image of police car lights

Do you want to become a police officer? For many, getting into law enforcement is more of a calling than a career. With that said, in order to become a police officer and work for your local city or other government agency, there are a number of steps that need to be followed. In some cases, this involves getting a degree in criminal justice.

Attend School or Specialized Training

Although you don’t necessarily need a degree in criminal justice in order to work as a police officer, it helps, as it gives you plenty of background knowledge that you may need while on the job. However, some states only require that you go through and pass an official police academy training course. These courses are usually offered by the local county, region or town that plans on hiring the officers and teaches them the skills that they’ll need. With that said, it never hurts to have a college degree, even if you need to undergo the additional specialized training. In fact, some police departments prefer those with both types of training because they are typically more well-rounded.

Prepare to Pass a Background Check

You won’t need to pass a background check in order to enroll and graduate from a degree program in criminal justice, but you’ll definitely need one in order to work as a police officer. Most police training programs require you to take and pass a background check before you even enter their police academies. They want their candidates to be ready to go once they graduate. If you think that you may not be able to pass a background check, you’ll need to speak to the people in charge of the police academy.

Go Through a Psychological Evaluation

All police officers need to go through a psychological evaluation. This process usually consists of several parts, including:

  • Speaking to a Psychologist – A licensed and police academy-approved psychologist will lead candidates through a test to make sure that there are no underlying issues, such as a tendency towards violence or extreme anxiety, to ensure that the officer can handle the challenges of the job.
  • Undergoing a Polygraph Test – In order to prove that they are telling the truth, both during the psychology exam and during the background check, a polygraph may be required.
  • Other Testing Methods – There may be other testing requirements, although this depends on the location.

Take and Pass the Required Licensing Exam

Finally, all police officer trainees must take and pass a licensing exam before they find themselves fully qualified for the job. This exam consists of knowing the law, proper procedures and more.

Be Prepared for a Career in Law Enforcement

If you want to become a police officer, you can get a leg up by earning a college degree before attending a police academy. Learn more about our Criminal Justice degree program, today.