$58k $58k
680k 680k
5.0% 5.0%
3.4/5 3.4/5

What is a Police Officer?

Also known as: Police Agent, Constable, Law Enforcement Officer, Public Safety Officer, Police Patrol Officer, State Trooper, Patrol Officer, Patrolman, Police Woman, Policewoman, Police Man, Policeman.

Police officers are employees of a law enforcement agency in their country, region, or city. Often called policemen, policewomen, or constables, police officers swear an oath to protect and serve the citizens they represent. They are warranted by the government to enforce the law by arresting criminals and detecting and preventing crimes. Because keeping the peace is a primary need of society, police officers have been around since civilization began. They are usually viewed as heroes within their communities due to the often dangerous situations they encounter in service to the public.

How to Become a Police Officer

What does a Police Officer do?

The specific duties of a police officer largely depend on where they are located. In large cities, officers are usually assigned very specific job duties or will be assigned to a fraud, murder, drug-trafficking, or rape unit. Each unit has a specific goal, and the officers within the unit are trained solely for that objective. Police officers in rural areas rarely have the opportunity to specialize in any given area of law enforcement. Due to the tendency for lower crime rates and the relatively small population, officers in townships, co-ops, and other rural settings handle any or all law enforcement tasks, from simple traffic infractions to child protection or murder cases.

A police officer's primary duty is to maintain public order. Patrol officers on foot, in a car, or even on horseback spend their days dealing with individuals who break the law. There are the typical traffic violations that need to be dealt with of course, but police officers also receive calls to investigate burglaries or other serious crimes. Police officers may give a warning or citation or, if the offence is serious, they have the authority to arrest and detain a suspect. Precarious circumstances may arise if the suspect carries a weapon, takes a hostage, or flees in an attempt to resist arrest. Police officers, however, are trained to defend both themselves and possible victims. Ultimately, they keep streets and neighbourhoods safe, even if that safety requires them to engage in situations where they may have to put their lives on the line.

Detectives, or officers working in a special unit, spend most of their time working on detailed investigations. They work daily to gather tangible evidence of drug trafficking, terrorist activity, and other crimes. Police officers may work undercover or through an informant; sometimes simply observing, monitoring, and recording the activities of known criminals is enough to gather necessary evidence for an indictment. Most substantial evidence, however, is obtained through the interrogation of both criminals and witnesses. Before making any arrests, officers must ensure that the collective evidence is accurate, true, and reliable. The best evidence in any crime is a direct confession, and police officers have the right to use psychological techniques, misdirection, and lies to encourage a criminal to confess.

Before and after their work in the field, police officers spend the largest portion of their time writing reports and keeping accurate records. The records they keep are often the only evidence in a court case. Without it, some criminals cannot be convicted, so it is extremely important for officers to complete their paperwork thoroughly and promptly. Additionally, when police officers witness a crime, they are frequently called to testify in court.

Find your perfect career

Would you make a good police officer? Sokanu's free assessment reveals how compatible you are with a career across 5 dimensions!

80% Match?
Take the free career test

How to Become a Police Officer

Most police departments require applicants to hold a high school diploma or equivalent. However, it is becoming more common for departments to expect some college education; many agencies will not accept applicants without an associate's degree. There are now many technical school programs that offer certificates or two-year degrees in law enforcement. For prospective police officers pursuing a bachelor's degree, criminal justice programs are available at many four-year institutions. Even if it is not necessary for police work, having a bachelor's degree is a back-up plan for many officers; they have one of the top five most dangerous jobs, and in some cases field work may result in career-ending injuries.

In addition to education, there are often height, weight, age, and other physical restrictions for potential police officers. Generally, they must be 21 or older to apply to a police department or agency. They must be in top physical condition and be able to pass standard eyesight and hearing tests.

After meeting these requirements, prospective police officers must pass a series of written tests in order to assess their psychological condition and analytical skills. This is to ensure that the officers have the mental stability to handle the emotional stress of police work. Background checks are also a standard in the industry.

Still more training is required after a police officer is accepted into an agency. The department usually has its own form of training, usually held in formal police academies. New recruits are subjected to rigorous mental and physical tests before being granted their first assignments. Even after being placed in a department, officers may receive training for three to twelve months while on-the-job.

What is the workplace of a Police Officer like?

Police officers rarely work a regular, 40-hour week. Officers work late at night, on the weekends, and even on holidays. Most police officers work outdoors while on patrol, and are subjected to all types of weather conditions. Police work is also mentally gruelling. Officers often witness terrible crimes or become the focus of a criminal's rage and abuse. Police officers must handle the stress brought on by these situations while remaining calm and collected.



Title Company Location Info

Further Reading

  • So You Want My Job: Police Officer www.artofmanliness.com

    Today we hear from a man who works as a police officer in a specialized unit that does everything from undercover work to patrols in high crime areas. Because of the nature of his job, he asked to remain anonymous.

  • Five Qualities Of An Effective Police Officer greenheritagenews.com

    While many young people dream of being police officers, it’s a truth that not everyone is cut out for the job. Police work is incredibly demanding, and it takes a certain type of person to do the job well.

  • A Day In The Life Of A Police Officer criminologycareers.about.com

    Working as a police officer brings on a range of emotions. It can leave you feeling satisfied, rewarded, sad, disgruntled, lonely and fulfilled, all in the same shift. If you've ever wondered what it's like to work in law enforcement, take a look at a day in the life of a police officer.

  • Police Officer: Entry Requirements In The UK www.prospects.ac.uk

    There are no formal educational requirements for entry to the police service. The profession is open to graduates, those with an HND qualification and non-graduates alike.

  • What Is A Police Officer? www.howtobecomeapoliceofficer.com

    Although every society has incorporated its own form of law enforcement, officers as we know them today first came to fruition in England in 1748, with the formation of the Bow Street Runners, a collection of volunteers who walked the streets to maintain the peace. Find out what it take to become a police officer in the USA.

  • Police Career Opportunities www.mypolice.ca

    There are almost as many ways to become a police officer in Canada as there are the number of police agencies in the country.

  • How To Become A Police Officer In Canada www.canadafaq.ca

    Canada is one of the countries with the most efficient and reliable police forces in the world. This is due to the fact that each person who wants to become a police officer must meet numerous requirements and pass various tests before he or she can be sworn as a police constable.

Similar Careers

Collections With This Career

ISTJ Careers
When ISTJs say they are going to get something done, they do it, meeting their obligations no matter the personal cost. Read More
ISTP Careers
Naturally quiet people, ISTP personalities are happiest when they are centred in action-oriented tasks which require detailed exploration and technical skill. Read More
ESTJ Careers
An ESTJ individual is honest, conscientious, practical, realistic, and dependable, with a natural head for business or mechanics. Read More
ESTP Careers
People with the ESTP personality type are full of life and energy, making them a natural group leader. They live in the moment and crave immediate results for their efforts. Read More
Most In-Demand Careers
Over the coming decades, some careers are expected to be more in demand than others. Occupations that are expected to have above-average opportunities are highlighted in this collection. Read More
Jobs for people who are interested in Protective Services
Discover careers for people who are interested in Protective Services. Read More

Find your perfect career

Would you make a good police officer? Sokanu's free assessment reveals how compatible you are with a career across 5 dimensions!

80% Match?
Take the free career test


Become a Police Officer