It's not easy to become a police officer. You must meet relatively stringent physical, educational and ethical requirements. Aside from the schooling, background check and interviews, almost all jurisdictions require aspiring police officers to complete a rigorous police academy program. Most cities have their own police academies and training programs, but many smaller communities send their police recruits to a regional or state police academy.
All police officers must be current U.S. citizens. You also generally must be between 21 and 45 years of age, have a high school diploma or G.E.D., have a current driver's license, have completed some college or been in the military for at least two years, and pass several physical requirements such as vision and hearing tests, as well as interviews, in order to be accepted into a police academy. A felony or any family violence conviction can be grounds for denial to a police academy.
You must meet both academic and physical requirements to graduate from a police academy. Academic requirements for police academies include 600 to 1,200-plus hours of instruction in most jurisdictions. Physical training requirements for graduation from the Austin Police Academy, for instance, include a 300-meter run in 63 seconds, 33 or more push-ups, 36 or more sit-ups in one minute, a vertical jump of 17 inches, and running 1.5 miles in 13 minutes or less.
Most police academy programs last six to eight months, with a 40-hour-a-week class schedule. Police academy training involves classes in civil rights, federal, state and local laws, and ethics. You also receive instruction and supervised experience in patrol duties, traffic control, weapon use and safety, self-defense techniques, first aid, and emergency response.
Police Pay and Employment Prospects
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, police officers earned a median salary of $55,010 in 2010. In Austin, first-year officers right out of the academy receive a probationary officer salary of $53,945, and move up to $63,352 after one year. Local government budget cuts mean employment prospects are somewhat below average for police officers, with only seven percent job growth projected through 2020.
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