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How to Become a Police Officer in Florida

Becoming a police officer in Florida is a great idea for anyone looking to work in law enforcement. It’s true that the Sunshine State offers a multitude of advantages from great weather and good communities, but the state of Florida also pays police and sheriff officers fairly well. In fact, they offer law enforcement officers the fourth-highest salary in the nation, right after California, Texas and New York.1

The requirements for becoming a Florida cop are similar to other states, however individual counties within Florida may have additional requirements on top of the state’s recommended standards. For example, many counties may require new recruits to have an associate degree or higher while the state educational minimum is a high school diploma or GED certificate. On this page, you’ll find the Florida’s state 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, working under the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, oversees the training procedures and certification of police officers in the state. According to the Commission, there are four steps to becoming a police officer in Florida:

  1. Meet the minimum qualifications
  2. Complete the required training
  3. Pass the State Officer Certification Exam (SOCE)
  4. Become employed as a sworn officer

Although certain counties may have additional requirements, these are the basic requirements for becoming a police officer in Florida as stipulated by the Criminal Justice Standards & Training:

Nationality, Age, and Education

The basic requirements for entering the Florida Police Training Academy are that candidates must:

  • 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)

Required Examinations

Applicants must pass a physical examination from a licensed physician, physician’s assistant, or a certified advanced nurse practitioner. In addition, applicants must complete the following:

Basic Abilities Test (BAT)

An individual must pass a Commission­ approved BAT prior to entering a basic recruit training program.

Basic Recruit or Cross Over Training

An individual must successfully complete the Florida Basic Recruit Training Program or Cross Over Training Program for the respective discipline. Training must be completed at a Commission ­Certified Training School.

State Officer Certification Examination (SOCE)

After completing the required training, the applicant has three attempts at a passing score for the State Officer Certification Examination.

Become Employed as a Sworn Officer

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.

After these requirements have been met, and a background investigation is complete, the applicant is eligible for a “Certificate of Compliance,” issued by the FDLE Records Section.

Background Clearance

Applicants must submit to a background investigation, as established by the Criminal Justice Standards, and Training Commission. In addition, the employing agency must have the applicant’s processed fingerprints on file.

Certificate of Compliance

After the requirements above have been met, and a background investigation is complete, the applicant is eligible for a “Certificate of Compliance,” issued by the FDLE Records Section.

Once all of the requirements are met and approved, Florida recruits are required to have an interview where they are found to “have good moral character as determined by a background investigation under procedures established by the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission.” Once they have been interviewed, aspiring trainees are required to take a series of tests. First they must take and pass the Commission-approved Basic Abilities Test (BAT). Secondly, they are required to complete the Florida Basic Recruit Training Program or Cross Over Training Program at a commission-certified training 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.

“A career in policing is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. I looked at it as more of a calling to serve the citizens of the community. There are many sacrifices you have to be prepared to make. There are no weekends, holidays, birthdays, etc. You will be working all hours of the night and day.” – Joseph L. Giacalone, retired NYPD Detective and author of The Criminal Investigative Function

Florida Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

The Florida State Patrol operates under the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Currently, Colonel David H. Brierton, Jr. is the FHP Director. The state’s highway patrol counts on 1,946 sworn state troopers and 529 non-sworn employees to oversee the 31 million miles of highway in the state.2

To become a state patrol officer in Florida, candidates must be a US citizen and at least 19 years old. A valid driver’s license is required before entering the training academy. Repeated traffic violations may disqualify candidates from being eligible to work as officers. Any felony or domestic violence convictions are automatic disqualification factors.

The Florida trooper educational requirements state that all candidates must hold a US high school diploma. However, those candidates who hold an associate degree or higher are often giving employment preference. In fact, certified law enforcement officers who hold an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree earn an incentive bonus payment every month once they are employed by the department.

Once all of the above requirements are met, Florida requires that all candidates must take a number of physical, written and psychological tests. Candidates are expected to meet the minimal health standards set by the Commission. If a candidate is 20 pounds over the recommended weight, he or she will most likely be disqualified by the medical examiner.

