How to Become a Police Officer

A police car

Becoming a police officer is a noble goal. The UK has specific requirements people must meet before putting a badge on and going out in public to serve and protect. Police officers are some of the hardest-working people on the planet. It takes a lot of commitment and a willingness to make certain sacrifices. Thus, police academies don’t just accept anyone who applies.

Getting Started: The Basics

To apply for a police academy in the UK, you first must meet the following requirements:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Be a citizen of the UK, an EU/EEA country, or Switzerland
  • Have lived in the UK for the past three years
  • Possess a qualification equivalent to A-level or have been a special constable signed off for independent patrol service in the past two years, or have served as a police community support officer (PCSO) for at least 18 months
A silhouette of a police officer

In addition to these, you should have no criminal record, no extensive debt problems, and no offensive tattoos. Most often, you have to have a driver’s license and be able to pass certain medical, fitness, and eyesight tests. In addition, some forces require their applicants to pass a pre-joining Certificate in Knowledge of Policing (CKP).

If you’re curious about any special requirements other than the ones mentioned, you can visit the organisation’s website to discover additional details about their requirements to submit an application.

What to Do to Apply to a Police Force

If you’ve met the above-mentioned requirements, you are ready to submit an official application and proceed with the process. To do this, you need to abide by the following steps, in this order:

a silhouette of an interview
  • Fill out the application form
  • Visit an assessment centre
  • Go to an interview
  • Agree to take certain fitness and medical tests
  • Be able to pass certain background and security checks

Once accepted, you will be on probation for a full two years in an Initial Police Learning and Development Programme (IPLD). This two-year training programme also counts as part of your Diploma in Policing.

After this two-year period is complete, you’ll begin to move up the ranks of sergeant, inspector, chief inspector, and so on. There are many opportunities for promotions along the way. You can even ask to be assigned to specialised units, which include the criminal investigation department (CID), dog-handling division, or even street police officer.

Three Different Ways to Join a Police Force

As of January 2020, there are now three separate ways to enter the police department in the UK. They are:

A graduation hat and degree
  • Degree apprenticeship: in this program, you enter as constable and begin a three-year apprenticeship so you can earn while you learn. After you get to the point where you’re off of probation, you will have achieved a degree-level qualification.

  • Degree-holder entry: when you have an undergraduate degree in any subject area, you can begin the two-year probationary period and receive both classroom and on-the-job training. Once the probationary period is up, you’ll have earned a graduate diploma in professional policing practice and you’re ready for the next step.

  • Policing degree: for this step, you’ll study a three-year program at university in professional policing practice. You can apply to be a police officer right after you graduate and then receive on-the-job training that is a bit shorter than the usual programme.

As you can tell, for all three options, you’ll have a degree-level qualification by the time you’re finished with your probationary period, and you’ll be ready to advance your career at that point and move up to the next qualification.

Another Option: Police Now Graduate Scheme

Yet another option is through an organisation called Police Now. This allows you to work in underprivileged or challenged communities for two years once you’ve completed a training period. Roughly 30 of the 45 police forces in the UK participate in this program. You aren’t guaranteed a promotion when the two-year period is up. However, there is a greater chance of a promotion if you choose this route.

Two police officers on their horse

The qualifications are very similar to the standard police officer qualifications. In addition, the application process consists of six different stages. It also requires that you have a passion for doing this type of work. Working with challenged communities does not interest everyone.

When you start your assignment at the beginning of the two-year period, a local area is assigned to you. You’ll be given a mentor, and the assignment itself includes six “100-day impact” events, as well as others. During these events, you have to testify to the impact they have made on the community during the previous 100 days.

At the end of this probation period, you have options regarding what to do next. You can even leave the police force to do other things. If you do stay you’ll be treated just like any other officer who has completed the two-year probation period. This means a promotion or moving to another sector and work there instead.

How Much Do You Make as a UK Police Officer?

The average salary for a police officer in the UK is £30,517, but the salaries range from £22,000 to £41,000. However, this does not include bonuses, which can add up to £3,000 to your annual salary. On average, police officer salaries tend to be roughly £11.14 per hour. The average starting salary for Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) is between £17,000 and £20,000.

How Does the UK Coordinate Police Forces?

In the UK, there are a total of 45 police forces. There is also a total of four different special police forces, and they are:

Police helicopter landing
  • British Transport Police patrols the nation’s railways.

  • Civil Nuclear Constabulary which is in charge of protecting civilian nuclear facilities.

  • Ministry of Defence Police which provides security for the UK’s defence assets.

  • National Police Air Service which provides air support for English and Welsh police forces.

Some of the most popular jobs for police officers include the following types of officers:

  • Police Community Support Officer (PCSO): These people deal with minor offenses, guard crime scenes, assist other officers, and conduct house-to-house enquiries. They are also involved in crime prevention assistance and early intervention programs.

  • Special Constables (“Specials”): Although these people have the same roles as regular police officers, they are a volunteer police force and usually only work around four hours per week.

  • Miscellaneous Police Jobs: These include front counter personnel, librarians, analysts, and call handlers. In addition, if you’re between the ages of 13 and 18, you can become a volunteer police cadet so you can get a taste of what it’s like to be a police officer.
e officers shielding themselves in a riot

If you’re interested in any type of postgraduate study, you have options here as well. If you graduate in academic areas such as transnational policing, leadership, and strategy, it may very well increase your odds of getting a promotion. Like other types of schooling, this is never a requirement, but as they say, it “will look good on your resume.”

Some Final Thoughts

Those interested in a career in law enforcement should research and study the requirements that that particular police force has. Even though the basics are the same, there are slight differences between police forces. Education and training are both required regardless of which position you’re interested in. On-the-job training is offered at nearly every step of the process.

Police car

Few things are more honourable than becoming a police officer. You can explore every aspect of the career by checking out numerous governmental websites. Whether you want a street job or a job as a detective, everyone starts out in the same place. The more you research the specifics of becoming a police officer, the more comfortable you’ll feel about the decision in the end.

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