law enforcement officer varies between 18 and 21. You should note that there is a difference between each state and agency and it is better to check with the department you are applying with, in case it is not specifically mentioned in the job opening.

The following are the minimum age requirements to be a police officer in each state. It is important to keep in mind that each police department, sheriff’s office, and state law enforcement agency, can set their own minimum age requirement as long as it meets or exceeds the requirements of the state.

  • No minimum age requirements – the state of Louisiana has no listed age restrictions for its prospective law enforcement candidates;   
  • 18 years old is the requirement for Montana, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin;  
  • 19 years old is the requirement for Florida; 
  • 19 and ½ years old is the requirement for Washington; 
  • 20 years old is the requirement for California, Illinois, Maryland, and Vermont; 
  • 21 years old is the requirement for most of the states in the USA that include Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia.  It is interesting to note that the New York City Police Department, for example, will allow a candidate to take the written civil service exam at the age of 17 and a half. Even if the candidate passes the test successfully, however, they will not be hired to work in the department until the age of 21.  
  • 20, 21 at graduation is required in the states of Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, and Virginia;
  • 21 or 22 at graduation is required by Iowa and Wyoming; 
  • 21, 20 with 60 College Credits, or 19 with 40 College Credits is the requirement set my Maine. 

Note that there is no state police in the state of Hawaii.

Maximum age requirements for law enforcement candidates 

It may come as a surprise that most agencies do not a maximum age requirement for their candidates. It is also interesting that the reason some agencies have a maximum age limit does not have to do with a candidates ability to pass the physical ability test but rather they want to make certain that a newly hired candidate can retire with full benefits. An agency may have a maximum age for someone starting out because that is the latest someone could start with their agency and still retire with full benefits when they reach the threshold for mandatory retirement in that agency.

For states that do have a maximum age limit, the age at which you can start your law enforcement career, It is generally around 34-37 years of age.

Exceptions are made for military veterans. In the New York Police Department, for example, the maximum age to sit the initial exam is 35. If you have had active military service, you can deduct six years from that age or in other words you can apply for the job at the age of 41. 

How to be ready for law enforcement from an early age  

kids law enforcement

If you want to be a police officer start investing in this career path as early as during your school years. Even as a teenager, you can get prepared for the job in law enforcement, in case this is what you want. There are certain things you can do, in order to have an advantage when the time for applying comes. Here are a few tips: 

  • Try to be good at your studies 

Agencies are looking more and more for candidates who have at least a two-year and even better a four-year degree. Having better marks throughout your studies can also be a plus.  

  • Stay out of trouble in school 

Being sent to the principle is not a good example for a prospective law enforcement officer. It is great if you can show even at an earlier age that you can respect rules and seniors (in the face of your teachers) and peers. 

  • Stay clean after school 

Avoid any kind of illegal activity once you finish school – even underage drinking is not a good thing to be noted on your record, especially if you are aiming at a law enforcement career. 

  • Volunteer in the community 

To be a police officer means to serve the community, so it is a good idea to become a volunteer at a younger age. This will give you invaluable experience for working with different people and no doubt will look good on your resume.  

  • Be active 

As a police officer, you need to be in good shape in order to do your tasks. Therefore, it is a good idea to participate in different sports activities while at school. Being fit and healthy is always an advantage regardless of your career choice.  

  • Learn about law enforcement 

Use every opportunity you have to educate yourself about the work of a law enforcement officer. You may talk to your local police officer or participate in ride-alongs if the department in your town offers such. Besides, you can find tons of information about law enforcement on the net.  

Following these tips will make you a bit more prepared for a job in law enforcement and can be a sign to your prospective employer for your desire to embark exactly on this career path. 

Both younger and older candidates have a chance to become a law enforcement officer if they perform well during the recruitment process and meet all the criteria. Some departments would prefer younger officers as they will be more moldable and should not be un-trained of bad habits or work-related routine. Other agencies will go for the more experienced candidates because of the skills they already have. In any case, your age is not a factor if you have what it takes to become a law enforcement officer.