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Demands of Police Officer Jobs

Updated on February 10, 2013

Copyright 2013 by Aurelio Locsin

Police officers have higher-than-average rates of injuries and illness, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They often confront angry or dangerous individuals who may be intent on doing harm to themselves and others. The dangers from this highly stressful work can be minimized through proper procedures and by ensuring that officers meet tough physical and emotional demands.


The minimum educational requirement for police officer jobs is typically a high school education or GED. However, some agencies, especially at the federal level, require college coursework or a bachelor’s degree. Applicants must be at least 21 years old, be U.S. citizens and have a driver’s license. They must also pass a background check, physical fitness test, a medical exam, and a written exam. In large urban agencies, knowing a foreign language can be an asset. Candidates may need to undergo oral interviews and show good moral character by taking lie detector tests. Felony convictions or misdemeanor domestic violence convictions can be grounds for disqualification.


Recruits spend several weeks training for their demanding jobs primarily through paramilitary police academies, which are administered by the hiring agencies. The academy at the Los Angeles Police Department, for example, takes six months to complete. In classrooms, recruits learn report writing, civil rights, municipal does, federal law, ethics, investigation techniques, booking procedures and traffic investigations. Hands-on training includes firearms training, self-defense, first aid, tactics and human relations. Because good health is necessary for handling the job, recruits go through physical training everyday to improve strength and endurance.


Several personal qualities and skills are necessary to meet the demands for police officer jobs. Empathy is necessary for seeing the points of view of victims, suspects, legal professionals and other officers. Balancing this is good judgment so they can determine the best course of action among many options. Communication skills are vital to receiving instructions from superiors, for explaining investigation and for expressing enforcement details to the public. Officers may deal with several things at once, such as questioning suspects while writing a ticket and investigating a crime, so the ability to multi-task is necessary. Finally, officers must show the leadership to affect large groups of people, such as crowds at crime scenes or subordinate officers.


The BLS expects jobs for police officers to increase by 7 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is half the 14 percent projected for all jobs in all industries. Employment is affected by government budgets and is expected to remain competitive at the state and federal level. Those with bachelor’s degrees and knowledge of a second language, or military experience, will find the most opportunities. As of May 2011, police officers earned a mean $56,260 per year, or $27.05 per hour. The biggest employers were local, state and federal governments, with state governments showing the best average wages of $60,650 yearly, or $29.16 hourly.


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    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Depends Rajan. In departments with lots of cash, they can put in lots of overtime. But in smaller agencies, they have to limit their overtime.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 4 years ago from Western NC

      It's nice to know they get paid more than what I thought...I thought it was closer to the not-so-great wages of some teachers' salaries. Great series you have here!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks again for sharing your research. I especially like the section on "characteristics" reminding us that the police are people with brains and feeling; handcuffing is not the sum total of their job.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I have often thought about how these guys (police officers are probably grossly underpaid. Thanks for an enlightening article.

    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 4 years ago from Escondido, CA

      Awesome article Alocsin. It offers great information for an honorable position as a career choice withing our emerging society. A very close friend was the first female officer here in Escondido.

      Her husband heads up the evidence lockup, although she is retired now. I remember her first beginning, first shooting, and when she became head investigator for domestic violence, child, and elderly abuse. Actually they were my first employers many years ago.

      So, I thank you for sharing the what of becoming an officer and that fond memory of dear friends too.


    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 4 years ago from Thailand

      It isn't surprising they have to undergo many tests. I think that is pretty much the same process for firefighters in the UK. However, I had never heard of candidates having to take a "taking lie detector tests".

      Shared, pinned, tweeted, up and interesting.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I am absolutely amazed that the minimum requirements are only a GED or high school diploma. I would have thought that becoming a police officer would have demanded a bit more education. They certainly are a special breed of people drawn to service and helping others. It is a dangerous job and deserving of more pay in my opinion. Up, useful and interesting votes.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      Very insightful and useful hub here. One of my sisters is wanting to get into law enforcement, so I will show her this hub for sure!

      Voted up ++++ and sharing

      God bless. In His Love, Faith Reaper

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very informative though I was under the impression they were paid better. How many hours of work do they put in a week?

      Voted up.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 4 years ago from Northern California, USA

      I just have the utmost respect for what police officers do and endure. I'm glad to see they are paid a decent salary. It's too bad city budgets can't afford to pay them more. They certainly deserve it.