How Long Does It Take To Become Police Officer Full Career Guide

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How Long Does It Take To Become Police Officer? Full Career Guide

police officer is considered the most respected member of society who is expected to be responsible, decisions making and confident enough to solve any issue. Both mental intelligence and physical fitness are needed. The essential characteristics of a good police officer are competence and cooperation. Competent implies constantly good performances, and cooperative signifies easily getting adjusted to any situation. 

To become a good police officer in the world’s biggest superpower nation, The United States of America, is going to be a tough job. Becoming a police officer in the USA is not everyone’s cup of tea. It comprises a long journey and the first thing you want to know How long it takes to become a police officer, with critical challenges on their way. Efforts made by excessively hard work and struggle result in a long-lasting and lifetime reward. 

Many individuals desire to become police officers irrespective of age, previous qualification, and present profession. A candidate is required to complete a graduation degree successfully. Being a graduate is the essential eligibility criteria for fulfilling the dream of becoming a police officer. The department of police has several streams or agencies. All have their respective age criteria. 

A police officer is the first point of contact in case of any criminal offense. He or she is the one who first responds to the incident reported in case of emergencies such as robbery, murder, rape, violence, and many more. Based on education and experience, enormous opportunities are open for this privileged job. 

It depends on a candidate how well he performs in eligibility and readiness programs. Many agencies demand special training programs apart from qualifications like graduation, high school diplomas. Still, everything depends upon you and your choice of the department you make. 

To understand the time duration involved in pursuing the carrier as a police officer, please go through the upcoming important necessary points of becoming a police officer. 

The lists involve police schooling, academic requirements, academic pieces of training, educational requirements for police officers, police academy training, police officers’ education requirements, police officer’s application process, police officers hiring process, graduating from the police academy, and probation period.

How To Become A Police Officer Complete Step By Step Guide

How long does it take to become a police officer in the United States?

On average, when applying to be a police officer in the US, candidates should expect processing times of about 6 months. However, these are only averages and may vary depending on where you are trying to work. When considering becoming a police officer in the United States, plan to dedicate at least 6 months to your application.

Entry-level law enforcement jobs are in high demand, with local police departments struggling nationwide to recruit new officers in order to keep up with attrition rates. Because of this, many jurisdictions have begun speeding up the time it takes for recruits to be hired, moving their hiring processes from around a year to around six months. However, the exact time it takes to become a police officer in the US will vary depending on your location and your background.

Some factors that may affect how long it takes to become a police officer include:

Education and experience: Police departments require different levels of education and experience from officers, with some preferring candidates with an associate degree, while others demand candidates have at least 60 credit hours. Additionally, some departments may require applicants to have professional-level experience in a field such as law, public relations, military service, or teaching; these jobs can help you gain the knowledge and skills that you will need for law enforcement work and give you references and letters of recommendation for your application.

Some police departments, especially in urban areas, will provide training for recruits; however, many smaller agencies do not have the resources to offer this service. If you opt to become an officer with a small agency, be aware that you might need to attend training at another police department once you are hired and ready to begin your career.

Law Enforcement Professional

If you are currently a law enforcement professional, watch for openings at other agencies and apply even if they do not have a training program. If you have been in the United States military, consider applying to federal law enforcement departments such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation FBI or the Drug Enforcement Administration DEA.

Some police officers begin their careers through police academy training at local, state or federal government-certified academies. This training usually takes about 6 to 9 months, depending on whether you have previous experience or not.

Each U.S. state has its own law enforcement agency that provides this training for recruits; these agencies are often called State Police Departments or Highway Patrols.

If you have previous experience in law enforcement, you may be able to skip this step and apply directly to agencies that employ experienced officers. In some cases, prior law enforcement or military service may exempt applicants from taking entrance exams or receiving an associate degree.

Military service

If you recently joined the military, your training and experience can be applied to police work; however, some states will not count military time as part of the application process if it is outside of a certain number of years. For example, in Utah, officers must have at least two years’ civilian law enforcement experience before they can join a police academy.

Police departments that hire officers with military experience generally require these applicants to be within two years of their honorable discharge date; however, this requirement varies by department and may be longer or shorter depending on the agency and situation. If you are planning to apply to a local police department after your service is complete, be aware that many departments will require you to wait a few months after you are discharged before beginning the application process.

Education and police academy training

Applicants must complete an education course, such as those offered by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC) or Regional Police Academies; these programs take about 6 months full-time, but some part-time programs are available.

