Qualifications For Law Enforcement Jobs
Listed below are the general qualifications for sworn law enforcement jobs. Each department or agency may have some slight differences in their hiring requirements. Some departments require that you pass a polygraph test while other departments do not administer the test.
Federal Law Enforcement
State Law Enforcement
City And County Law Enforcement
Most agencies require that you be a U.S. citizen. It does not make sense that you could not be a U.S. citizen yet you enforce the laws of the United States. However, there are a few local police departments that do not require U.S. citizenship as long as the applicant has a work visa or green card and has applied for U.S. citizenship.
The minimum age usually corresponds to the law that you have to be a certain age in order to carry a firearm.
Federal criminal investigator jobs, series 1811, (FBI, Secret Service, etc.) have a maximum entry age of 37. By law, all criminal investigators must retire at age 57 with 20 years of service. Therefore, one must be less than 37 years-of-age when applying to meet the 20 year requirement. Applicants who possess prior federal criminal investigator experience may be eligible to apply for a job beyond the age of 37.
A four year college degree in any field of study will qualify you for most federal, state and local law enforcement jobs.
In lieu of a degree, most federal agencies will accept three years of responsible work experience. Each agency can determine what they consider to be qualifying experience. For example, the Secret Service wants you to have three years of criminal investigative experience. Three years as a police officer will not necessarily qualify you with them. Whereas, the U.S. Marshals Service will accept you without any law enforcement experience as long as you have three years of supervisory experience.
Most state and local law enforcement departments require an applicant to have some college credits, usually around 45 - 60. Some require an Associate degree while other require a four year degree.
If you have a felony conviction, you are not eligible to apply for any sworn law enforcement position. Under federal law and most state laws, a convicted felon cannot possess a firearm. Also under federal law, if you are convicted of a misdemeanor crime involving domestic violence such as spousal abuse you cannot possess a firearm and therefore cannot become a police officer.
Written Entrance Test
Most departments have a written entrance test. 70 percent is usually passing but will probably not get you the job since some departments give their test on a regular basis and only hire the top scores. The test is usually a general aptitude test and does not ask questions about the law.
In addition to the written test, some departments give a video test. The video portion of the testing is based on law enforcement related scenarios that focus on quick judgement and common sense. You watch the video and then answer multiple choice questions as to what you would do. All of the answers can be derived without prior police training or experience.
Physical Fitness / Agility Test
Most departments give a physical fitness / agility test to determine your strength and endurance. This may consist of push-ups and sit-ups performed in one minute time period, a sit and reach flexibility test, a 1 - 2 mile run, a bench press test, a stair climbing test, carry or drag a weight a certain distance, a vertical jump, climbing over a low wall, push test and a balance test.
There are no universal standards for vision. Most agencies require that your vision be 20/20 or corrected to 20/20. There is a concern that if you lose your glasses or contacts you should be able to see to perform your job. Therefore, most agencies have a minimum vision requirement without glasses. Some will allow you to have 20/200 corrected to 20/20 while others only accept 20/100 corrected to 20/20. Most agencies do allow you to have corrective surgery to bring your vision to 20/20.
Every department sets it's own standards as to acceptable past drug usage. Generally speaking, the use of any hard drug such as heroin or LSD will disqualify you. Marijuana usage is usually acceptable if it was years ago and was limited to an experimental usage.