April 23, 2014

How Long Does it Take to Become a Police Officer?

One frequently-asked question is “How long does it take to become a police officer?” Becoming a Police Officer takes time, planning and a firm commitment. This isn’t a 9-5 job – it’s more than a career, it’s a way of life. The length of time depends on a number of factors: if a municipal department, the size (and budget!) will influence the time frame for hiring and training. If you’re thinking of state or federal law enforcement, there will be much more competition and additional training which can add days or weeks.

To be sure of your commitment, if you’re in high school, joining a Youth Police Explorers group can give a good feel for the type of work involved. (Of course, if you grew up in a police family, you likely already have a good idea what the job entails.)

You can also volunteer as a cadet, if your law enforcement agency offers such programs, and talk with officers about their career experiences and advice. By getting as insider’s view on how the law enforcement agency works, you’ll know what requirements they’re looking for in police officers. You’ll also find out what other law-enforcement-related jobs may be available within the department as well as how long does it take to become a police officer. Bookstores, libraries and online sources also offer police officer examination guides that can help you prepare for most written police exams.

It’s never too early to get started on working out to be as fit and healthy as possible so you’ll be ready when the examination is offered. Many applicants do well on a physical agility exam but not on the written part and vice versa. Keep in mind that the higher you score on the exam, the better your chances to not only get hired but promoted in the future.

State and municipal law enforcement departments usually advertise in local newspapers as well as police magazines and online. Hiring and testing with most municipalities isn’t always offered every year; most departments offer them only when planning to actually hire, so when considering how long does it take to become an officer remember it could take a year or more before even taking the exam.

Unless the agency instructs you otherwise, the next step is to send them your resume, along with any other application materials. If you’re young and have never worked as a police officer, your police officer resume would include your employment history as well as any police-related activities such as cadet or volunteer work and of course, your college courses and other relevant experience. If older, and you’ve already worked as a police officer, assuming you left your last department in good standing, you’d include that as well as any additional jobs worked, the salary, length of time worked and so on, as with any resume. Quality references are very important in your police officer resume, whether you’re applying for the first time or as an experienced officer.

If your resume has gotten a positive response and you’ve been invited to take the police department’s exam and other tests, congratulations!

Depending on how many recruits there are, the exams may be offered within a few weeks or several months later. Once you’ve passed those, you’ll be sent by the department to a police training academy program. Most training programs run for 10-12 weeks, depending on the department and the location.

Becoming a police officer isn’t a fast process. There can be a stretch of weeks or months between the time the advertisement appears and the time you may be hired and start training at the academy. These are some considerations to keep in mind when asking “How long does it take to become a police officer

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