Florida Sheriff Deputy Requirements

Florida has 66 sheriffs, one for every one of the state’s counties, except for Dade County.3 In this particular county, the role of a sheriff is actually referred to as the Director of the Miami-Dade Police Department. In Florida, sheriffs serve four-year terms and most are active members of the Florida Sheriffs Association.

Requirements to become a sheriff deputy in Florida can vary from county to county. The general 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

Police Departments in Florida

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Florida has 38,390 police officers on active duty and they are the fourth-highest paid in the nation.1 Each county has its primary police department although there may be a number of smaller departments scattered around the larger areas. The largest police department in Florida is in Miami-Dade County.

Miami-Dade

There are quite a few police departments found throughout the Sunshine State and the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) is currently the largest with approximately 2,900 sworn officers and 1,700 support personnel serving the 2.5 million residents of the area.4 The MDPD is also the largest police department in the Southeastern United States. The current director of the department is J.D. Patterson.

To become a police officer in Miami, applicants must meet the typical age, nationality, and physical requirements. For educational requirements, applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED equivalent and pass the CJBAT, FBAT or FDLE police examination in the area of Law Enforcement.

For more information on the Miami Police Department, take a look at our in-depth guide on How to Become a Police Officer in Miami.

Tampa

The current chief of the Tampa Police Department is Chief Jane Castor, a 30-year police veteran. Combined, the area of Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater share 4,520 police and sheriff’s patrol officers.5

Tampa is one of the many cities that openly recruit candidates with college degrees. In order to work as a Tampa Police Officer, candidates must have an associate degree or completion of two years of college (60 semester or 90 quarter hours in total.) The institution must be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. If a candidate does not have a college degree, but holds a high school diploma and three years prior law enforcement experience or three years of military experience, they may be approved to enter into the training program.

Orlando

Orlando depends on more than 700 active duty police officers to protect the approximately 240,000 citizens within 110 square miles.6 The current Chief of Police of the Orlando Police Department is currently Chief John Mina, who was appointed in February of 2014. To work as an Orlando police officer, candidates must be high school graduate or possess a GED Certificate. Although the department looks favorably on college coursework (a two- or four-year college degree or equivalent credits is preferred).

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.

“Successful police officers display empathy and compassion towards everyone. Some believe that this is weak or soft but the fact is, it takes a tremendous amount of courage and strength to be empathic. It doesn’t mean that we let our guard down or risk officer safety – quite the contrary. We can still ensure our tactical position while simultaneously practicing empathy.” – Commander with the Aurora Police Department

Police Training Academies in Florida

All of the candidates who meet the requirements for eligibility must attend the Basic Recruit Academy. For non-certified candidates, the program is 25 weeks. For those who already hold a Florida Criminal Justice Standards & Training Commission Certificate, an 8-week transitional academy is available. After basic training, all new state troopers must participate in a 10-week field training program.

There are a number of accredited police academies in Florida:

  • Broward County Sheriff’s Office – Ft. 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.

Florida Police Jobs Outlook

The future of law enforcement careers in Florida looks quite promising. Through 2022, police and sheriff’s patrol officer positions should grow annually by 9.3%, much higher than the national average of 5.9%.7 Additionally, there is estimated be 1,430 police and sheriff’s patrol officer jobs per year over the same time period.7 With average salaries of $57,650 per year, Florida is an ideal place to get started in a career in law enforcement.1

Many of the 1,420 new jobs will be created by growth, but a majority will be needed to replace high number of retiring baby boomer police officers.7 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 Page.

Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Florida

CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Cape Coral- Fort Myers800$49,970
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach14,210$71,100
Tallahassee1020$48,590

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333051.htm#st
2. Florida Highway Patrol: http://www.flhsmv.gov/florida-highway-patrol/about-fhp/
3. Florida Sheriffs Association: https://www.flsheriffs.org/sheriffs/directory
4. Miami-Dade Police Department: http://www.miamidade.gov/police/about.asp
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_45300.htm
6. Orlando Police Department: http://www.cityoforlando.net/police/recruiting/
7. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/projections/longterm