Formal education programs will prepare you for the written entrance exam; however, many agencies also require that applicants pass an oral examination before they are hired. If your agency requires this step, you will need to prepare for an oral exam in addition to passing the written entrance examination. Ask your prospective employer about testing procedures and be sure you are prepared with a thorough knowledge of state and local laws, as well as basic law enforcement terminology and concepts.


Applicants must be at least 21 years old in most states and may have additional age requirements, such as those for the police department of San Francisco, which requires officers to be at least 23 years old and have a high school diploma or equivalent.


Applicants must be citizens of the U.S. in most cases and many agencies require that you not hold dual citizenship with another country; some agencies may allow you to become a citizen while you are in the police academy, but you will need to have your citizenship finalized before the agency will hire you.

Driving Record

Most agencies require that you have valid driver’s licenses from all states where you have lived for at least two years; if your driver’s license has been suspended for any reason, you may not be able to join the police academy.

Skill Requirements

Police officers must have good memories, communication skills, and problem-solving abilities; they also need excellent agility, coordination, and strength. You will likely need to meet various physical standards before you are accepted into an academy. These tests may include running, sit-ups, push-ups, and other types of exercises.

Good physical condition is very important because police officers are often required to chase suspects or engage in physical confrontations.

Residency requirements

Many states require those police officers to live within the state, but do not have a specific requirement regarding how long you must live there before applying. Some agencies may give preference to applicants who have lived in the city for at least a few years, however.

How Long Does It Take To Become Police Officer?


People dream of becoming police officers for various reasons. Some are inspired by the perks that this profession has to offer, while others want to serve the community to contribute to its betterment. A significant chunk of aspiring candidates for a police officer’s job has come from those Hollywood movies, which showed the police officers as an ultimate authority who exercise their power for the ordinary person.

Whatever the reason is, the matter is that many teenagers want to become police officers. Still, the question is, do they have the right platform for acquiring the proper knowledge about this profession? Perhaps not!

The aspiring candidates have many questions in their minds, such as how long it takes to become an officer, how long the hiring process is for police officers, and how long the police academy is.

The lack of awareness regarding these critical issues increases the students’ decision to be emotion-driven rather than information-driven. It is wonderful to have an emotional attachment with a police officer’s job, but they must be well aware of the pathway they will follow to reach their destination.

The information you will get in this article will assist you with that. After reading the article, you will have information about all the hurdles you will have to overcome to become a police officer. Please go through the material, read it carefully, and decide whether it is the right career path for you.

Academic Journey (4 years)

Academics are something we all stand on. Becoming a police officer requires education too. If you are in school, you must be wondering how many years of school to be a police officer? Well, it takes twelve years of schools from 1st grade to 12th to join the police department. Once you have completed high school, you are eligible to apply to the position announced within the police department. However, due to higher competition, the candidates with a high school degree have lesser chances of getting employed.

So this brings us to the following question: how many years of college to be a cop? If you are enrolled in an accredited college and are pursuing a criminal justice degree, your chances of being employed as a police officer are higher. Through your college education, you will be familiar with the theoretical concepts that will be asked during the recruitment process.

Placement Process (3 to 4 months)

Do you wonder how long the hiring process for a police officer is?  Once the job is announced at any local, state, or federal level police departments, it takes three to four months of the process before they announce the candidates selected for that particular position.

The process goes like this. You apply for a position by filing an application form and waiting for the written test (if there is any). After successfully passing the test, you will have to go through a background check and polygraph, which you must pass.

During this process of three to four months, you are highly advised to work on your physical fitness to be compatible with the police academy timeline once you join it.

Top Ranked Police Academies in United States

Police academy and probation period (6 months at the training academy and up to a year of probation period)

Although the police training academy is the last step for becoming a police officer yet is most scary. The youngsters are afraid of what they might face at the academy, police training time, and similar things.

Well, training is not a punishment. The police department ensures that endurance is inculcated into the young officers to execute the tasks assigned to them through the strict schedule. Police training length is six months, during which you will receive physical and intellectual training.

LEO Acronym – What Does LEO Mean In Law Enforcement?





