Police Officer: An Overview of Police Academy Training

Police academy training prepares newly hired recruits to become police officers. Training academies are either located within a police department or at community colleges. Students participate in classroom instruction and field training.

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Police Academy Overview

Police academy training prepares individuals to seek roles as police officers. Each police academy sets its own requirements for enrollment and graduation, though some similarities exist. Training is often paid, and some programs provide tuition reimbursement.

Enrollment Requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that police academy applicants usually need a high school diploma or its equivalent (www.bls.gov). In some cases, at least some college coursework or a degree is necessary. Additional qualifications may include a valid driver's license, a clean criminal record and a physical fitness report from a doctor. Some academies also require completion of a hearing test and a psychological evaluation.


Students can begin preparing for the police academy while in high school. Electives such as criminology, legal studies, physical education, sociology and psychology are helpful for aspiring police officers. In addition, police academy admissions officers may look for applicants who have completed college coursework in criminal justice or law enforcement. Some academies prefer candidates who hold an associate's or bachelor's degree in one of those fields.

An associate's degree program in law enforcement covers community policing, racial relations, sociology, legal issues, criminal investigations and psychology. Some law enforcement associate's degree programs are integrated into police academy programs.

A bachelor's degree program in criminal justice, police science or a related discipline can also prepare students for careers as police officers. Common topics include the criminal justice system, criminology, emergency planning, crime prevention, crisis communications and U.S. government.

Program Requirements

After gaining acceptance into the police academy, recruits participate in classroom and practical instruction. They learn state laws, criminal investigations, patrol procedures, firearms training, traffic control, defensive driving, self-defense, first aid and computer skills. Police academy recruits also undertake physical training and fieldwork that demonstrates their comprehension of classroom instruction. Field exercises include investigating mock criminal scenes, directing traffic, operating police vehicles, arrest techniques, using firearms, fingerprinting and interrogation methods. Police academy training usually takes 22-27 weeks to complete.

Career Outlook

Police officer and detective jobs were predicted to grow 7% from 2010-2020, which was a bit slower than average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment opportunities at state and local governments will be some of the toughest positions to earn. Police and sheriff's patrol officers earned a mean yearly salary of $57,770 as of May 2012, reports the BLS.

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