What is the Best Degree for Becoming a Police Officer?

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Police officers must have many skills relating to human behavior. Degrees that focus on the psychology and sociology of criminal behavior are the most sought by potential employers. Degrees issued by higher education institution often contain “criminal justice” in their names, such as Criminal Justice, Social and Criminal Justice, Criminal Justice – Forensics and Criminal Justice – Law Enforcement. The level of education will depend on the agency hiring. Small towns or rural areas may accept certification or an associate degree. Larger cities or state agencies may require at least a bachelor’s degree. Federal agencies, such as the FBI, expect candidates to have earned at least a bachelor’s degree plus have three years of experience.

Where the Jobs Are

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has detailed information at www.bls.gov for the states and municipalities with the highest employment levels of police officers. Local governments employ the greatest numbers but state and federal agencies employ a significant number. Checking with the desired agency will inform you of the optimum qualifications for an entry level position.

Further Training

Brain power is an important aspect of the job but police officers must also be physically fit to meet the demands of the job. Passing a physical exam that includes vision and hearing in addition to strength and agility may be a requirement. Once recruited, you will have to complete a physical training program and a set of modules on topics in:

  • constitutional and state laws
  • local ordinances
  • self-defense
  • first aid

Proper police behavior in such areas as recognizing peoples’ civil rights and firearm use will be covered in the training. After training, you are likely to be paired with an experienced officer for mentoring and supervision. This helps a new officer gain further practice and familiarity with the job.

Personal Qualities

People depend on police officers. Therefore, officers need leadership skills and good judgment. Interested people may already possess these qualities but course to fine tune them will be an advantage for potential officers. Because police officers deal with a wide range of people while performing their duties they have to be perceptive. They need to be able to intuit people’s actions under certain stimuli. Development of these skills begins with courses in:

  • psychology
  • human behavior
  • group dynamics

Skills are further honed with experience. Any job that deals with the public necessitates the ability to communicate well. Instruction in active listening and effective speaking will be addressed in coursework and expected of the officers. Proficiency with today’s technology devices is another area of study that adds to an officer’s professional qualifications.

A partner of the American Job Center Network, O*NET predicts a bright outlook for Police Patrol Officers and for Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs over the next decade. Actively seeking a degree in a criminal justice field will contribute to your personal qualities for obtaining a position.

People willing to take on challenges and leadership roles as a police officer will reap many rewards. A Criminal Justice degree is the first step to accomplishing that goal.

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