Police training programs educate future officers about fighting crime. Most
programs are very hands-on and help students get fit, get active and discover
what it's like to be an officer.
Some colleges offer two-year programs in policing. Police academies usually
offer 12 to 24 week training programs. These programs vary from region to
In general, training programs teach students the practical skills they
need to succeed on the force. Some areas of study include the criminal
justice system, law, investigations, patrol fitness, communications, traffic
investigations, defensive tactics, use of firearms and police driving.
A few large law enforcement agencies have their own training programs
for new recruits. But most departments rely on other sources for academy training.
Some training academies only accept officers who have been hired by a department.
That means you'll need a job before you make it to the academy.
A degree can make you a better applicant for a policing job. Related
studies in law enforcement, criminology or administration of justice can help.
There are also police foundations programs at college for aspiring officers.
Most programs have professors who are either serving or former police officers.
That way, students can learn from the experience of professionals.
Different areas of policing experience may include forensics, drugs, morality,
undercover, investigative, interviewing and interrogation, use of force, or
"The students are taught real policing skills and not just theory from
text books. They do forensic exercises, investigate and solve actual community
policing problems, practice conflict resolution and use-of-force scenarios.
They learn what police work is really like," says Walter Greczko. He is the
coordinator of a police foundations program.
Policing programs are often competitive to enter. "We admit approximately
250 new students in September from approximately 1,400 applicants. We also
admit approx 90 students in our January intake," says Greczko.
There is a lot you can do to get a step up on the competition. Community
involvement and physical fitness are great first steps.
"Anyone interested in becoming a police officer should be actively involved
in volunteer community service. Physical fitness is also a requirement for
becoming a police officer, so interested persons should be working on improving
their fitness level," says Greczko.
Cora Beem is the associate director of the Police Training Institute at
the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is also a retired chief
of police. She says that if high school students want to become police officers,
they need to work on character. That includes honesty, responsibility, trustworthiness
"Get out of the house and away from the computer, phone and game box,
and interact with people of all ages, races, genders and life experiences.
Volunteer to work with the elderly, disabled (physically, mentally, and developmentally),
etc. Like people and understand that the world is so much bigger than your
little slice of it. As cops, those are the skills you really need," says
Students' expenses depend on whether they're putting themselves through
a course, or if their employer is sending them to an academy. Students who
enter a training course on their own pay for tuition and textbooks. Greczko
says that students can expect to pay about $300 per semester for textbooks.
Beem's program doesn't accept recruit officers until they have been hired
by a department. The agency pays for the course, including housing, meals
and uniforms. "You'll have some minor expenses but not much," says Beem.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Police
Police Explorers Program
Well-established program for young adults interested in law enforcement