To become a police officer, the candidate must be at least 21 years old, have a high school diploma, be a U.S. citizen, complete police academy training, and pass both written and physical exams administered by the police academy. The exact requirements to become a police officer vary by agency.
Some agencies require a high school diploma as the minimum academic qualification, while others require a college degree or college coursework. The police academy provides training on defensive tactics, weapon handling, driving, and the laws and regulations of that particular state.
The written exams conducted by the police academy include topics such as state and local laws, criminal investigations, constitutional law, criminal psychology and incident reporting. The physical tests examine the physical strength, hearing, vision and agility of the candidate. Some police agencies also conduct lie detector and drug tests on the candidates, and assess their personal characteristics and general suitability for that particular type of job. Some personal qualities that police officers must possess include good communication skills, good judgment, perceptiveness, leadership skills and empathy.
The requirements for federal law enforcement agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations or the Secret Service are stricter. For example, federal agencies require a bachelor’s degree and work experience in a related field, or both.