Law Enforcement Officers

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Law Enforcement Officers

Law Enforcement Officers - Preparation

To work as a police officer or sheriff, you typically need to:

  • complete a high school diploma or equivalent; and
  • complete moderate-term, on-the-job training.

Education after high school

You must have at least a high school diploma to become a police officer or sheriff. Most officers and sheriffs have college training and many have a degree. Many community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities offer programs in law enforcement or criminal justice.

Many states require that all police officers and sheriffs complete Peace Officer Standards and Training Academy (POST). New officers and sheriffs attend police academies for three to six months. You study laws and ordinances, self-defense, and first aid. You also learn how to patrol, direct and control traffic, and handle emergencies. In addition, you learn to use weapons properly.

Work experience

Some large cities hire high school graduates as police cadets who do office work. As a cadet, you take courses until you turn 20 years old (or the minimum age required in your state) and can compete for a police recruit position. You can also work as a community service volunteer officer. Cadets are not guaranteed a promotion to officer status.

On-the-job training

Most police departments have training programs for newly hired police officers and sheriffs. These programs may last up to 12 months.

Military training

Some branches of the military train people to be law enforcement and security specialists. Training lasts from five to 12 weeks, depending on your specialty. Additional training occurs on the job.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.