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What Training Is Necessary for a Career in Law Enforcement?

A career in law enforcement as a police officer, FBI agent, game warden, or other agent requires at least a high school diploma to start training. Some agencies have more strict educational requirements. This article will tell you more about the training required for a career in law enforcement.

Job Requirements

Every law enforcement agency has its own requirements that trainees must meet before they can enter the agency's training program. For most police departments, a recruit must be a U.S. citizen over the age of 21 with a high school diploma. For some agencies, some college courses or a bachelor's degree is required. The FBI's training program requires applicants to have a bachelor's degree and/or several years of work experience. Fluency in a foreign language is also an asset for federal law enforcement positions.

Many community colleges and four-year schools offer degrees and classes in criminal justice that are designed for students entering law enforcement careers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), many law enforcement agencies offer financial assistance for officers who wish to obtain a degree this field.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Median Pay (2018) $63,380 (for police and detectives)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 7% growth (for police and detectives)
Work Environment Physically and mentally demanding; weekend, night, and holiday work schedules
Similar Occupations Correctional Officers, Private Detectives, Probation Officers, Security Guards

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career-Specific Training

Typical police academy programs take from three to four months to complete, and federal law enforcement programs can take up to a year. Training includes classes in civil rights, local and state laws, and constitutional rights. After training, law enforcement agents complete a battery of physical and mental exams. Recruits are also put through strenuous physical tests, such as running and obstacle courses, to make sure they are in the physical condition necessary for a career in law enforcement. Training programs also cover:

  • Firearms usage
  • Defensive tactics
  • CPR
  • Driving skills