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How to Become a Police Officer in Georgia

atlanta-policeFor anyone looking to begin a career as a police officer, Georgia is a great place to work in law enforcement. Currently, there are 22,190 active duty cops and sheriff’s deputies working to protect and serve the Georgia population of almost ten million people.1

In order to work as a Georgia cop or sheriff patrol, aspiring candidates must meet a number of requirements. Although the state of Georgia has a standard set of requirements for entering police recruits, individual departments often have their own prerequisites candidates must meet in order to be eligible for employment.

Georgia Police Officer Requirements

The Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) sets the standards for law enforcement and training in the state. In addition to meeting a number of requirements, all candidates must submit to fingerprinting and an extensive background check. Any candidate with prior felony sentences and/or various misdemeanors convictions are automatically disqualified from service.

Nationality, Age and Education

According to the state’s POST standards, all eligible candidates for the Georgia police force must:

  • Be a US citizen, either by birth or naturalization by the time of hire
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Hold a US high school diploma or GED certificate

According to the state’s requirements, all Georgia police officers must have a US high school diploma to be eligible for hire. However, many local departments throughout the state may require some college credit. Although not an absolute prerequisite for employment, a two-year associate degree or higher is certainly considered favorable for new recruits in most cases.

Required Examinations

In addition to the requirements mentioned above, candidates for Georgia Police Force must take and pass a number of examinations, both written and physical. Once all of the requirements have been met and the exams have been successfully passed, aspiring police officers will be interviewed by the GPSTC Regional Academy where the student will attend training.

“Study, study, study. Flashcards are your friend. Go on as many ride-a-longs you can. Learn to be a leader. The public will look to you for leadership and so will your partners.You will be tempted to take shortcuts. Do. Not. Take. Them. You will dishonor yourself, your department, and the rest of us. Do your job to its completion and to the best of your ability.”- Motorcop, police officer in California

Georgia Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

Along with most of the state’s law enforcement departments, the Georgia State Patrol is a division of the Georgia Department of Public Safety. The current Commanding Officer of Field Operations is Major Eddie Grier, who oversees the entire state’s patrol officers.

In order to become a Georgia State Trooper, applicants must be at least 18 years old and a US citizen. The hiring process includes a polygraph and background investigation as well as a physical and psychological exam. Applicants must also take and pass the POST Entrance Exam, followed by a medical screening and an oral interview.

Georgia Sheriff Deputy Requirements

Georgia has 159 elected sheriffs throughout the state.2 The largest sheriff’s department in Georgia is the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office. Currently, Sheriff Ted Jackson is responsible for the 837 sworn officers and 167 civilian staff members on duty in the county.3 Additionally, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office Reserve has over 90 active reserve deputies, making the organization the largest Law Enforcement Reserve organization in Georgia.

Like all law enforcement positions in Georgia, all sheriff deputy candidates must submit to a complete background check which includes a drug test and polygraph. As far as education, all aspiring deputies must:

  • Have an associate degree, OR
  • Have two years of work experience as a law enforcement or certified peace officer with full arrest power, OR
  • Have the approved combination of education and experience that proves the candidate can successfully perform the required duties of the job.

Police Departments in Georgia

The Georgia police force is made up of 22,190 police and sheriff officers.1 In order to be eligible for service in Georgia, police candidates must meet the requirements stipulated by the state as well as the various local departments. Once the candidate has met all of the conditions, he or she must complete the intense training at one of the various Georgia Police Training Academies.

Atlanta

The Atlanta Police Department is the largest in the state and counts on over 2,000 police officers to protect the city’s 443,775 citizens. Currently, the chief of police is George N. Turner. Once the requirements for employment have been met, new recruits must complete a 22-week course at the Atlanta Police Academy, 12 weeks of field training and significant classroom training. The requirements to become an Atlanta cop are that candidates must:

  • Be a US citizen or provide official naturalization documentation
  • Be at least 20 years old
  • Hold a valid driver’s license
  • Have a high school diploma or GED certificate
  • Have proof of an honorable or uncharacterized discharge (if prior military experience)
  • Submit to and pass the cognitive skills examination and personality assessment
  • Have a visual ability of at least 20/100 in each eye, uncorrected, or corrected to 20/20 with glasses, contact lenses or surgery
  • Pass a number of physical, written and medical examinations

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

Dekalb County

Dekalb County is home to the second largest police department in Georgia, after the Atlanta police force. The current deputy chief operating officer of the Dekalb County Police Department is Cedric L. Alexander, who oversees the department’s 860 sworn officers and 232 support staff employees.4

To become a police officer in Georgia’s Dekalb County, candidates must be US citizens and at least 18 years old with a valid driver’s license. For educational background, the country requires all candidates to hold at minimum a high school diploma or an equivalent GED certification. As with most police departments, although a college degree is not mandatory for employment, college experience is favorably considered.

“Never forget that the citizens you serve are your customers…from one call to the next you will encounter citizens who may welcome you and thank you for your assistance, disrespect you and dislike you because of your profession and in some cases try to hurt you. You must balance each of these encounters and manage them professionally and morally. I make sure that I can face myself in the mirror at the beginning and end of each day.” – Tom Reiner, Police Lieutenant in Georgia

Police Training Academies in Georgia

Georgia Public Safety Training Center’s (GPSTC) Basic Law Enforcement Training Program. The Georgia Police training academy takes 11 weeks and consists of a diverse, but thorough curriculum designed to train new recruits the state’s many law enforcement procedures. The program is an intensive course with focus on firearm usage, criminal justice laws, physical and classroom training. There are quite a few GPSTC training centers located throughout the state:

  • GPSTC Athens – Athens, GA
  • GPSTC Cherokee – Cherokee, GA
  • GPSTC Columbus – Columbus, GA
  • GPSTC Forsyth – Forsyth, GA
  • GPSTC Garden City – Garden City, GA
  • GPSTC Tifton – Tifton, GA

For more information on Georgia Police Training Academies, consult the GPSTC website.

Georgia Police Jobs Outlook

For anyone looking to become a Georgia cop or sheriff, the state’s projected growth for police officers and sheriff’s deputies is certainly promising. Georgia cops can expect to earn an average salary of around $38,250, but with its low cost of living (8% lower than the rest of the country), a career law enforcement in the state can be lucrative.1,5 According to Projections Central, the ten-year employment projection for this sector is that it will grow by 8% through the year 2022.6 This translates to 790 estimated yearly job openings during that same period.6 Many of these yearly job openings will be due to the state’s growth as well as the high number of veteran police officers who are expected to retire over the next five to ten years.

For more information current law enforcement openings, take a look at our Police Jobs Page.

Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Georgia

CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta10,090$41,650
Macon630$36,390
Savannah830$38,510

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2012.

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Georgia: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ga.htm
2. Georgia Sheriffs’ Association: http://georgiasheriffs.org/
3. Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, 2013 Annual Report: http://www.fultonsheriff.net/files/96817120.pdf
4. Dekalb County Police Department: http://web.co.dekalb.ga.us/DK_Police/
5. Sperling’s Best Places, Georgia: http://www.bestplaces.net/state/georgia
6. Projections Central: https://explorer.dol.state.ga.us/vosnet/Default.aspx

Photo credit: Dave Conner