Working in law enforcement can be very rewarding, and many aspiring police officers wonder if all police officers have degrees in criminal justice. Although some police officers don’t always have degrees, most of them do have a degree – just not necessarily a degree in criminal justice. Educational requirements, which depend on the hiring agency, maybe a high school diploma, a degree or completion of a police academy program. Here is some valuable information for individuals considering careers as police officers.
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Educational Requirements to Become a Police Officer
The educational requirements to become a police officer may vary by location and employer. Some agencies may hire an individual if he or she has a high school diploma and will just provide them with on-the-job training. Other agencies may require the candidate to have a degree in criminal justice or law enforcement. Some candidates may have a degree in another field and may complete police training. In most cases, the candidate is required to complete police academy training. Prior to entrance into the police academy training, the applicant must pass several entrance exams, including reading/writing and agility. The police academy has a very strict entrance policy that must be met.
Do Police Officers Have Degrees in Criminal Justice?
Not all police officers have degrees in criminal justice, and not all police officers even have degrees. As stated above, the educational requirements depend on the employer and location. If a police officer does have a degree, it might be an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. Although the most common degree for police officers is criminal justice, interested individuals may also earn degrees in a field like law enforcement or legal studies. These programs typically offer the student a choice of concentrations, and police work is one of them.
Police Officer Program Curriculum
The type of courses an aspiring police officer must complete depends on where the training is completed. Some obtain their education by completing an associate or bachelor’s degree program while others complete training at a police academy. Some police officers do both. Students earning a degree in criminal justice may complete courses in:
• Current events in criminal justice
• Intro to psychology
• Written communication
• Juvenile justice and jurisdiction
• Criminal legal system
• Traffic investigation
Students in a basic police academy program may complete these courses.
• Cultural diversity
• Criminal law
• Techniques and procedures of law enforcement
• Community policing
• Defensive tactics
• Investigative procedures
• Patrol procedures
In addition to the coursework, students must complete a physical conditioning requirement to prepare them for the physical work involved in police service. They must also satisfy the ethics and morals part of the program.
Career Outlook for Police Officers
Police officers are expected to experience job growth of five percent between 2018 and 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although the need for qualified police officers to provide public safety will continue to grow, how many are actually hired is often dependent on local and state budgets.
As of May 2018, police officers nationwide earned an average annual wage of $65,400, but their wages ranged from $35,750 to $101,620. The average hourly wage for police officers across the nation was $31.44. Police officers earned the highest wages in the states of California, Alaska, New Jersey, Washington and Illinois.
Working as a police officer can be extremely rewarding but can also be stressful and dangerous. While earning a degree in criminal justice may not be necessary to become a police officer, it can be beneficial and can also help the police officer advance to leadership positions in the field.