How to Become a Cop

Law enforcement agencies and police departments in every state hire new recruits each year. The process to become a policeman or highway patrol varies from state to state, and city to city, but the most important steps are the same. If you want to start a law enforcement career, the guide below will outline how to prepare for a career as a police officer, find law enforcement education, and look for work as a cop.

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Getting Hired as a Cop

The minimal requirements to apply for any police jobs are: (1) you must be at least 18 years old, (2) you must have a high school diploma or GED, (3) you must have a valid drivers license, (4) you must be a US citizen. For males to be eligible for any government job, they must also be registered with the Selective Service.

Keep in mind that these are only the bare minimum requirements, and individual departments will have more conditions. Criminal records will be looked at closely.

While you are still in high school or college, take the opportunity to job shadow a police officer and discover what cops do on a day to day basis. This is also a good way to make contacts.

Earn a degree in a field that relates to law enforcement. Science, technology, forensics, sociology, and psychology are great foundations for law enforcement education. Having an Associate's or Bachelor's degree will earn you a higher starting salary and help you move up the ranks. If you ever want to work for the FBI or other federal agency, you must have a college degree.

Consider learning Spanish. In most areas of the country, police have to communicate with Hispanic immigrants who don't speak English on a daily basis. Spanish language skills will give you an edge when applying for police jobs in California, New York, Texas, or dense urban areas.

While in college, apply for security jobs or police internships to gain work experience. This will help you gain valuable contacts and references. Also research police departments across the country. You are not restricted to law enforcement jobs in your home state; you can relocate anywhere to become a cop.

Contact police departments to find out when their tests and training programs are scheduled. In most departments, you have to pass a written and physical exam before admission to their police academy.

Written tests measure your verbal and critical thinking skills. Physical tests measure your fitness for active police duty. Both are very important to weed out candidates who are not prepared for police work. If you pass these exams, you can attend the law enforcement agency's training program.

Once you've graduated from police academy, you will be ready to apply for jobs. Being promoted to captain, detective, or another higher rank depends on experience and completion of training programs.

© Had2Know 2010

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