CALIFORNIA26 WEEKSAs per standards of California P.O.S.T
FLORIDA6 MONTHS8 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday
NEW YORK6 MONTHSNew York City Police Academy
ILLINOIS480 HOURSIllinois Law Enforcement Training and Standard Board : SLEA
PENNSYLVANIA22 WEEKS7am to 5pm, Monday to Friday
NEW JERSEY24 WEEKSSea Girt, New jersey State Police Academy
GEORGIA11 WEEKSEntry Level Law Enforcement Officer

Academic Journey 

The freshers or recruits are required to go to Training Schools in the USA. It is also known as the law enforcement academy. Amongst them, there are many colleges and universities as well. This academy prepares the freshers or recruiters for the department, which they will be given after completing their graduation. 

how-long-does-it-take-to-become-police-officer-3Multiple background checks are carried to understand mental requirements, physical requirements, potential, professional confidence, and many more. These schools offer lists of courses that will certify the new joiners as law enforcement officers. There are two types of police schooling: the state level and another is the local level. State-level police academies’ curriculum may vary from local-level police academies depending upon the needs and necessities.

Generally, primary police schooling is of 6 months duration. It is a full-time course that requires a constant and permanent promise from recruits and their family members. This promise is unconditional dedication, sacrifice, and sincerity towards work. This schooling law of enforcement teaches various phenomena like a murder investigation, traffic management, patrolling, fire emergencies, domestic violence, dealing with emotional scenarios, writing a report, techniques of defense and attack, accidents incidents, First aid or CPR, operation of police vehicles, robberies and lot more. 

Several points are meant to keep in mind before applying for police academics. 

  • A person should be free from any criminal offense. 
  • The history of the candidate should not have any criminal arson. It is essential that a candidate must be a permanent resident of the united states of America.
  • Candidate should be a citizen of the united states. 
  • Make sure that the recruit is above 18 years of age. To rule out any criminal record, ensure that the candidate is fingerprinted in all kinds of records available at local, state, and national fingerprints files. 
  • There will be a deep-rooted investigation of background life. Thus, try to maintain a good and well-behaved moral character reputation. 
  • The minimum qualification required to commence police academic training is graduation. Bachelor’s degree in law enforcement or related discipline is a fundamental prerequisite to apply for police academics. 
  • The reading and writing tests are held, which are compulsory for the candidate to PASS. There is also a physical eligibility test conducted which is again compulsory to PASS. 

All the scores attained in these tests are of great significance. Hence, it is better if the candidate gets a good score on all the qualifying tests. Apart from all this, medical clearance is also required. 

One should get clearance from the medical department and collect related documents as proof of medical insurance. These are the fundamental academic requirements towards the commencement of police academy training.

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What Do Police Officers Do? Career Prospects

Do you wonder how easy it is to become a police officer? Well, you can only get an answer to this once you have understood the responsibilities of a police officer. If you think that you are into these responsibilities, a police officer’s job would be much easier for you because you will find yourself obliged to carry out the tasks that will be assigned to you.

So, what are the responsibilities of a police officer? Or what do police officers do? Their primary responsibility is to uphold and enforce the law through cohesive means against those who are not abiding by it. The police officers patrol and observe around looking for people who are not abiding by the law, and once they find them, they take action against them so that the rest of the society is safe and sound.

These were police officers’ general responsibilities; however, there are sub-departments within the police department, each having its responsibilities and duties. From conducting raids to patrolling to maintaining police records, each individual is busy doing the task which is being assigned to him/her.

If you plan to become a police officer, these are the duties you will be doing throughout your career:

  • Enforcing the traffic and safety laws
  • Investigation accidents and crimes
  • Arresting those involved in criminal offenses
  • Taking statements from witnesses
  • Gathering crime-related evidence
  • The first response in case of an emergency, such as a traffic accident.
  • Preparing cases for the courts.

During the initial days of your employment, you will not be given a supervisory role. Instead, you will have to be in the field where you will have to work with lower ranks officers and prove that you are capable of a supervisory role. Once you have done it, you will gain respect within the department. You will be awarded supervisory positions, which are easier to execute.

Pros And Cons Of Becoming A Police Officer

Everything comes with perks and drawbacks. Similar is the case with becoming a police officer. You will have the privileges of being a police officer while having its drawbacks. Still, for sure, a police officer’s job is much demanding where you will have to undergo extensive training, which requires commitment. What does it take to become a police officer? Perhaps, firm commitment to bear hardships so that you can serve your country.

These are the pros and cons of becoming a police officer.


