How to Become an Undercover Cop

Undercover police officers dress to fit in with the crowd they are hanging out with.
i NA/ Images

While there are a few jobs at a police department that are safe and relatively stress-free, most police-related employment that involves direct contact with the public is potentially dangerous and therefore stressful. One of the most dangerous jobs for a police officer is to work undercover. Undercover officers are often picked out as early as the police academy, usually because they have the right combination of physical and social characteristics to fit in with a group targeted for police infiltration. Undercover cops typically receive additional training in the "culture" of the group to fit in as naturally as possible.

    Step 1

    Graduate from high school or earn your G.E.D. A high school diploma or equivalent is the minimum educational requirement to become a police officer, and a number of departments are requiring new officers to have earned some college credits in criminal justice and other relevant areas. You must be 21 years old, in reasonable physical condition and have a driver's license to become an officer.

    Step 2

    Apply to your local police department or the police department of another city of your choice. The application process typically includes a couple of assessment exams, a drug screening, a thorough background check, including a credit report and criminal history check, as well as a series of interviews and possibly a lie detector test.

    Step 3

    Attend and graduate from your department's police academy. Most reasonably large cities have their own police academy training program, but smaller communities usually send their police officer cadets to a regional or state academy. Police academies include physical training and use of firearms, as well as classes in constitutional law, civil rights and due process, and familiarization with state and local laws. Express your interest in undercover work after a few weeks of academy training.

    Step 4

    Apply for undercover work relatively soon after you graduate if you were not selected at the academy. Most police departments prefer to use new police officers in undercover assignments as their faces are not known to the criminals. Working a patrol beat could compromise your chances for undercover work.


    • Get in decent physical shape before you attend the police academy. You have to meet physical training criteria to graduate, and you don't want to be struggling around the track trying to get yourself in shape at the same time you are learning important job skills.

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