How to become a Police Officer

Openings for police officers are always advertised through a public vacancy announcement. The announcement can be for a limited time with a cutoff date for applying, or may be a continuous announcement. Applications may only be accepted when a department has a vacancy announcement. When the vacancy is announced, determine if you meet the minimum requirements for the job.

These minimum requirements consist of:

  • Education
  • Work Experience
  • Certifications
  • Other Requirements

Requirements vary by police department. There is no one standard for these requirements. For any questions concerning specific requirements for a police department, contact the personal department of that agency or a recruiter with that police department.



  • Some police departments require 60 college credits (It is not required that these credits be in criminal justice)
  • Some police departments require a 4-year college degree (It is not required that the degree be in criminal justice)
  • Some police departments require only a high school degree or G.E.D.

Work Experience

For an entry level position no prior law enforcement experience is required.


For an entry level position no law enforcement certifications are required.

Other Requirements

Age Requirements

Departments have a minimum age requirements. This requirement can be anywhere from 18 to 21 years of age depending upon the department. Some departments have a maximum age requirement meaning you cannot apply if you are over that age limit. Not all departments have a maximum age requirements.

Driver’s license

Police departments usually require that the applicant have a valid driver’s license from that state as a condition of employment.


Some police departments require that the applicant reside in a particular city or county as a condition of employment.

Physical Exam

Police departments usually require that applicants pass a physical, including a vision and hearing exam, prior to the time of being hired.


Some departments require that the applicants be United States Citizens. Some departments require that the applicant be a lawful U.S. resident authorized to work in the United States.

Please note that if hired you will receive all of the training required at the police academy, i.e. as firearms, self defense, offensive driving, and arrest techniques. It is not required that you had any training or experience in these areas prior to being hired.

Requirements to be a Federal Agent

The requirements to be a Federal Agent are different than those to be a police officer. They will vary depending upon the federal agency, and the type of job to be performed.

Disqualifiers to being a Law Enforcement Officer

Disqualifiers vary from department. Items which may disqualify an applicant from being hired by include.

  • Prior felony convictions
  • Prior domestic violence convictions

Hiring Process

  • Most departments start with filling out a job application. A resume may or may not be accepted. They are usually not accepted in lieu of an application.
  • Many departments will give a written test.
  • Often a physical agility test will be given.
  • Departments will then conduct formal interviews with applicants.
  • A final score may be a combined written and interview score.

Firearms Training

Firearms Training will be conducted in the police academy and will vary by agency.

Background Investigation

Those applicants offered a position will be required to fill out a background investigation form. An offer of employment from the Police Department is conditional upon passing a background investigation.