Thank you for your interest in contacting How to Become a Police Officer. We regret that we cannot offer personalized advising or guidance to individuals. If you have additional questions that are not addressed in our FAQs below or elsewhere on our site, the best point of contact is typically the HR department for the police department for which you wish to work.
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How to Become a Police Officer
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Commonly Requested Resources
- Police Careers
- Police Officer Requirements by State
- Police Officer Requirements by Major City
- Expert Career and Job Advice
Frequently Asked Questions
Below you will find answers to some of our visitors’ most frequently asked questions, sorted by inquiries related to police officer hiring requirements, past criminal or dishonorable military discharge records, previously trained or certified applicants, and international applicants.
Police Officer Hiring Requirements
I am close to, or past, the maximum age range for the police department where I want to work. Are there any exceptions to age policies for new hires?
Age restrictions for new police officers vary by department, though many police departments will provide age waivers for those with previous police or military experience. Please contact the PD(s) where you are considering applying for the best answer.
Do I need a college degree or college credits to become a police officer?
Most states do not require prospective police officers to have an associate’s degree, although a number do, including but not limited to New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Additionally, individual police departments have latitude to set requirements above state-required minimums. For example, state law in Illinois only requires police officer candidates to have a high school diploma or GED, but the city of Chicago requires officer candidates to have at least 60 semester hours of college credit. If you are interested in becoming an officer and are in the process of determining requirements, it is best to contact individual jurisdictions where you might be interested in working to verify their requirements.
Criminal and Dishonorable Military Service Records
I have a criminal record, can I still be hired as a police officer?
The guidelines for hiring those with previous criminal records vary by state and are set by the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) board of each individual state. In most jurisdictions you would be ineligible for police training or law enforcement work with a felony on your record, but that may depend on the felony, whether it has been expunged, and the timeframe. Additionally, individual police departments do have some latitude to set stricter requirements than those of the state. Typically, departments will review misdemeanor or minor charges on a case-by-case basis, as long as they aren’t in the category of automatic disqualifiers, which vary by department. Please reach out to the recruiting department at the PD(s) where you are considering applying for further information.
I have military experience, but I was issued a dishonorable discharge or a discharge other than honorable. Can I still apply to be a police officer?
The POST for each state typically sets the military discharge conditions for prospective officers. Since local agencies must follow the state POST guidelines as a minimum, check with your state’s POST authorities to see if your discharge conditions would be reviewed for peace officer certification.
Previously Trained or Certified Officer Applicants
I completed the police academy in one state, and now wish to become a police officer in a different state. Does my training qualify me to be sworn in in other jurisdictions?
Although each state sets minimum guidelines that all police departments in the state must follow, hiring requirements for entry-level police officers vary because departments may choose to set a higher bar for applicants than the state minimum. The best way to get information on what you would need to qualify is to visit the website of the police department for which you would like to work to find their recruiting guidelines, since each may be different. However, for many police departments, having completed a police academy in another state would not qualify for lateral entry unless you also had at least one year of continuous service in the training jurisdiction. Additionally, some police departments will only accept lateral entry from other PDs in the same state, and not those located out of state.
If I have military experience, do I still need to attend police academy training?
Although some jurisdictions will waive select portions of police academy training, particularly firearms training, for highly-qualified veteran applicants, you should still expect to spend time at the police academy learning the specifics of police work. Contact the recruiting department for the PD where you would like to work for more information on how your military experience translates to a career as a police officer.
I am not a US citizen, can I become a police officer in the US?
While each police department in the US has its own specific requirements, most PDs do require that prospective officers be US citizens in order to be sworn in. In certain jurisdictions, an applicant may begin training with a green card, but must be a US citizen by the time he or she is expected to be sworn in. Please contact the local police departments where you are considering working for exact requirements and information on the process. Many PDs now have online recruiting portals that provide specific and current requirements.