What to Expect
Police officers have a lot of responsibilities. They must get proper training
before they are prepared to serve. Some people can find jobs with their local
police force and work their way up the ladder. Others find that getting some
training first is a better way to break into the force.
"Any new student should be prepared for the fact that this career is a
lifestyle," says Stephanie Ramsahoye. She is a police foundations student.
"Because it is a lifestyle, be prepared to take this education seriously."
The program she takes provides up-to-date information about a career in
policing. She studies everything from public administration to forensic sciences.
Wendy Nguyen is also a police foundations student. She wants to get a job
with a regional police force and eventually get on the canine unit.
She says to be prepared for three-hour lectures and a demanding physical
component to training. Nguyen stays focused through the long lectures
by participating in discussions.
"This way I am able to learn through interaction and ask questions," she
says. "I dealt with the physical portion simply by adding weight training
and cardio into my daily schedule. I worked out four days a week and maintained
a healthy diet and was able to keep up with the physical portion of this program."
Ramsahoye says he has about an hour of homework a day per class. Homework
usually includes reviewing notes, reading textbooks, completing assignments
and some group projects. An assignment could be writing a pre-sentence report.
Matt Barker participated in Indiana University Police Department's Cadet
Officer Program. He also studied criminal justice.
"Outside of class, I probably spent an hour for every hour in class just
on reading," says Barker.
He also had at least one paper to write per class, plus some projects.
Most students find that books cost between $250 and $750 per semester.
Buying used books or sharing books with your classmates will help keep
costs down. Some projects may require buying presentation materials.
How to Prepare
In high school, courses such as law, family studies, math, English and
physical education are a good start. Writing and communication are very
important skills for a future police officer. Officers must write strong
reports about all of the incidents they encounter.
Barker was introduced to policing as a volunteer in his local police department's
Explorer program. He recommends joining a similar program.
"I learned more and more about the career field, I became more and more
interested in it and eventually decided that working as a police officer was
what I wanted to do."
Sports teams and clubs will help you to keep physically active. Anything
that builds teamwork and leadership skills is a good idea.
"Students should be involved in their community and aside from doing their
40 hours of community service recommended; they should take initiative and
continue their volunteer hours," says Nguyen.
"Do not get in trouble with the law if you are serious about becoming a
police officer," stresses Mark Poliah. He is a police foundations student.
He says that you have to be prepared to end some friendships if you think
your friends are involved in any bad activities.
"Any police service that you apply for will look for any connections that
you are tied in with and they do not want to see any criminal activities linked
to a potential employee."