Police Officer

Builder Icon
Clipboard Icon
Person Icon
Thumbs Up Icon
Related roles: Policeman/Woman, Patrolman, Patrol Officer, Police Sergeant, Cop, State Trooper, Peace Officers, Civic/Civil Guards, Highway Patrol Officer, Law Enforcement Officer, State Trooper, Public Safety Officer


Similar Titles

Policeman/Woman, Patrolman, Patrol Officer, Police Sergeant, Cop, State Trooper, Peace Officers, Civic/Civil Guards, Highway Patrol Officer, Law Enforcement Officer, State Trooper, Public Safety Officer

Job Description

Police officers protect life and property. They maintain order by enforcing local, state, tribal, and federal laws.

Rewarding Aspects of Career

“Being a police officer is more than just making arrests and chasing “bad guys.” It is about serving a community and knowing you are going to make a difference. Sometimes that means saving a life either directly or indirectly. Police officers can save a life by pulling someone out of harm’s way or doing CPR on a child. But police officers save lives indirectly all the time by simply being present in the community. Their presence could cause a person to reconsider a bad choice or prevent a crime altogether. When a police officer makes contact with someone in trouble or living in a high-risk situation, they can help direct that person to resources that can help them get out of their situation.” Active police chief
“Being a lifetime learner. There is always something new to learn and many skills that require ongoing training.” Active police chief

The Inside Scoop
General Overview
  • Most police officers patrol in cars or on foot, but a few ride horses, bikes, or motorcycles. Some work in boats on rivers and in harbors. Some work with dogs.
  • Most police officers work at least 40 hours a week. Some police have to work nights and weekends. They have to be ready to go to work at all times and work very long hours on a case.
  • The day consists of on calls for service that take place within a 10-12 hour shift.
  • Police officers work outdoors in all kinds of weather. Some take extreme risks when chasing criminals or when making an arrest. Good training, teamwork, and good equipment keep police officers safe.
  • Police officers usually work a specific area with specific duties such as: Traffic enforcement, patrol operations, investigations, county jails, or work in the county courthouse. Some agencies require police officers to work a combination of duties.
Characteristics of Police Officers

Most police officers are people who are good leaders with good moral character that love problem solving and hate injustice. They enjoy working with people from all walks of life. They usually respond well in chaotic or stressful environments, and take control of out of control situations. A good police officer has a personality that projects a calm authority and can divide their attention while doing so.

Employment Types
  • City Police
  • Airport Police
  • Transit Authority Police
  • Border Patrol
  • Harbor Police
  • District Attorney's Police Investigators
  • Click here to see different Local, State, and Federal Law Enforcement Agencies
Expectations/Sacrifices Necessary
  • Sometimes functioning on very little sleep.
  • Working odd hours and being away from family on weekends and holidays.
  • Discipline in every aspect of your life (i.e physical fitness and making good moral character choices.
  • Dangerous
2016 Employment
2026 Projected Employment
Education Needed
  • High school diploma or equivalent mandatory.
  • Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) basic academy class.
    • Includes: law and government, report writing, psychology of criminals and victims, defensive tactics, emergency vehicle operations, use of all duty gear, and other relevant procedures.
  • OR Bachelor’s degree and law enforcement certification course.
Recommended Educational Institutions
Things to do in high school
  • Leadership and good moral character (staying out of trouble), staying away from drugs
  • Public speaking
  • Most agencies have explorer programs (similar to scouts). Some agencies also have cadet positions, like a pre-police position.
Education Stats
  • 15% with HS Diploma
  • 17.3% with Associate’s
  • 27.4% with Bachelor’s
  • 4.2% with Master’s
  • 0.6% with Doctoral
Typical Roadmap
Police Officer roadmap gif
How to Land your 1st job
  • Having a clean record and making sure you are in good shape.
  • Research via the city's civil service commission website, or the police department recruitment section on the Internet, the phases of the hiring process.
  • Apply for your cities Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) basic academy class which usually takes up to 6 months to complete. The training will include:
    •  Written Exams
    •  Physical Aptitude Exam
    •  Psychological Exam
    •  Structured Panel interview in front of 3-5 officers where they put you through hypothetical, role-playing scenarios. How you handle this phase may be the basis for your ultimate ranking.
    • Polygraph Examination
    • Physical Stress Test, vision and psychological exams.
    • Oral Interview. This is the final step, if you pass you will be placed as a training officer in a law enforcement unit in your area.
What to look for a mentor
  • Someone who loves their job and genuinely cares about helping people even after being on the job for long periods of time.
  • Someone who has experience in a similar specialty or unit as you (i.e. Drug Unit or Police Detective).
  • Someone who is not afraid to tell you the areas you need to challenge or improve yourself in, someone who will keep you in line morally.
Plan B

Alternate careers:

  • Correctional officers
  • Criminologist
  • Any Federal Law Enforcement Agency: Customs and immigration inspectors
  • Firefighter
  • Private detectives and investigators
  • Security guards
  • Any first responder job or jobs within the criminal justice system i.e (police, courts, and corrections, which include community supervision and diversion programs.)

Click here to download the infographic

Police officer infographic


Jobs by
Source: Interview, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Online Courses and Tools