Do You Need a Criminology Degree to Be a Police Officer?
Wanting to become a police officer can be something you decide when you are still very young, or it may be that you’ve gotten older and realized the career you are already in no longer interests you, and that it’s time for a change.
A career as a police officer can be demanding; it requires a special sort of person–one with a specific set of personal skills including, diplomacy, patience, quick-thinking, good-judgment and above all an interest in helping people.
A police officer will spend most of their time dealing with members of the public–so if you are not a people person than this probably isn’t the ideal job for you. Other responsibilities a police officer will have include; patrolling a given area, responding to calls and accidents, and helping the victims of a crime.
A police officer’s main duties are to maintain law and order, and conduct investigations where appropriate. At State or Federal level, a police officer will also; investigate crimes, collect evidence and apprehend criminals–it is generally much more dangerous and stressful policing at this level.
A police officer may also have to testify in court, so accurate recording skills are vital, and knowledge of a second language can be to your advantage. A police officer can work for a large urban force or a local rural department, and it is this diversity that decides the level of education required to become a police officer.
All police departments will require you have at least a basic high school diploma or GED and most require you to be 20 years old or over and be a U.S. citizen. In Canada you will need to be 19 in most provinces. On top of this, many departments also require that you have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree as well.
State and Federal agencies will insist on you having a 4 year bachelor’s degree–preferably in a related discipline, such as Criminology. To become a police officer you will also have to undergo a variety of tests, these include; a physical fitness test, a medical, a written exam or questionnaire and a psychological assessment.
If you are accepted to a police department you will then need to attend a 12 week training course at a police academy (possibly longer, it will depend on the department you are applying to). Although, if you can’t decide which division of the police you’d like to work in, some states will allow you to attend the police academy first and then apply to a police department as a fully trained police officer once you have a clearer picture of what you want to do.
Throughout their career, police officers will be expected to continue their education through seminars and workshops, this is so they can keep up with all the latest developments and procedures within law enforcement.
Entering the police force with a bachelor’s degree in Criminology will make you more likely to be successful in your application process. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that applicants with college training in the field of criminal justice have the best opportunities of gaining employment and promotion. And, it is useful to remember that you will start off on a higher salary if you already have a degree.
The average salary for a police officer is around $45,000, but this will depend on your qualifications and experience.
In summary, the best way to prepare for becoming a police officer is:
First check with your police force or state/ provincial government department responsible for hiring and talk to a recruitment specialist. They may recommend to you that you:
1. Get at least an associate’s degree in Criminology, or another criminal justice subject, a bachelor’s degree is recommended for your best chances of securing a position as a police officer.
2.Ensure you are fit enough to pass a medical and a physical fitness test.
3.Know that you will be able to pass a background check; having multiple traffic violations or drug convictions will most likely result in your application being rejected.
Once you are employed as a police officer there will be many career options and opportunities for promotion available to you, including becoming a sergeant, lieutenant or chief. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there will be a 10% increase in police officer’s jobs until 2018, so this is definitely a career worth getting in to.
So why not consider it, if you started a bachelor’s degree in Criminology now, you could be employed in a police department by 2015.
There are also degrees in forensic psychology for those interested in fighting crime.