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How to Become a Police Officer in Georgia

atlanta-policeGeorgia is a great place to work in law enforcement. Currently, there are 23,730 active duty cops and sheriff’s deputies working in the state to protect and serve the Georgia population of 10.4 million people.1,2

In order to work as a Georgia cop or in sheriff’s 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. Read on to learn more about these requirements and careers with major law enforcement agencies in Georgia.

Georgia Police Officer Requirements

The Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST) sets the standards for law enforcement and training in the state. According to the state’s POST standards, to become a sworn officer in Georgia candidates must:

  • Be a US citizen, either by birth or naturalization by the time of hire
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Hold a high school diploma or GED certificate
  • Not have any physical, emotional, or mental conditions that may interfere with duties
  • Not have any prior felony convictions or disqualifying misdemeanors

In addition to meeting these requirements, all candidates must submit to fingerprinting and an extensive background check. Additionally, although the minimum education for Georgia police officers is a high school diploma, many local departments may require at least some college experience. A two-year associate’s degree or higher is certainly considered favorable for new recruits whether or not it is required.

Required Examinations

In addition to the requirements mentioned above, candidates for law enforcement positions in Georgia must take and pass a number of examinations, both written and physical. This includes a written entrance exam as well as medical and psychological exams and a physical fitness test. Once all of the requirements have been met and the exams have been successfully passed, aspiring police officers will attend training at an approved police academy for basic training. Georgia police training academies typically last at least 11 weeks with a focus on firearm usage, criminal justice laws, and physical and classroom training.

Georgia Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

The Georgia State Patrol (GSP) is a division of the Georgia Department of Public Safety. The current Commissioner of the GSP is Colonel Mark W. McDonough. The agency patrols the state’s highways and provides protective services including a SWAT team and Criminal Interdiction Unit. In order to become a Georgia state trooper, applicants must meet state requirements and:

  • Be 21 years of age upon graduation from trooper school
  • Complete a polygraph and oral interview in addition to statewide hiring requirements
  • Meet GSP physical fitness standards

During trooper training, GSP recruits earn $36,110 per year, which rises to $46,422 at graduation from the academy.3

Georgia Sheriff Deputy Requirements

Georgia has 159 elected sheriffs throughout the state.4 Like all law enforcement positions in Georgia, all sheriff’s deputy candidates must meet stat standards and submit to a complete background check which includes a drug test and polygraph. As far as education, all aspiring deputies must:

  • Have an associate’s degree, OR
  • Have two years of work experience as a 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.

Fulton County

The largest sheriff’s department in Georgia is the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO). FSCO officers are sworn law enforcement who also may also work as officers of the court and/or detention officers. The FSCO employs approximately 951 sworn and non-sworn personnel.5 In addition to meeting state requirements, prospective sheriff’s deputies must:

  • Have an associate’s degree or the educational equivalent, or two years of law enforcement experience with arrest powers
  • Obtain a valid Georgia driver’s license and Georgia POST certification within six months of hire

The starting salary for sheriff’s deputies in Fulton County is $44,336 per year and can rise as high as $66,505 per year.5

Gwinnett County

Located 30 miles east of Atlanta, the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) has four major divisions: the Gwinnett County Detention Center (the largest division), the Court Services division, the Civil Division, and the Field Operations Division. Prospective sheriff’s deputies must meet state requirements and:

  • Possess a valid driver’s license with an acceptable driving history
  • Be at least 20 years of age at the time of application
  • Be a US citizen
  • Be willing to perform rotating shift work

The starting salary for Gwinnett County sheriff’s deputies is $35,049 per year.6 The department also provides an education incentive over base pay of 3% for associate’s degrees and 6% for bachelor’s degrees.6

Police Departments in Georgia

Over 23,000 police and sheriff’s patrol officers work in Georgia.1 In order to be eligible for service in Georgia, police candidates must meet the requirements stipulated by the state as well as the department to which they apply. Once the candidate has been conditionally hired, he or she must complete the intense training required to become a sworn officer at one of the various Georgia police training academies.

Atlanta

The Atlanta Police Department (APD) is the largest law enforcement agency in the state and counts on over 2,000 police officers to protect the city’s 480,000 citizens.7 Currently, the chief of police is Erika Shields. The requirements to become an Atlanta cop are based on state minimums; candidates also must:

  • Be at least 20 years old
  • Have proof of an honorable or uncharacterized discharge (if prior military experience)
  • 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

Successful new recruits must complete a 22-week course at the Atlanta Police Academy, 12 weeks of field training, and significant classroom training. For more information on Atlanta Police Department careers, take a look at our in-depth guide on How to Become a Police Officer in Atlanta.

Dekalb County

The Dekalb County Police Department (DCPD) is the second-largest police department in Georgia, after the Atlanta police force.8 The current deputy chief operating officer of the DCPD is J. W. Conroy, who oversees the department’s 860 sworn officers and 232 support staff.8 To become a police officer in Dekalb County, candidates must satisfy state requirements and:

  • Be at least 20 years of age
  • Meet departmental vision standards
  • Have an honorable discharge, if a military veteran
  • Pass a computer voice stress analysis (CVSA)
  • Complete a profile that will accompany the in-depth background check

Although a college degree is not mandatory for employment, college degrees are favorably considered. College graduates also earn incentive pay; officers with a high school diploma start at a base salary of $40,868 per year, compared to $42,911 for officers with a bachelor’s degree.8

“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

As noted above, recruits must graduate from an approved police training academy in order to be sworn in as officers. There are a number of Georgia POST-certified academies in the state. These include:

  • Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC) Athens – Athens, GA
  • Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC) Cherokee – Cherokee, GA
  • Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC) Columbus – Columbus, GA
  • Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC) Forsyth – Forsyth, GA
  • Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC) Garden City – Garden City, GA
  • Georgia Public Safety Training Center (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 earn an average salary of around $42,190.1 Projections call for 11.3% employment growth for police officers in Georgia through 2026.9 This translates to 1,890 estimated yearly job openings during that same period including replacements.9 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 decade.

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

Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Georgia

CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell2,190$72,580
Macon630$37,620
Savannah1,200$42,170

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.1

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Georgia: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ga.htm
2. US Census Bureau, Georgia: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/ga/PST045217
3. Georgia State Patrol: https://dps.georgia.gov/georgia-state-patrol-0
4. Georgia Sheriffs’ Association: https://georgiasheriffs.org/
5. Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, 2013 Annual Report: http://www.fultonsheriff.net/files/96817120.pdf
6. Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office: http://www.gwinnettcountysheriff.com/
7. Atlanta Police Department: http://www.atlantapd.org/
8. Dekalb County Police Department: https://www.dekalbcountyga.gov/police-services/welcome
9. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm

Photo credit: Dave Conner