How to Become a Police Officer in Austin
Austin, Texas was ranked number one in Forbes’ list of America’s 20 fastest-growing cities in 2018, with a growth rate of 6.1% over five years.1 With a population of approximately 948,000 people, Austin is the fourth-most populous city in Texas, and one of the most populous cities in the United States.2 Approximately 1,700 sworn officers work on the Austin police force, working to keep the residents of the city safe through crime prevention and when necessary, investigation and prosecution.3 For those wishing to become part of the law enforcement team in Austin, the application, selection, and training process is detailed below.
Austin Police Officer Requirements
Becoming a cop in Austin starts with submitting an application and completing a pre-hire physical abilities evaluation. Prospective officers should carefully review the department’s list of common disqualifiers before applying. To be eligible to become an Austin police officer, applicants must:
- Be a US citizen
- Hold a valid driver’s license
- Be between the ages of 20.5 and 45
- Hold a high school diploma or GED
- Be free of any disqualifying health disorders (including but not limited to complex seizure disorder, uncontrolled high blood pressure, or significant heart disease)
- Have 20/20 vision (can be corrected) with normal color and night vision and hearing
- Not have any convictions of felonies or driver’s license suspensions
- Not have an unstable credit history
The first step for joining the law enforcement team in Austin is to complete an application, which can be found online. Prospective cadets will then complete a physical ability test, including a timed 1.5-mile run, push-ups, sit-ups, and a vertical leap. They will also have to complete a reading comprehension test, passing with a score better than or equal to the level of a first-year college student. Candidates will also submit a writing sample and a take written psychological test. Applicants who meet hiring criteria may be given a conditional employment offer. Next, prospective cadets will have an oral board interview, which will last about one-and-a-half to two hours. Finally, applicants will have to pass a background test, a polygraph exam, a psychological interview, a medical exam, and a drug test. At that point, successful applicants will be placed in a two-year eligibility pool for the Austin police academy.
For more information about how to become a cop in a typical big city, see 10 Steps to Becoming a Police Officer on our home page. If you are ready to apply now, find specific application information at the Austin Police Department – Application page.
Austin Police Department Training Academy
The Austin Police Department Training Academy is 32 weeks (eight months) long. Throughout the academy, cadets are continually assessed on their physical ability, with tests performed twice a week. A shorter, modified academy is also available for qualifying recruits with previous law enforcement experience. Cadets are paid for their time at the training academy and are expected to be available for duty from 7 AM to 4 PM each weekday during the academy, with some night and weekend duties. Upon graduating from the academy, officers will enter the field training program for 12 additional weeks, after which they will be assigned to a permanent shift.
Austin Police Department Information
The Austin Police Department is organized into four regions and nine geographic sectors covering Austin city limits. All Austin police officers begin their careers in patrol. Successful performance can lead to increased responsibilities and transfer to special duties or units. Specialized units within the APD include, but are not limited to, the Air Enforcement Team, Bomb Squad, Motorcycle Unit, Metro-Tactical Unit, Special Response Team, Homeland Defense Team, and Intelligence Unit.
Those interested in detective work become eligible for promotion to the detective rank after four years of service and passing the Civil Service examination. Detective job assignments include the Sex Offender Unit, Gang Suppression Unit, Homicide Unit, Narcotics Conspiracy Unit, and many others.
As part of its community policing model, Austin’s police department offers a Citizen Police Academy, which is available to citizens who are 18 and older and wish to learn more about how APD cops are trained and how the APD operates. The program is free and lasts for 14 weeks (typically one class each week, with opportunities for tours and other experiences). Find out more and complete an application on the APD Citizen Police Academy page. The APD also offers a police explorers program, a youth summer camp, and specialized outreach teams and forums to engage members of the community of all ages.
Department Contact Information
Salary, Benefits, and Jobs Outlook
The starting salary for Austin cadets is $40,000 per year during training.4 Upon graduation from the police academy, Austin officers earn $58,681 per year.4 At the one year anniversary of academy graduation, the base salary rises to $65,850 per year.4 Police officers who are bilingual interpreters, work times that qualify for shift differentials, and/or have a bachelor’s degree may qualify for additional pay.4 Benefits offered by the APD include generous vacation and PTO and health and life insurance. Officers become eligible for retirement after 23 years of service; retirement pay at this level is 73.6% of the officer’s total average base salary earned.4 After 30 years of service, the retirement pay is 96% of the officer’s total average base salary earned.4
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an average annual wage of $70,190 for law enforcement officers in Austin as of May 2018.5 The outlook for police officers in the state of Texas is bright. People who wish to pursue a career in law enforcement in Texas can expect around 16.4% growth in job opportunities through 2026.6 For more information on current APD law enforcement positions, take a look at our job board page.
- Texas Fraternal Order of Police – The Texas Fraternal Order of Police is a statewide association of law enforcement officers that provides training, discount programs, and more for its membership.
- Texas Fraternal Order of Police Foundation – This organization provides financial, legal, and other forms of support to families left behind by officers killed in the line of duty.
- Austin Fraternal Order of Police – The Fraternal Order of Police Austin Lodge represents officers serving or retired from 14 law enforcement agencies in the Austin metro area.
1. Forbes Magazine: https://www.forbes.com/sites/erincarlyle/2014/02/14/americas-20-fastest-growing-cities/
2. Data USA, Austin, Texas: https://datausa.io/profile/geo/austin-tx/
3. City of Austin Office of the Police Monitor 2015 Annual Report: http://www.austintexas.gov/sites/default/files/files/OPM_Annual_Report_2015_FINAL2.pdf
4. Austin Police Department: https://www.apdrecruiting.org/
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_12420.htm
5. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm