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How Can You Become a Cop?

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Requirements to become a cop, or police officer, vary by law enforcement agency; however, candidates need some level of education, certain personal qualities and successful completion of a training academy program. At a minimum, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates candidates must be at least 21 years old, hold a high school diploma, be U.S. citizens and be in reasonable physical condition.

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Each local and state law enforcement agency has its own employment standards. While a high school diploma is often enough for local departments, large metropolitan agencies and state police departments require some college or even a formal degree.

Prior to training academy admission, candidates must go through a battery of tests to ensure they meet basic performance standards. A physical exam is used to determine physical abilities, vision and hearing abilities and strength. Candidates also go through lie detector tests, drug screening and background checks. A clean criminal record is often necessary to gain employment as a cop.

After passing pre-training screenings, the candidate attends a police academy. Large agencies run their own academies. Smaller departments may send recruits to a state-operated training academy. During the academy, candidates go through classroom and hands-on training to learn about laws, citizen rights and tactical maneuvers. After passing the academy, a graduate is ready to interview for openings.

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