A career in law enforcement is one of the most challenging yet rewarding careers you can pursue. Because there are so many aspects to being a police officer, it is not an easy profession to get into. Not only do those in law enforcement need to have a natural predisposition for public service, but also there are many key characteristics that they must also possess.
If you are considering a career in law enforcement but aren’t sure how to get started, here are a few things you should consider doing in order to set yourself up to be readily equipped for the job.
Get the Right Education
To pursue a career as a law enforcement officer, you don’t have to have a university degree. That being said, earning the right degree is an excellent first step to building a successful career as a police officer. Continuing your education through an advanced degree program will equip you with even more insight, knowledge and skill that can contribute to your overall success.
If you wish to earn a degree geared towards law enforcement, there are several routes you can take. Not only are there plenty of options for a traditional four-year degree program, but some of the better programs are also designed with working law enforcement professionals in mind.
- Colwell PhD MBA, Ken (Author)
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Online bachelor’s degree programs are a viable option for police officers looking to continue active duty while simultaneously earning a degree. Not only will a degree of this nature help you to become a more effective officer overall, but it also will make you a better candidate for promotions down the line.
Demonstrating a willingness to continue your education is a key quality that those high in the ranks of law enforcement must have. The nature of jobs in this area is such that those who hold them must never tire of learning or expanding their knowledge base. You can find more information about a degree in policing by clicking here.
Prepare for the Examination
Every police academy has an entrance examination that those wishing to gain admittance must achieve a certain score on. This exam tests the applicant’s general knowledge about police matters as well as overall competency and critical thinking skills. There are also other parts of the examination that are designed to test your preparedness for other aspects of the job.
The physical fitness portion of the exam is meant to put applicants into physical situations not unlike those that will come up on a regular basis in the line of duty. Successful applicants will have completed an obstacle course as well as a push/pull scenario. Lastly, you will need to be able to carry a certain amount of weight for a set distance as a simulation of what it might be like to have to carry an individual to safety while on duty.
Aside from the written examination and the physical fitness tests, those who wish to enter into training to become a police officer must also pass any applicable background checks without any red flags. Those with a criminal record will most likely not be considered for a job in law enforcement. If you have a minor infraction like a speeding ticket on your record, this might be overlooked.
There will also be an interview that will be akin to a job interview. For this you will need to demonstrate competency and professionalism as well as a number of other necessary skills.
Develop the Necessary Skills
Once you are prepared for the more formal aspects of being a police officer, there are a few other characteristics that you will want to acquire and develop as well. For example, a good police officer must be capable of being an effective communicator. Not only do officers need to communicate well with colleagues and those of higher ranks, but it is also absolutely necessary for those in law enforcement to communicate well with citizens in the community.
There is no time when this fact is more evident than when there is a crisis at hand. In a crisis situation, the law enforcement officer on the scene should be able to take control decisively and with confidence. This includes having to direct anyone who might be present in such a way that preserves the safety and wellbeing of all. Good communication skills are critical in these instances.
Other than good communication, police officers must also have honesty, integrity, self-awareness, and empathy, among other things. So much of what police officers do centres around upholding the standards for behaviour in a functional and harmonious society. If the officers entrusted with such a task do not themselves live up to those standards, then the entire system can suffer greatly. For this reason, those who enter into this profession must be prepared to live and work according to the highest codes of conduct.
Prepare for a Lifetime of Learning
When you become a police officer, you essentially sign on to a lifetime of continuous learning. Because so much of the job is centred on legal structures and rules — and laws develop and change all the time — it is absolutely necessary for those who enforce the law to be up to date.
Another aspect of law enforcement that seems to be in a constant state of development is technology. Scientific and technological advancements are always being made in efforts to better equip officers with the best tools for the job. Those officers must always be ready to learn about those developments as they come up so as to stay on top of the latest innovations in the field.
When you are a police officer, you should also look to always learn something new about yourself. As you grow and develop in your career, you will acquire new strengths and weaknesses. It is important to consistently analyse yourself so as to have a better understanding of what those may be. This is the only way to utilise your strengths to the best of your ability and correct your weaknesses as well.