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How to Become a Police Officer in Florida

The Sunshine State offers a multitude of advantages for its 20.2 million residents, including great weather and good communities.1 Residents in Florida are served and protected by the estimated 38,770 police officers working in the state.2 The state-level requirements for becoming a Florida cop are similar to other states. However, individual agencies may have additional requirements on top of the state’s recommended standards. For example, many agencies require new recruits to have an associate degree, while the state educational minimum is a high school diploma or GED certificate. On this page, you’ll find out more about Florida’s requirements for law enforcement training as well as more information on the top police departments in the state.

Florida Police Officer Requirements

The Criminal Justice Standards & Training Commission (CJSTC), housed under the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, oversees the training procedures and certification of police officers in the state. The CJSTC requires that candidates for law enforcement positions in the state:

  • Be a US citizen, by birth or naturalization
  • Be at least 19 years old
  • Be a high school graduate or hold a GED certificate
  • Hold a bachelor’s degree (if looking to work as a correctional probation officer)
  • Complete a background investigation based on fingerprints
  • Not have any felony convictions nor disqualifying misdemeanors
  • Have an honorable discharge, if a military veteran
“Of the many professions and jobs that you could choose, there are few that can be as fulfilling as ensuring the safety, wellbeing, and harmony of your community. No two days are the same and you will share an equal amount of smiles as you will tears. Law enforcement is not for everyone and is a career that cannot be entered into lightly. If it is your calling to help those who cannot help themselves and seek nothing in return, this can be the lifelong career you have been looking for.” -The Kissimmee Police Department.

Required Examinations

Applicants who meet the basic qualifications must pass a number of exams, including a physical examination and a Commission-approved Basic Abilities Test (BAT). Applicants must also complete a formal interview with the hiring department.

Recruits must complete the Florida Basic Recruit Training Program or Cross Over Training Program for their respective discipline. Training must be completed at a CJSTC-approved academy. Once the training is complete, applicants have three attempts to achieve a passing score on the State Officer Certification Examination (SOCE). Once a candidate has completed the required training and passed the examination, they are eligible to be sworn in as Florida police officers.

In Florida, it is possible (and in some departments, required) to complete basic police academy training at the applicant’s own expense prior to becoming hired by a police department. Individuals who have completed the required basic recruit training and passed the State Officer Certification Examination have four years from the start date of their Basic Recruit Training Program to become employed as an officer in Florida.

“During the background investigation stage be very honest about your background with the investigator and [do] not withhold information. Often times applicants who would otherwise be eligible for hiring disqualify themselves by withholding information.” – Steve Casey, Executive Director of the Florida Sheriff’s Association

Florida Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

The Florida State Patrol operates under the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Currently, Colonel Gene Spaulding is the FHP Director. The Florida Highway Patrol has an authorized force of 1,946 sworn and 529 non-sworn employees.3 To become a state patrol officer in Florida, candidates must meet state requirements and:

  • Not have a history of repeated traffic violations
  • Not be more than 20 pounds over recommended weight (at the discretion of the medical examiner)
  • Be willing to relocate to any duty station in Florida

The Florida trooper educational requirements state that all candidates must hold a high school diploma. However, candidates who hold an associate degree or higher are often given employment preference. The FHP also awards preference to military veterans.

Entry-level Florida state troopers earn a starting salary of $38,034 per year, with adjustments for higher cost of living area assignments.3 Troopers are eligible to apply for promotion after five years of service.

Florida Sheriff Deputy Requirements

Florida has 66 sheriffs, one for each of the state’s counties, except for Miami-Dade County, which has a countywide combined police and sheriff’s department.* In Florida, sheriffs serve four-year terms. Requirements to become a sheriff’s deputy in Florida can vary from county to county. The generally held requirements are that candidates must:

  • Be at least 18 to work as a deputy
  • Be a US citizen
  • Have a high school diploma or GED equivalent
  • Possess a valid Florida driver’s license
  • Pass a background investigation
  • Pass the vision, medical, psychological, and fitness evaluations and a polygraph test

*In a 2018 referendum, the state constitution was changed to require Miami-Dade County to reinstate the office and elect a sheriff in 2024.

“Do your research on the different agencies you may be interested in working for to see which one best suits your goals and aspirations. Above the common information regarding benefits, pension, and pay, consider researching the agency’s options for promotional opportunities, type of equipment they provide, what specialized entities within the organization are available in the future, and how often those positions become available, is there a patrol vehicle take-home policy in place, and what sort of in-house training is conducted and offered by the department throughout the year. Most often, this information is overlooked. Answers to these questions can help a potential new hire decipher between agencies which can and will provide a better quality of life for the individual seeking employment.” – Lou Marino, Lieutenant-Training, Volusia County Sheriff’s Office

Broward County

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office is the largest sheriff’s office in the US, with 5,500 sworn and non-sworn employees and an annual budget of $730 million.4 The office provides law enforcement and fire rescue emergency services across Broward County. To become a Broward County sheriff’s deputy, candidates must meet state requirements and:

  • Pass the Florida Law Enforcement Criminal Justice Basic Abilities Test, swimming test, and basic motor skills test (must be done prior to application)
  • Possess a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) certificate at the time of application
  • Provide a full and complete Department of Motor Vehicles driving history for each state of residence in the past 10 years

