Police Officer Career Trends

There are many options for a police officer career, and nationwide, there is competition to get the best recruits.

Labor Market Trends

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings for police officers will increase between 7 and 13% between 2008 and 2018. NPR News has also reported that several large cities in the US, including San Diego and Houston, are experiencing shortages of police officer recruits, and that the competition to recruit is fierce.

Wide Range of Law Enforcement Opportunities

If you are interested in a career as a police officer, think broadly about law enforcement as a career. There are opportunities in sheriff’s departments, in urban police forces, regional and state policing, highway patrol and in federal law enforcement. There are also military policing opportunities which could contribute to a career in civilian law enforcement after leaving the military. Each of these areas have different basic requirements and it may be possible to transfer between these branches during a law enforcement career.

Becoming a Police Officer

Requirements for recruits can vary from city to city, so it is important to review the requirements either on the police service’s website or by speaking directly with a recruitment officer. Most cities have similar basic requirements, such as most recruits are older than 21 years of age, are US citizens and have completed high school.

Prospective police officers are also required to pass a series of mental and physical examinations, so study and physical training are required. Many prospective recruits are also completing far more than the basic educational requirements, and some police agencies require the completion of at least 2 years of college before applying to become a police officer.

Meeting the minimum requirements is often not enough, since many prospective police recruits possess an abundance of skills, from the ability to speak one or more languages other than English to martial arts training. Completing additional training in law enforcement, science, community service, as well as some basic firearms training, first aid and self-defense are all assets for an application to an urban police force.

Finding Job Opportunities

Law enforcement websites, such as Real Police, have job boards for police positions, as well as basic information on applying to become a police officer and completing the required examinations. The website’s directory of police agencies will also help a prospective candidate research various opportunities nationwide.

A prospective recruit can also use other search engines to look for policing positions. Use the search terms "police recruit" or "police cadet" to find opportunities. These search engines also offer additional tools, such as maps to find the recruitment office, or salary data to help the applicant find the best policing opportunity.

Career fairs are also an option for prospective police officers. Major recruitment fairs, including fairs specifically for law enforcement and emergency services, will have representatives from all across the country, especially from law enforcement agencies that are experiencing shortages of recruits.