The life of a police officer can be an interesting and challenging one. The police have to deal with a wide range of civil and domestic matters. Some of these matters can be fun, humorous or entertaining, some might be tragic and emotionally difficult, and some of them can be quite dangerous, even life threatening. Certain studies show that people who take risks are often attracted to police work. Still others join the force because of the job security and government employee benefits. Whatever your reason for considering becoming a police officer, make sure you’ve done your research and are prepared to enter into the police force.
Police Officer Job Description
On the job, police officers are responsible for maintaining order and peace, protecting people’s lives and property, and preventing crimes, if possible. They generally accomplish these tasks by responding to emergency calls and through the surveillance of the public while on duty. Officers are also involved in the investigation and solution of crimes. There are many different specialties within the police force, and one officer’s job might be very different from the next. They may ensure public safety at large public gatherings, act as traffic control and respond to road emergencies like collisions, or act in disasters and search and rescue missions.
The duties of a police officer can also depend on the the location, size, and type of organization they work for. The responsibilities of an officer in a very small town will be significantly different from those of officers who work in major metropolitan areas and for large police forces.
Police Job Opportunities
Police officers are always in demand in practically every county and city in the United States. Whether you are interested in traffic patrol, desire to investigate crimes, or want to mediate community meetings, a career as a police officer can be a very stable and well paying career opportunity. The average salary for police and law enforcement officers in the United States is about $55,000 annually. Pay will vary by location and specialty but, considering that the national average police salary is about $34,000 annually, officers have a chance to make a considerably higher than average income.
Important qualities for police officers to have or develop include:
- Good judgement.
- An empathetic personality.
- Physical strength and stamina.
- Strong leadership skills.
- Communication skills.
- The ability to multitask.
Qualifications for Police Officers
Since there will be a thorough background check performed, applicants should not have a history of criminal or deviant behavior. Officers are expected to live and work according to a high moral code. They are sworn in to abide by an oath and must abide by certain rules, guidelines and procedures. Officers are seen as individuals who should set an example, even when off duty. While acting as an officer may not always be demanded of off duty officers, they need to be law abiding citizens of good character.
When you apply for the police force, you will be required to pass certain physical tests and medical exams to be admitted into the training academy. These tests ensure that your physical health and wellness will allow you to perform to the high demands of police work.
Before you enter the police training academy, you must be at least 21 years of age, but sometimes not more than 35. However, you can usually start taking tests for entrance if you are 20 ½ by the test or application date. You must also be a United States citizen or, in some locations, a permanent resident alien who is eligible and has applied for citizenship. In some precincts, applicants must have a valid driver license and reside in or near the city or county you’re applying to work for.
Most police forces only accept applications from individuals who have earned, at least, their high school diploma or GED. Bigger police departments prefer or require additional education, such as college certificates, associate’s or bachelor’s degrees. The level of education you have before entering the police force can have a huge impact on your salary, as well as the opportunities and speed with which you will advance once you become an officer with the police department.
More Information on Police Careers
If you need more information about the educational requirements and degrees relative to becoming a police officer, such as programs in criminal justice, it’s a good idea to check out programs available through online schools and universities to see what type of coursework is required to succeed in a policing career and decide if it’s the right choice for you. The last thing you want is to be left behind or end up in a bad situation because you did not receive adequate education prior to entering the force.