A high school diploma or its equivalent is the minimal educational requirement for becoming a police officer, although many police departments require some college coursework or a college degree. Police academy training is also required for candidates who meet other basic requirements. U.S. citizenship, a minimum age of 21 and successful completion of physical exams, interviews, and background and drug tests are required of all candidates. Certain pre-existing medical conditions and felony or repeat misdemeanor convictions typically disqualify a candidate.
Police academy training is usually three to four months long and combines classroom study with physical training. Classroom work focuses on civil rights, state and local laws, criminal investigation and incident reporting. Recruits can also expect an introduction to constitutional law and criminal psychology and exercises in self-defense, the use of firearms, first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Once a recruit's academy training is complete, he must pass a variety of written examinations, as well.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of police officers and detectives is projected to grow about 5 percent between 2012 and 2015, slower than average for all occupations. This slow growth makes college education and prior military experience, highly regarded in police hiring, of even greater significance. With the changing demographics of the United States population, candidates who speak a language other than English may find more job opportunities in the field of law enforcement than those who speak only English.