Palm Peach County

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO) has 1,584 sworn law enforcement officers, 697 sworn corrections officers, and 1,905 civilian support staff.5 Over 1.4 million people live within the county’s borders, which encompass 2,383 square miles and 45 miles of ocean shoreline.5 Prospective sheriff’s deputies must fulfill state requirements and must also:

  • Provide in-depth documentation including birth certificate; naturalization records; an original social security card; a full driving history; any court documentation pertinent to marital status and changes; college transcripts; military history; or records of name changes
  • Provide proof of auto insurance meeting or exceeding state minimum coverage
  • Not have any at-fault driving incidents within the past 12 months and no license suspensions within the past three years

Sheriff’s deputies in Broward County earn a monthly salary of $4,567, or $54,804 per year.5

Police Departments in Florida

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Florida has 38,770 police officers.2 Each city typically has its own primary police department. The largest police department in Florida is in Miami-Dade County.

Miami-Dade

The Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) is the largest police department in Florida, providing police and sheriff services with approximately 2,700 sworn officers and 1,400 support personnel to 2.7 million county residents.6 The current director of the department is Juan J. Perez. To become a police officer in Miami, applicants must meet state requirements and:

  • Hold an associate’s degree or 60 college credits; have two years of active military service; one year of full-time sworn law enforcement experience; or three years of full-time work experience post-high school
  • Pass the department’s Physical Abilities Test

Miami-Dade cops earn a starting annual salary of $52,380 per year.6 For more information on the Miami Police Department, take a look at our Miami police guide.

Tampa

The current chief of the Tampa Police Department (TPD) is Chief Brian Dugan. Approximately 951 sworn and 261 non-sworn employees work for the TPD.7 Tampa is one of the many cities that competitively recruit candidates with college degrees. In order to work as a Tampa police officer, candidates must meet state requirements and:

  • Have an associate degree or completion of two years of college (60 semester or 90 quarter hours in total), or hold a high school diploma and have three years prior law enforcement experience or three years of military experience
  • Not have any visible tattoos or body modifications while in uniform
  • Be law-enforcement certified at the time of application, if not a military veteran (a small number of applicants may be sponsored by the department for training each year)

Orlando

The Orlando Police Department (OPD) depends on more than 700 active duty police officers to protect the approximately 240,000 citizens within its 110 square miles.8 To work as an Orlando police officer, candidates must satisfy state requirements and:

  • Have a valid driver’s license with at least one year of driving history
  • Have a good work history
  • Have no history of drug use within the past three years
  • Have vision correctable to 20/40
  • Live within 35 miles of the intersection of Central Boulevard and Orange Avenue, Orlando, 32801

While not required, a college degree is preferred. Officers with a four-year degree earn $960 to $1,560 more per year depending on longevity; the base starting salary for officers is $48,276 per year.8

Additional Police Departments in Florida

If you are interested in a police department other than Miami-Dade, Tampa, or Orlando, check out the Florida city page below.

Police Training Academies in Florida

All police candidates must attend an approved police training academy. Know that some Florida police departments require candidates to complete all or part of basic training at their own expense. For non-certified candidates, the program is 25 weeks. For those who already hold a Florida Criminal Justice Standards & Training Commission Certificate, an eight-week transitional academy is typically available.

There are a number of accredited police academies in Florida, including:

  • Broward County Sheriff’s Office – Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Citrus County Public Safety Training Center – Inverness, FL
  • Criminal Justice Academy of Osceola – Kissimmee, FL
  • Florida Department of Law Enforcement – Tallahassee, FL
  • Miami Police Training Center – Miami, FL

See a complete list of Florida police training centers through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Florida Police Jobs Outlook

The future for law enforcement careers in Florida looks quite promising. Through 2026, police and sheriff’s patrol officer positions in Florida are expected to increase by 12.9%.9 There will be an estimated 3,270 average annual openings for law enforcement in Florida, including replacements.9 Many new officers will be needed to replace the high number of retiring baby boomer police officers in the coming years. Of course, local budgets also play a hand in the recruitment cycle of each police department.

For more information current law enforcement openings, take a look at our police jobs board.

“This is not a job. It is a profession. Jobs are tasks that you do where the outcome is miniscule and the benefit is even less. This profession gives you the ability to change someone’s life forever. This profession is not done because of self-gratification, money, or prestige; it is done for those that need a voice when they are not heard or a shield when they are not protected. This profession will constantly change on how you are to do your job but having the ability to be able to help someone will always remain the same.” -The Kissimmee Police Department.

Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Florida

CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Jacksonville2,760$51,610
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach13,440$71,380
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford4,300$54,180
Tallahassee840N/A
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater5,810$55,890

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.10

References:
1. Sperling’s Best Places, Florida: https://www.bestplaces.net/state/florida
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/2017/may/oes333051.htm
3. Florida Highway Patrol: https://www.flhsmv.gov/florida-highway-patrol/about-fhp/
4. Broward County Sheriff’s Office: https://www.sheriff.org/Pages/Home.aspx
5. Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office: http://www.pbso.org/
6. Miami-Dade Police Department: https://www8.miamidade.gov/global/police/home.page
7. Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports, Full-time Law Enforcement Employees: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/table-26/table-26-state-cuts/table-26-florida.xls
8. Orlando Police Department: http://www.cityoforlando.net/police/recruiting/
9. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/projections/longterm
10. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State and Occupational Employment and Wages Estimates, Florida: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_fl.htm