If you're still in high school, you should take courses in computer applications, behavioral sciences, accounting, and business math. Another great thing to do in high school is to maintain or improve your level of physical fitness. If you participate in school sports, try to maintain your fitness levels year round.
Some people who want to make money as a police officer will serve in the military services first. Two years in the military can be a great way to prepare for a career in law enforcement. And anyone considering a career as a police officer should expect a background check to expose any prior court history. A conviction in itself does not necessarily disqualify a person from police training, but lying about any criminal activity (including as a juvenile) will cause problems.
Many community colleges have excellent training programs for aspiring law enforcement officers. Some of these are intensive courses that specifically train students to make money as entry level police officers and include training in police driving skills, making arrests, the safe use of firearms, and the intricacies of processing crime scenes.
Community college based post-secondary law enforcement training programs are designed to help you master the skills and knowledge you need to become a police officer. These courses aren't for those who may only be considering a job in law enforcement, but for those who have made the decision to pursue this career. Community college programs in criminal justice are great avenues for those who are ready to explore the possibility of becoming police officers but who aren't ready to make the final commitment to it.
In many cases, training programs are offered in full-time and part-time versions to accommodate those who are working to pay for their schooling. Though programs will vary, a full-time training program will last for approximately the equivalent of one college semester. It will meet up to six days a week. The part time academy lasts approximately 34 weeks, and meets evenings and weekends.
To gain entry to a law enforcement training program, the general requirements are that the candidate must be at least 21 years old, undergo a background check, and submit to fingerprinting. A felony conviction and some misdemeanors can disqualify a student from becoming certified as police officers.
Calculating the cost of police training is difficult because of the different training programs available. However, in a community college based training program, a student will pay tuition and fees for approximately 40 semester hours. This can be several thousand dollars, but financial aid is often available.
Certification procedures for law enforcement officers vary by state in the U.S. In general, while a training program will entitle a trainee to a "Basic Training" certification, he or she must still take a written exam in order to be certified to work as a police.
In some cases, current law enforcement officers work as instructors in training programs at community colleges. Instruction includes hands-on exercises and use of simulator training as well as classroom instruction. Specific categories of instruction include law enforcement driving, arrest techniques, use of restraints, use of force, firearms training, firearms safety, tactical firearms procedures, high risk situations, handling domestic violence, conducting searches, and making crime scene investigations. The training programs also include physical training to increase stamina and endurance.
In addition to a written certification exam, candidates for police officers must pass a physical exam, including tests of strength, agility, hearing, and vision. A lie detector test and a drug test are required too. Once you become a police officer, you may be subject to random drug testing as a condition of employment.
Of course, dedication and commitment are paramount for those who hope to have a successful career in law enforcement, but most people want to make money on a scale that can support themselves and their family. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has statistics for police officer salaries for 2006 (the latest year available), and they break down as follows:
Average police and sheriff's patrol officer salaries ranged from $35,600 to $59,880 per year in 2006.
Average police and detective supervisors' salaries ranged from $53,900 to $83,940 per year in 2006.
Average detective and criminal investigators' salaries ranged from $43,920 to $76,350 per year in 2006.
Wanting to make money as a licensed law enforcement officer is a highly respectable career choice. It involves hard work and commitment, but the results can mean improved safety in your community and a challenging and rewarding career.