How to Become a Police Officer
New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Police Officers. Source: Creative Commons.
Police officers are responsible for patrolling an area, for responding to calls, for takeing
necessary action at the scene of a crime, for conducting investigations, testifying in court,
and completing routine paperwork. The median salary for a police officer here in Phoenix
is $51,014. Except in times when the economy collapses, in a rapidly growing city like
Phoenix there is always a demand for police officers.
Meet the Basic Requirements
You must be at least 18 years of age, have a drivers license, and be a legal resident of
the United States in order to become a police officer. Some police departments require
recruits to be at least 21.
Be an Upstanding Citizen
Police officers are expected to act as role models in their communities, and it's never too
early to start embodying the values you will be tasked with enforcing. Avoid using illegal
drugs, drinking alcohol to excess, and committing crimes, no matter how small. All of these
behaviors can make it tougher to get a job as a police officer when it comes time to apply.
• Having a felony conviction as an adult, a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction,
or a conviction for a crime related in any way to race (a hate crime) disqualifies you from
being able to pursue a career as a police officer.
• Juvenile convictions can't legally be held against you, since the record is sealed
when you reach 18, but getting tangled up in crimes as a teenager is not good preparation
for becoming a police officer. Having a good reputation in your community will be important
when you apply for jobs.
Building Good Credit
When you apply to become a police officer, the department will run a credit check as
part of your background check, and you will be penalized if your score is quite low. Avoid
accumulating debt, and pay your bills on time.
• Get a credit check now so you know exactly what financial state you are in.
• If you don't have good credit, take steps toward building it back up. Even if your
credit score is low, the efforts you make to attain better credit will show that you're a responsible person.
Have a Strong Work Ethic
Having work experience helps prepare you for the long hours and strict requirements
of a police officer job, and it also gives you an edge over applicants with no experience.
Your job experience doesn't have to be related to law enforcement, although that can help;
any work experience that shows you're responsible and capable of doing a job well will help.
• Consider taking a job that requires you to interact with the public. Police
officers need excellent communication skills.
• Other government jobs, such as a job at your local state park, can give you a
sense of what it's like to work as part of a law enforcement team.
• Some choose to join the military service for a year or two before joining the police
force, as this prepares them physically and mentally for the duties of a cop.