Sheriff’s applicants usually must have at least a high school education or GED and be a graduate of their agency’s training academy. Many agencies require some college coursework or a college degree. Knowledge of a foreign language is an asset in many federal agencies and urban departments.
Candidates must be citizens of their country, must usually be at least 21 years old, have a driver’s license, and must meet specific physical qualifications. They may have to pass physical exams of vision, hearing, strength, and agility as well as competitive written exams. Previous work or military experience is often seen as a plus.
Candidates typically go through a series of interviews and may be asked to take lie detector and drug tests. A felony conviction may disqualify a candidate.
Applicants usually have recruit training before becoming an officer. In large local police departments, recruits get training in their agency's police academy. In small agencies, recruits often attend a regional or state academy. Training includes classroom instruction in constitutional law, civil rights, state laws and local ordinances, and police ethics. Recruits also receive training and supervised experience in areas such as patrol, traffic control, and use of firearms, self-defense, first aid, and emergency response.
Regional and local agencies encourage applicants to continue their education after high school by taking courses or training related to law enforcement. Many applicants for entry-level police jobs have taken some college classes, and a significant number are college graduates. Many junior colleges, colleges, and universities offer programs in law enforcement or criminal justice. Many agencies offer financial assistance to officers who pursue these or related degrees.