How to Become a Police Officer in San Antonio
San Antonio, Texas is the seventh-most populous city in the United States, with a population of over 1.4 million.1 The city enjoys a lower crime rate than similarly-sized metros, although the violent and property crime rates are higher than the US average.2 With a large and growing population, San Antonio has a need for more law enforcement to protect its citizens; the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) currently counts over 2,400 uniformed officers in its ranks.3 Detailed below is the process to become a San Antonio police officer.
San Antonio Police Officer Requirements
Not just anyone can be a police officer in San Antonio. The process for selecting cops in San Antonio is no less competitive than in any other city. Candidates wishing to become a cop for the SAPD must:
- Be a US citizen
- Be at least 20.5 years old and fewer than 45 years old at the time of application
- Hold a high school diploma or GED with a GPA of “C” or above
- If at least 18 years of age but less than 21 years of age, candidates must have an associate’s degree or two years of active military service
- Have an acceptable driving record
- Not have any felony convictions or convictions of Class B misdemeanors or above
- If a military veteran, not have any discharge other than honorable
Prospective recruits must first submit an application online. If the candidate meets the minimum requirements, a testing date and time will be determined for the physical and written tests. The physical test measures candidates’ ability to perform certain activities in and out of a law enforcement vehicle. According to the SAPD website, the physical portion of the exam proves to be the most difficult for most candidates. Practice and adequate preparation are strongly recommended. The written test is entirely online and consists of 250 multiple-choice questions measuring candidates’ cognitive ability as well as behavioral orientation. A study guide is available on the SAPD’s website.
Candidates who pass these exams next complete a structured oral interview, which is followed by a background investigation and polygraph exam. Next, candidates still in consideration will undergo a psychological exam and medical/physical exam. Candidates’ files will be reviewed by the Chief of Police, who will determine which candidates are offered employment and a place in an upcoming police academy class.
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, you can find specific application information at the San Antonio Police Department’s Application Process page.
San Antonio Police Academy
The San Antonio Police Academy lasts about 32 weeks and 1,300 training hours, during which candidates are employed by the SAPD, receiving a salary and benefits. Candidates do not pay to attend the academy, nor is it residential, so prospective cops may live at home during this time. Participants may not attend college or work elsewhere during their time at the academy. To graduate, cadets must maintain an average grade of 80% or better on all work. After successful completion of the academy, cadets will become probationary police officers and begin 14 weeks of field training with another officer.
San Antonio Police Department Information
The San Antonio Police Department is organized into 19 squad districts. New recruits typically work in patrol for at least one year before becoming eligible to transfer to other areas or special assignments. Special positions include the Bomb Squad, Motorcycle Unit, Executive Protection Unit, Homicide, and the Critical Incident (Hostage) Negotiation Team.
The SAPD follows a community policing philosophy and has had a dedicated community policing unit, the San Antonio Fear Free Environment Unit (SAFFE), since 1995. All SAPD cops work to engage the community in issues impacting safety and neighborhood concerns. A secondary arm of the SAPD’s philosophy is Problem-Oriented Policing (POP), a tactic that focuses on solutions to problems by addressing the root causes of crime and neighborhood decay.
Citizens of San Antonio who would like to learn more about crime in the city are invited to participate in a Citizen Police Academy (CPA) program. Participants of the class will take 11 weeks of classes, which will educate them about the important work done by the SAPD. A ride-along is included in the CPA program. Interested citizens can find out more here.
Department Contact Information
Salary, Benefits, and Jobs Outlook
The annual salary for a police officer in San Antonio varies according to a person’s experience and education. As a cadet, recruits earn $45,000, which is the highest starting salary for officers in Texas.3,4 After their first year as an officer, that salary is increased to $52,188 per year, with annual increases up to $71,088 thereafter.4 The SAPD is also offering a hiring bonus of $5,000 to new recruits (up to $7,500 for previously POST-certified or military recruits).4 Incentive pay programs are available to bilingual cops, those with college degrees, those who work select shifts, and those on special assignments. Cops in San Antonio also receive excellent benefits in addition to their salaries, including health and dental insurance, paid time off, a clothing allowance, and more. After 20 years of service, officers are eligible to retire at 45% of their total average salary; this rises to up to 88% of the average total salary for those retiring after 30 years of service.4
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, cops in San Antonio earned an average salary of $60,490 in 2017.5 The job outlook for police officers in Texas is promising. Growth in law enforcement jobs across the state is expected to reach 16.4% through 2026, with approximately 10,45 police officer jobs being added each year.4
For more information on current SAPD law enforcement positions, take a look at our job board page.
Cities and Police Departments Near San Antonio
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are about 4,430 police and sheriff’s patrol officers in the San Antonio metropolitan area.5 While the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) employs the most police officers in this area, aspiring cops can still find plenty of opportunities in suburban and rural communities. The below table outlines police employment and crime data for selected cities in this area.
|City||Force Name/Abbreviation||City Population7||Police Dept. Total Employees8||Sworn Officers8||Civilian Staff8||Violent Crime Rate per 1,000 People9||Property Crime Rate per 1,000 People9|
|New Braunfels||New Braunfels Police Department (NBPD)||79,152||142||117||25||0.26||2.17|
|San Antonio||San Antonio Police Department (SAPD)||1,532,233||2,819||2,152||667||0.7||5.08|
|San Marcos||San Marcos Police Department (SMPD)||63,071||143||103||40||0.36||3.18|
- Texas Fraternal Order of Police: The Texas Fraternal Order of Police works to improve police working conditions and benefits across the state and also works to improve legislation impacting public safety.
- San Antonio Police Officers Association: The San Antonio Police Officers Association, or SAPOA, is the bargaining unit for San Antonio police officers.
1. Sperling’s Best Places, San Antonio, TX: https://www.bestplaces.net/city/texas/san_antonio
2. US News & World Report Best Places to Live, San Antonio, TX: https://realestate.usnews.com/places/texas/san-antonio/crime
3. San Antonio Police Department: https://www.sanantonio.gov/SAPD
4. San Antonio Police Department Careers: https://sapdcareers.com/
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX: https://www.bls.gov/OES/current/oes_41700.htm
6. Projections Central: https://www.projectionscentral.org/projections/longterm
7. US Census Bureau, QuickFacts: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045219
8. Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports, Full-time Law Enforcement Employees by State by City: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/table-26/table-26.xls/view
9. Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports, Offenses Known to Law Enforcement by State by City: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/table-6/table-6.xls/view