Pros of becoming a police officer

Cons of becoming a police officer

You will be highly paid. To let you know, the salary of a police officer is above the median overall income of the United States.Long shifts of duties with irregular timings which means that one week you might be called on dayshift while the other week you might have to work at night.
The medical, dental and health benefits along with paid leaves and yearly bonusesDangerous and difficult working conditions where you will be dealing with dangerous criminals who can harm you anytime.
After being appointed as a police officer, you will have job security due to the fact that law enforcement jobs are secure with constant growthThe work environment is stressful
You will have the opportunity to retire earlier and enjoy the commutation and pensionExtensive traveling in case you are employed with state or federal level law enforcement agency.

Skills Required To Become A Police Officer

Every human is born with some skills that they need to polish; these god-gifted skills can help choose the right profession for yourself. These are some skills that are required to become a police officer.

  1. Excellent interpersonal skills
  2. Leadership skills
  3. Effective communication skills
  4. Physical strength and stamina
  5. Ability to work in teams and cope with stressful situations
  6. Respect for authority
  7. And Compassion

People would be inquiring. Can you still become a cop with basics? Perhaps not, along with these essential skills, you need the proper education and training to become a cop or police officer. However, these skills can contribute much to your efficiency as you perform your duties within your respective department of police.

Potential Employers Of Police Officers

There different employers of the police officers, and they can be categorized into three categorize:

Local–The local police department is responsible for the protection of people within that vicinity. An officer employed by the local police department will exercise his powers within a limited domain to ensure that law and order are maintained.

State –The state police departments are responsible for enforcing the law within a state. An officer employed at a state-level police department will exercise his powers within that particular state. He will have to investigate the matters that occur within the state. For the investigation, he will be traveling to smaller towns and cities. Therefore, if you are employed in such a position, you can expect to travel a lot.

And federal –The federal-level law enforcement agencies exercise their powers within the whole US, they have a broader scope of exercise as compared to the local and state-level police departments. The officers of federal-level agencies can expect a higher amount of salaries. Approximately 65 federal agencies are hiring police officers for different tasks.

The salaries, bonuses, and other perks may vary depending upon the level at which they are employed. A federal-level police officer might expect more salary than an officer employed at the local level. Still, greatness comes with baggage. To get employed at the federal level, you will have to work hard and demonstrate promising results and abilities as the competition at the federal level is much higher.

Degrees For A Police Officer 

No matter whatever process you follow to become a law enforcement officer, you are required to attain certain degrees relevant to the department you wish to apply. The classes can be both online and offline, depending upon the school, university, or college. Below is the explanation of duration involved in the process of attaining these degrees -:

  • ASSOCIATE DEGREE-: It is a full-time course which is generally two years. This course is available both online as well as a regular classroom course. This degree provides the knowledge and information required for qualifying academic entrance examinations. This degree is the foundation stone of law enforcement officers. An associate degree course curriculum may vary from college to college, depending upon the requirements of local and regional departments.


  • BACHELOR’S DEGREE-: It is a full-time course which is generally four years if done regularly. As per ease, you may finish it in three and a half years by attending extra classes. You may also increase the duration to 5 years by pursuing the degree part-time or online mode.


  • MASTER’S DEGREE-: It is a full-time course that finishes in 2 to 3 years. Again, it is available both online and offline mode depending upon the interest of a candidate.
Source:The United States Capitol Police

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Certificates And Training

It is always advisable for people who aspire to become law enforcement officers to undergo various training and standard. Even if you have not completed your degree, you can avail of certificate courses simultaneously. The following are various training and certificate programs-:

  • CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR: This course explains the mindset of a criminal. It is often termed criminology. All information, knowledge, explanation related to the behavior of a criminal is covered in this course.


  • PROCESS OF JUSTICE: In this section, students will learn about their process or method of giving justice to the innocent and giving appropriate punishment to the culprit.


  • CRIMINAL PUNISHMENTS-: This provides knowledge about different punishments and rehabilitation.


  • TYPES OF CRIME-: It explains different types of crimes and their impact.


  • IMPORTANT ETHICS-: It teaches the difference between ethical or unethical fundamentals given by police.


  • PLANNING OF MODELS-: Building up the skills of investigation, intelligence gathering.


  • EMERGENCY PLANNING-: It explains instructions received by students and risk management tools and techniques.


  • STATISTICS OF CRIMINAL-: With all available facts and figures, the candidate should detect logically.


  • PROFESSIONALISM-: Students will learn about leadership and management tools and techniques.

