How To Become A Cop

Seven Steps in Becoming a Police Officer

It's good to take a slow and logical approach when contemplating how to become a cop, or whether you even want to become a cop.  Not everyone has what it takes to become a cop.  Here are seven steps in becoming a police officer:

  1. Certainly do not sign on in order to get a cushy paycheck.  The rewards are intrinsic.  This career is right for someone who wants to protect and serve their community.  This can be a stressful career, as well as hard on marriages and families.  Make sure that your decision is discussed with all of your loved ones.

  2. Get educated.  Although some police departments will still accept applications from those with only a high school diploma, this is becoming rare.  Even a two year degree will often be insufficient.  You will be best prepared for a wide variety of law enforcement positions if, among the steps to become a police officer, you complete a four year degree.  The most comprehensive and relevant degree for a prospective cop is a criminal justice degree.  You can even get a criminal justice degree online.

  3. Prepare by finding out as much as possible about the specific department you are interested in before applying.  Talk with cops currently on the job.  Discuss your goals with a police department recruiter.  Talk with the human resources specialist who is in charge of the recruitment process to make sure you understand the exact process and application deadlines.

  4. Apply for openings in agencies that are a good fit with your research finds.  Check out the police officer requirementsThere will be a whole battery of exams to take: a fitness exam, a written test, a lie detector test, a drug test, and, if you do well enough on the other tests, an oral interview.  It is expected that at each step you are honest, forthright, and to the point.  Carefully follow all instructions.  Be prompt to every appointment. Dress appropriately for the activity, whether it’s a fitness test or an oral interview.

  5. If you are hired, you must attend a designated Police Academy.  This is where you will get the police officer standard trainingIn most cases the hiring department will pay for this training.  You are expected to be present and to participate in all aspects of this classroom and physical experience.  The academy will take up approximately the first six months of your job.

  6. After the Police Academy, expect the next several weeks to be spent with a Field Training Officer (FTO), who is an expert mentor in the field.  This experienced officer’s orders need to be followed without fail.  They have the experience to keep you safe on the job and to equip you with the real picture from the streets.

  7. Finally, around seven months into your service as a rookie cop, you will be assigned to a beat.  The probationary period typically lasts between six and twelve months.  Your performance will continue to be tracked closely and will be evaluated prior to receiving a permanent status.  When you become a permanent employee, you can check out the various police officer jobs.  As you spend time on the force, you may want to check out a criminal justice degree online.  This way, you can work while getting the degree that will help you advance. 

It is important to review each of the steps to becoming a police officer during the course of what will probably be a multiple year journey to your future as a police officer.


The San Jose Police Department currently hires twice a year for the academy which is held every January and July.

Job With Criminal Justice Degree  Having a degree can be very helpful.

Reasons to Become a Cop  There are many reasons to become a police officer.

Criminal Psychology Degree  Few cops, however, actually go through a rigorous five to seven year PhD or PsyD program in order to obtain a criminal psychology degree.

How to Apply to Become a Police Officer 

Police Officers Jobs  This is one profession where the training is hands-on and directly applicable to what cops experience in the field.

Jobs for Retired Police Officers  Police officers are typically eligible to retire after 20 to 25 years of service.