Discovering your passion
As part of the military community, you live in an environment with service members who are dedicated to serving and protecting our nation. You too can play a role in making our communities a safer place, by choosing a career as a police officer. Police officers often work in physically demanding, stressful and sometimes dangerous environments. Police officers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. You will also be expected to work around the clock, in shifts. To be successful, you need to have a natural drive to make your community safer and a better place to live. If you are considering a career as a police officer, review the Research Occupations tool on MySECO. Take the Strong Interest Explorer and Myers-Briggs assessments to make sure your skills and interests align with this career path.
To avoid burnout or hazards, pursue the type of police work that most interests you. Take stress management courses, re-energize regularly, continue to get required training to stay on top of your game and be ready to handle stressful or dangerous situations.
Education and training
Once you have made the decision to pursue a career as a police officer, you can explore the many tools and resources on MySECO to assist you in achieving the education requirements necessary to practice in your profession. Most police officers must be at least 21 years of age to enter a police academy, so if you are a recent high school graduate, you may want to consider entering a two-year or four-year criminal justice program to build a foundation to start your career.
College Scorecard is a great starting point for researching and selecting an education institution. When you visit College Scorecard, select “Search My Area of Interest > Occupation > Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers” to find a program of study near you. You can also use the Scholarship Finder to assist with finding funding relevant to the military community to pay for classes.
If you already meet the age requirements, then you will need a high school diploma and to complete the physical and personal examinations. You will be required to pass physical exams, including vision, hearing, strength and agility, as well as written exams. After completion of your exams, you typically go through a series of interviews and are required to take a lie detector test and drug test.
After an average of two years in uniformed patrol, officers may have the opportunity to branch off into specialization areas. Law enforcement is a professional job, requiring a variety of skills. It has evolved into a modern profession involving a range of skills from technical writing and problem solving to applied sociology and technological knowledge.
Once you are confident that you have the necessary requirements, it’s time to find a job in your occupation. One of the first places to look is the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Job Search. Hundreds of partner employers have made the commitment to recruit, hire, promote and retain military spouses in portable careers. A recent search of the Military Spouse Employment Partnership Job Search using the keyword “Police” provided multiple job listings with companies such as HCA, Hospital Corporation of America, Mid-Atlantic Higher Education Recruitment Consortium, Hyatt and more, located throughout the United States.
Many states and local jurisdictions handle their own recruitment and hiring practices for police officers. You can check local job boards and visit the Web pages for these departments to search for vacant positions. You can also search for police officer positions using MySECO’s Job Search Tools, which include the following:
Professional organizations and networking
You may wish to consider joining a professional organization in your career field to gain a better understanding of current trends in law enforcement. Professional organizations are great ways to continue your education through workshops and conferences, which will add to your transferable skill set as you move. Networking with other professionals in your industry will give you an edge in meeting the right people who may have the connections you need to obtain an interview or restart your career at your new location. Read The Value of Professional Associations for more information on how becoming a member can help enhance your career.
Consider volunteering, if possible, or doing an internship, and proactively networking to build contacts and experience in this field.
To explore additional information related to starting your career as a police officer, check out the Research Occupations tool on MySECO. Enter the keywords “Police Patrol Officers” to learn more about the occupational overview for your specialty field. If you need additional information about law enforcement occupations, you can speak with a career coach at 800-342-9647 to discuss any questions or concerns you may have. Coaches are available to review your resume, practice interviewing, discuss networking or assist you in understanding employer requirements for this field.