Career Guide: Police Officer

Police officers dedicate their careers to ensuring safety within their community. They work to protect diverse areas, depending on the situation and needs of the community. Police officers apprehend and arrest criminals to absolve crime in their assigned districts.

Police officers dedicate their careers to ensuring safety within their community.

With the Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS) projecting a growth rate of 7%, and the opportunity to rise into high-level promotions, the career makes a great option for criminal justice and law enforcement graduates to pursue.

This page outlines the steps to becoming a police officer, expected job duties, salary and growth information, professional organizations within the field, and degree possibilities, serving as a great resource for aspiring law enforcement.

What Does a Police Officer Do?

Police officers arrest suspects and offenders, testify in cases, and collect evidence. They also patrol neighborhoods in an effort to prevent crimes and stop threats on the community. Most police work occurs in the field, covering a specific jurisdiction with minimal office tasks for clerical aspects. Police officers often work nights and weekends and must maintain good physical condition to adhere to the intense demands of the job.

Police officers deal with a variety of tasks depending on the day, an area's needs, and their skill and experience level. Aspiring police officers who want to learn more about the profession can conduct research online to review the typical job duties of a police officer, the physical demands they might face, and any requirements they must meet to enter the field.

Police Officer Job Description

How to Become a Police Officer

To become a police officer, individuals should first learn about the profession to decide whether it fits them or not, noting the daily responsibilities and duties of a police officer, the work environment, and the salary potential. To become a police officer, learners must earn a high school diploma or a degree in law enforcement or criminal justice.

After earning a degree, graduates need to pass the law enforcement entrance exam and graduate from the police academy. From there, they can put in job time and reach milestones for promotion.

Steps For Becoming a Police Officer

Step 1:

Learn more about the profession to see if it’s a good fit for you.

Step 2:

Earn a high school diploma or degree in law enforcement or criminal justice.

Step 3:

Pass the law enforcement entrance exam.

Step 4:

Graduate from the police academy.

Step 5:

Take the steps toward getting a promotion.

If you want to learn more about the degree options for police officers, you can review the following pages for detailed information: Criminal Justice Degree Page Overview and the Guide to Criminal Justice System.

Police Officer Salary and Job Growth

Salary rates and employment opportunities for police officers can vary depending on experience, employer, and location. Police officers with more experience and time in the field typically enjoy higher salaries than entry-level professionals. Since the cost of living also varies by location, the pay rate for police officers can change depending on the municipality.

Those interested in finding more information about the salary opportunities for police officers can review the Police Officer Salary page.

Police Officer Salary

Interview Spotlight

Andrew Carrico

Andrew Carrico is a certified police officer and prior corrections corporal in Nebraska. He worked in a maximum security prison for two years and is going on three years in police and security work with an emphasis on law enforcement abilities in the private and public setting.

Take the Next Steps

Before becoming a police officer, many individuals decide to earn an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree in criminal justice or law enforcement. Interested learners can access the pages below to learn about the differences between the two degree types and explore the opportunities that exist for both disciplines.

Criminal Justice Degree & Career Information

Aspiring police officers considering earning a degree in criminal justice can review this page to learn about the online, associate, bachelor's, and master's opportunities available in the field.

Bachelor’s Degree in Law Enforcement

Individuals considering pursuing a bachelor's degree in law enforcement can access this resource to learn about the online possibilities, curriculum, program length, and employment outlook related to the discipline.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Aspiring police officers can explore a variety of professional organizations and resources in the field that can open up new and exciting opportunities for them. Professional organizations often serve as gateways into networking opportunities, leading members to learn about new job opportunities and build lasting professional connections in their field. Members of professional organizations also enjoy access to specialized resources to provide them with career development and opportunities to further advance their knowledge and skills in the field.

  • National Association of Police OrganizationsFunctioning as a coalition of police associations and unions, NAPO advances the interests of America's law enforcement officers through political action, education, and legislative advocacy.
  • National Sheriffs’ Association NSA began in 1940 as a professional association dedicated to serving the Office of the Sheriff along with its affiliates through law enforcement training and education and through general law enforcement informational resources.
  • The United Deputy Sheriffs’ Association Dedicated to supporting and training law enforcement professionals across the U.S., USDSA functions as a nonprofit organization that offers a highly acclaimed training program.