Police Officer Schools and Colleges with Program Overview

Police officers work to prevent crime and to keep the peace. They enforce laws set in place by federal, state and local government agencies. Police officer schools take the form of state and regional police academies, but colleges can also offer police officer education. Prior to training at the police academy, some officers may be required to obtain college degrees.

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How to Select a Police Officer School

Training for police officers typically takes place at police academies. Trainees at small police departments generally attend regional or state academies, while trainees at large police departments attend their agency's police academy. Police academy training usually lasts three to three and a half months and consists of physical education and upper body training exercises, as well as courses in constitutional law, state laws, civil rights, local ordinances, traffic control, firearm use, first aid and self-defense.

Although admission to a police academy often requires only a high school degree or equivalent GED, college degrees for police officers are also available. Some officers, such as those who work for federal agencies, are required to obtain college degrees. These programs may result in associate's or bachelor's degrees in criminal justice or police science. Students pursuing degrees in police science or criminal justice should focus on programs that provide as much career-related experience as possible. While traditional internship training is available, students may also want to complete an externship or co-op program.

Externships are 'shadowing' programs that generally last a few days. As a 'shadow', a student follows a professional police officer as he or she works. The student observes and gains first-hand experience seeing what the daily duties of the job involve. Co-ops, also known as cooperative education programs, combine classroom instruction with paid work experience in one's field of interest. Co-ops and externships can be completed at places such as local police departments, juvenile justice agencies, district attorneys' offices and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC).

Police officers need to be in good physical shape. Students pursuing a college education can take advantage of criminal justice and police science programs that offer courses focusing on strength training and physical fitness. While taking a foreign language course is required for most degrees, students may also benefit from criminal justice or police science programs that offer bilingual classes as part of its curriculum. This is particularly true for students who plan to work in areas with large non-English speaking populations.

College Program Overview

A bachelor's degree program in criminology or criminal justice includes courses in law, ethics and investigative practice. Students also learn about operation of the American judicial and correctional systems. A student may be able to specialize with electives in subjects such as juvenile crime or rehabilitation. Sociology and psychology courses are often included with the general education requirements in a criminal justice program to help prospective police officers better understand human behavior.

Largest Schools by Student Enrollment

College/University Student Population Institution Type
Miami Dade College57,2224-year, primarily associate's, Public
College of Southern Nevada40,3104-year, primarily associate's, Public
Excelsior College33,4534-year, Private not-for-profit
George Mason Univeristy30,6134-year, Public
Texas State University-San Marcos29,1054-year, Public
St Petersburg College26,6594-year, primarily associate's, Public
Florida Community College at Jacksonville25,9034-year, primarily associate's, Public
Northeastern University25,8374-year, Private not-for-profit
George Washington University25,1164-year, Private not-for-profit
University of Akron Main Campus24,1194-year, Public
University of Toledo22,3364-year, Public
Weber State University21,3884-year, Public
Eastern Kentucky University16,0314-year, Public
Indian River State College15,3664-year, primarily associate's, Public
Southeastern Louisiana Univeristy15,2154-year, Public
Northern Kentucky University15,0824-year, Public
Daytona State College15,0304-year, primarily associate's, Public
CUNY John Jay College Criminal Justice14,8444-year, Public
Madison Area Technical College14,6664-year, Public
Minnesota State University-Mankato14,6214-year, Public
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