According to official national data, there are currently more than nine hundred thousand individuals working as police officers in the U.S.
But, even with so many officers on the job, many police departments across the United States report having trouble filling their ranks and keeping officers on the job.
This is down to one simple reason – a career as a cop just isn’t for everybody.
There’s certainly no shortage of people applying to work as police officers, but only a very small percentage are actually hired – and even fewer commit to the job long-term. That being said, with almost one million officers, it’s certainly a good career path to pursue if you have what it takes.
Read on for more information on how to become a cop.
#1. Are You Qualified?
It’s not always necessary to have any related qualifications before applying to work as a police officer since police departments have their own academies and will provide full training to any successful candidates. However, that being said, it can certainly improve your chance of getting the job if you have a relevant qualification, such as a bachelor’s degree in criminology, criminal justice, psychology or law. There will also be opportunities to improve your qualifications whilst on the job. For example, this BA in policing is an online program designed to fit perfectly around the busy working life of a cop.
#2. Do You have the Right Personality?
One of the main reasons why so many people don’t stick around long as a cop is because they just don’t have the right personality for it. This doesn’t mean that they won’t be good at anything else, but they’re simply not the right type of person to succeed as a cop. To work as a successful police officer, you’ll need to have a very strong, dedicated personality.
You’ll be expected to put in long hours, work tough shifts, and often, you’ll be right there in the thick of some of the most horrible situations imaginable. You’ll need to be level-headed to be able to think clearly during times of stress and be there to support victims of crime and their family members. You’ll need to be good with people and have a natural instinct to ask questions and find out more.
#3. Are You Prepared for Public Scrutiny?
Today, the job of a police officer is only getting harder, as scrutiny from the public increases. The public has always expected police offers to set the perfect example of ethical standards and good behavior when working with any individual. However, thanks to the digital age, it’s become easier than ever to expose the behavior of a few police officers whose actions have damaged the public support for police nationwide.
For new officers today, this means that your job is only going to get more difficult. With many law enforcement officers reporting feeling worried that they are only one bad social media video away from losing their job, you’ll need to be prepared for this kind of pressure if you want to enjoy a successful career as a cop.
#4. Are You Physically Ready?
Working as a police officer is both mentally and physically demanding, so you’ll need to ensure that you’re well prepared to take on anything that the role throws at you. In general, being a cop is not a good choice of career for anybody who is physically unfit or is unprepared to work hard on improving their fitness levels. There’s no need for you to be lifting heavy weights or sprinting many miles, but a good standard of fitness is absolutely essential.
Most police departments will conduct fitness tests beforehand, which will go towards determining whether or not you are accepted for the position. Be prepared to be put through your paces in the police academy with regular gym training and fitness tests to complete before you’re able to move on to the next stage of training.
#5. Can You Think on Your Feet?
One of the biggest requirements for a good cop is the ability to make snap decisions on their feet. As a police officer, you’ll often be working alone or with the help of a partner, and you’ll need to be confident in your own decision-making abilities and able to do the right thing under often enormous amounts of pressure. Every day, police officers have to make split-second decisions, which can often be the difference between life and death for somebody else or themselves. In some situations, making the right decision is imperative – not doing so could cost you your job.
#6. Do You Have a Plan?
As a cop, it’s imperative that you have a long-term plan for looking after both your physical and mental health. Without this, it will be exceedingly difficult for you to succeed in the demanding role of a police officer. Today, police departments recognize the importance of self-care for successful cops and often provide voluntary or mandatory wellness and counseling programs to help you maintain your mental health on the job.
Police officers are often first on the scene at extremely traumatic situations, and nobody will expect you to be unaffected by them. As a cop, taking regular therapy sessions will help you to get the stresses of the job off your chest and come up with healthy coping mechanisms that will enable you to work at your best.
#7. Do You Have a Clean Record?
Lastly, be sure that you are willing to disclose any skeletons in your closet before applying to become a cop. The background checking process for police officer applicants is long and thorough, with no chance of hiding anything. It will most likely include a criminal history check, a credit check, and explore any previous employment. If you suspect something from your past is going to come up, the best thing to do is be upfront about it beforehand – bear in mind that a less than squeaky clean background check won’t always stand in the way of your career.
So, do you think you have what it takes to be a cop? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Image Credit: Pixabay
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