Choosing a law enforcement field requires unwavering commitment, dedication to public service, and a solid determination to enforce the law. Most people wonder about how long it will take to become a cop and pass out of the police academy. However, the training time is not the same everywhere because each state has a different training period because they have the authority to make some changes according to their area.
The police academy is a list of meticulous educational and physical modules that are designed to train potential law enforcement officers for the tough life of a cop. Furthermore, the duration of training varies from one state to another; however, the average length is around 833 to 840 hours, which makes for approximately five to six months. So, let’s analyze the various steps and procedures for becoming a law enforcement officer.
In order to understand the police academy training time, it is necessary to understand the whole process from the time you apply. So, continue reading for a comprehensive guide on everything you need for the police academy.
Education Requirements for Police Academy
You can choose to become a police officer right after high school or after completing your higher education. The education requirements can vary by location and police department; however, you need at least a high school diploma or equivalent degree for entry-level positions. Likewise, most police departments prefer associate or bachelor’s degree candidates.
It is better to go for higher education, especially a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a field related to law enforcement. This will not only help you in advancing your police career but also give you more opportunities and higher pay. Furthermore, it has the flexibility of starting your education after getting hired as a law enforcement officer.
Furthering Education as A Police Officer
Police academy gives flexibility to pursue your education without compromising on your job. So, an associate’s degree takes about two years for a full-time program; however, you can increase or decrease the classes to adjust the timeline according to your schedule. Furthermore, a bachelor’s degree takes around four years in an on-campus program, but you can complete it in three or five years with full-time or part-time studies.
Additionally, a Master’s degree can be completed in approximately two to three years, but you can do it online or on-campus with a very flexible schedule. Similarly, a Doctoral degree (Ph.D.) in law enforcement requires four to five years.
Police Academy Application Process
Like any other field, joining the police academy requires a proper application process. Moreover, waiting for the agencies to advertise their vacancies would be best. Afterward, you can check the eligibility criteria, and if you meet them, apply for it immediately.
You must submit the required documents and applications correctly; however, these requirements and the application process can differ at different locations and agencies. Nevertheless, the crux of the matter is to keep an eye on the new positions, apply instantly, and then utilize the time to prepare for the next step of hiring. Please keep in mind that the selection process might take some time; therefore, it is wise to prepare for the test that you must pass for police academy selection.
Police Academy Enrollment Process
While applying to the police academy, you need to remember that their hiring process is much different than other jobs, where you only need to be selected and have an interview. Moreover, the police academy requires the candidates to undergo a series of tests to assess them in various aspects. Similarly, these tasks and tests may differ in other agencies and states; however, several elements are common for each agency.
After your application is selected, your first assessment will be written, where the essential knowledge and skills required for this job will be tested. Likewise, it focuses on areas such as reading comprehension, spelling, math, grammar, analytical skills, and report writing. Moreover, you should at least get 70% marks, which is the passing mark, but higher marks mean more chances of getting selected.
Physical Ability Test (PAT)
In the physical ability test, your physical fitness will be assessed to evaluate your compatibility with this physically demanding job. Furthermore, agencies will choose to either use the job simulation or fitness-based techniques to check your physical strength and readiness. Moreover, it is a pass/fail test.
This test is conducted to check if you have any physical disability. Moreover, a medical test ensures that you do not have any underlying medical condition that can become an obstacle in the way of your police duties.
A background check is necessary to investigate your personal history. Similarly, it involves thoroughly checking your association, employment history, education, criminal record, financial status, and history of substance abuse. This part can take the longest because it is a comprehensive investigation and can take several weeks to a few months.
Polygraph tests are conducted to verify the information that you have provided. The polygraph examiner will ask you questions to answer correctly because they will analyze the results.
The physiological test is designed to check your mental strength and stability, either as an interview with a psychologist or a psychological screening test. Moreover, the results will be analyzed to confirm your readiness to handle the emotional and mental challenges of the job. Here is a little tip: stay honest and composed throughout the assessment.
Oral Board Interview
This is the final step, meaning you have completed the previous steps successfully. You will be interviewed by a panel asking you different questions to assess your suitability for the position. Additionally, now is your chance to highlight your qualifications, relevant experience, and education.
This entire process will take an average of about three to four months. However, the duration may vary based on the state and hiring agency.
Police Academy Training Tenure
The police academy training is the next step after a successful hiring process. However, most people think getting into a police academy guarantees a law enforcement job. In reality, this is just another phase that requires more, if not equal, efforts to complete.
You will receive physical and theoretical training, learn how to drive, provide first aid in case of emergency, and use guns, etc. Moreover, it would be best if you continued your hard work because it is a physically and mentally challenging phase. Nevertheless, the average duration of this training in the USA is around 13 to 19 weeks or five to six months.
Additionally, you can also go for the police academy training even before applying for the job. Furthermore, post-certified candidates get hired quickly as police officers.
USA Police Academy Training Hours
|Operations training (vehicle, filing a report, CPR, etc.)
|Firearms and defensive tactics
|Community, policing, terrorism, mental issues, etc.
An In-depth Look at Police Academy Training Modules
The physical and theoretical training is divided into four modules for better understanding. So, the following is the curriculum of police academies.
1. Police Strategy
This module comprises three aspects: legal knowledge, procedure, and apprehension and arrest. Moreover, in legal knowledge, the cadets learn about a wide range of legal subjects like state ordinances, local laws, and constitutional laws, and an understanding of the legal system’s fundamental functions and processes.
Additionally, the procedure segment covers accident and incident investigation, incident reporting, radio operation, traffic control, and vehicle operations for safely and efficiently operating police cruisers. Furthermore, recruits also learn strategies for effectively apprehending criminals while minimizing potential legal challenges.
2. Weapon Training
This module is all about weapons, so you will undergo firearms training and learn how to use non-lethal tools. Moreover, non-lethal tools such as TASERs, OC spray, and collapsible batons are the first choice for dealing with uncooperative individuals. Likewise, firearms training includes drawing the weapon from the holster, aiming and firing accurately, and responding to situations involving multiple attackers.
3. Community Collaboration and Aid
This module covers different components of public safety, and it is recommended to volunteer in the community even before applying to join the police academy. It includes emergency aid such as CPR, first-aid, and communication skills. Additionally, different components like learning civil rights, negotiation techniques, communication strategies, and introductory criminal psychology are also covered.
4. Mental Toughness
This module is crucial to becoming a successful police officer as it works on your emotional preparedness, group dynamics, and stress training. Mental resilience and stress training are fundamental because police officers encounter high-stress situations daily. Moreover, recruits are exposed to stress training, including military or paramilitary-style exercises, and teamwork is prioritized throughout the training tenure.
After completing the training, you will be hired as a police officer in the department of your choice. This will be counted as your probation period, which means you will work with one of your seniors and undergo on-the-job training. Furthermore, probation can last about six months, but it is not fixed and depends on how quickly or slowly you learn.
Can a foreigner be a US cop?
Most police departments require US citizenship. However, many states allow non-citizens to become police officers if they are permanent US residents.
Is a police officer a government job in the USA?
Yes, a police job is a government job in the USA, and a police officer is a government employee working to enforce law and order in the country.
Thanks to Deputy Chief Mary Smith for helping me collect all the information regarding the police academy selection and training process. She has first-hand knowledge of the hiring process and curriculum, especially what aspects are covered in the four modules, and was kind enough to pass it down to me.
Overall, it takes about five to six years to become a police officer and go through every step. However, it is essential to note that this period might differ in different areas and police departments. So, research how long it takes to complete police academy training in your specific location and agency.