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Placement Process

The candidate should enquire about all the job opportunities available in the law enforcement department. Find the best opportunity which is relevant to your profile. 

how-long-does-it-take-to-become-police-officer-2Ensure that before filling up an application form, you satisfy all the criteria of that particular opportunity. Every detail must be correctly filled in. A slight mistake can disqualify the application process. 

It depends on the department how much time is needed to process an application. Although, this process takes a bit longer time as this involves background verification, investigation of details filled, etc. 

 Generally, it takes around three to four months to check the filled application. Once the cross-checking is finished, departments initiate the hiring process. It is always advisable that the candidate should prepare well for an online examination. 

The hiring process of a police officer is comparatively demanding and critical than other examinations. It is not limited to an entrance exam or interview. It first starts with a written exam. The intention behind taking this written exam is to make sure that the applicant is having a basic knowledge of general subjects and world affairs.

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An entrance exam involves analytics and reasoning, essential English comprehension, reading, spelling, etc. The questions may be written, multiple-choice, fill in the blanks, or true/false. The candidate should get a minimum 70% score to qualify and move to the next level. The second level is a physical ability test (PAT). This test is to judge the fitness level and physical stamina of a candidate.

Depending upon the department you chose, agencies set different approaches to examine the candidate. The candidate should meet all the criteria listed by agencies to qualify for the tests. Thirdly, a medical examination is conducted to ensure that the candidate is healthy and fir to commence a law enforcement officer’s job. The candidate must have a past sound track of records about character, nature, and reputation. A candidate must have a white-collar personality.

All these factors are required for the background verification process. Even if a candidate scores well in exams, if any discrepancy is found in background verification, a candidate is immediately disqualified from the placement process. There should not be any criminal offense report, drug abuse, bad financial records, and many more.

One more test performed is the polygraph test. This test validates the information provided by the candidate is correct or not by undergoing a polygraph exam. The candidate answers a given set of questions. The later examiner checks the answers with the machine, analyses the results, and, based on readings attained and personal experience, the examiner, finalizes the judgment. Upon completing polygraph tests, a candidate is asked to have a meeting with a specialized psychologist. In this meeting, a screening is done by the psychologist to understand if a candidate is ready to go ahead for face to face interview.

The final round is face to face interview round. After successfully qualifying all the previous levels, the candidate appears for face to face interview. The selection panel contains interviewers who will ask several questions to explore your knowledge, readiness, response, intelligence, presence of mind, and confidence. This discussion will decide if you are suitable for the desired opportunity or not.


It is the last phase of the Journey of becoming a police officer. On completion of the hiring process, the candidate is sent to Police Academy for training. It is equally vital and challenging like other previous levels. Due to bad performance, a candidate can get rejected at this stage as well. In Police Academy, a candidate goes through physical and theoretical training

The use of ammunition, self-defense techniques, attacking tricks, catching up criminals, driving skills, first aid, knowledge related to laws, and many more are taught here. The overall time duration involved is approximately 6 months maximum. Finally, a day comes when you successfully graduate from Police Academy and join the service in your respective department. Initially, you work with senior staff members and get training on LIVE cases. 

This temporary period of the job is also known as a probation period. Typically, it takes around 6 months to complete and get a permanent and regular member of staff. Still, the time of probation gets decreased or increased depending upon the circumstances. In case if you fail to perform, you may get suspended from service. 

Hence, it is crucial to be a consistent performer at every step. In short, the entire process of becoming a police officer consumes five to six years of your life. Hence, it is always good to plan your moves accordingly. Various states of the United States of America have their set time duration required for completing law enforcement training. 

These criteria are designed by the local police department, which is further approved by state and national headquarters. The following table will give you a brief overview of the time duration involved in the completion of the police academy training program of different states-:

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 ‘Efforts are luck,’ this famous phrase seems to be true when a deserving candidate fulfills the desire of becoming a police officer in the USA. Of course, it is a path of tremendous struggle and sacrifice. It is a collaboration of intelligence and sincerity, knowledge, and consistent performance. If you want to be a law enforcement officer, you should have the stamina and patience to complete it with success at every step.

Frequently Asked Questions



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The United States Capitol Police 

Bureau of Justice

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)



UCLA Police Department

A police officer is considered as the most respected member of society who is expected to be responsible, decision making and confident enough to solve any issue. Both mental intelligence and physical fitness is needed. The basic characteristics of a good police officer are competent and cooperative. Competent implies to constantly good performances and cooperative signifies easily getting adjusted to any situation. To become a good police officer in the world's biggest superpower nation The United States of America, it is going to be a tough job