4 minute read


Education and Training High school diploma, college degree, on job training
Average Salary $51,410
Job OutlookVery good

The primary responsibility of a policeman is to protect life and property, however, specific responsibilities are assigned depending on the organization they work for like patrolling, correctional facilities, emergency response teams, special weapons, etc.

Typically, a policeman is required to answer complaints regarding robberies, felonies, and other incidents. They collect evidence at the scene of crime and create detailed reports about cases they are assigned. A policeman may also escort prisoners to court and conduct patrolling duties in jails and correctional facilities.

Policemen who work as state patrolling officers must ensure that traffic rules are being followed on state highways.

A policeman may also become a federal detective, conducting plainclothes investigations and collecting evidence for hard to solve cases.

If employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a policeman will be involved in investigating criminal activities such as organized crime, terrorism, drug trafficking, and kidnappings.

Education and Training Requirements

All state and federal police departments have a minimum requirement of a high school diploma and a two or four year degree from an accredited institution of higher learning. Prospective policemen who have been involved in school or college level sports or have exceptional scores in physical education have a better chance of performing well at the job. Knowledge of a foreign language or languages can be helpful as well.

Though no specific courses are recommended for high school, those who want to apply as a policeman in state and local police departments are recommended to take courses in law enforcement and criminal justice. Many community colleges offer programs that provide theoretical learning about police work.

Once selected, recruits go through an extensive training period which usually lasts for about a year. Training is given in the form of classroom instruction and practical hands on training in handling firearms, self defense, and first aid.

Federal agencies require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree and a few years of work experience. Because of the nature of work in federal agencies, each department has its own specific education requirements. For example, for applying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, an applicant should have majored in accounting, electrical engineering, or computer sciences at the college level or should have a degree in law. Additionally, they should be fluent in a foreign language.

It is important to mention that to be considered for a policeman position, a prospective applicant should have a history of lawful conduct, should never have taken drugs, or been involved in acts of domestic violence or bullying.

Getting the Job

Prior work experience is important when applying to federal law agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The exact requirement varies depending on the organization you are applying to.

To get a job as a policeman, students can fill the application form of their local, state, or federal police department and prepare themselves for the tests. Typically, a physical abilities test, medical evaluation, and an interview are conducted. At the time of application, prospective policemen take a questionnaire test and complete an essay at the examination center.

Some police departments hire high school graduates as cadets or trainees who start with clerical work and are then sent to the police training academy to receive proper training as a policeman.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Employment opportunities are expected to grow more than 10% for policemen by 2018. An increase in the size of the United States population will be a major factor for an increase in police jobs.

Once you are employed as a policeman, there are a large number of opportunities for advancement through lateral or horizontal promotions. After joining a traditional police department setup, a policeman can move to SWAT or become a detective. The traditional path allows for promotions to the level of Police Chief.

Working Conditions and Environment

A policeman generally works in dangerous and unrelenting conditions, depending on the organization they are working for. They are required to be armed all the time.

It is considered a stressful job as policemen have to be on call and be alert all the time, in addition to being highly responsive.

Towns and rural areas generally are more relaxed compared to large city police departments like the NYPD or LAPD because of the low crime rate.

Salary and Benefits

A police cadet or corporal has a median starting salary of $32,000 which increases to a minimum $90,000 at the police chief level. A policeman employed with federal law agencies receives law enforcement availability pay owing to the large amount of overtime most employees put in.

The exact salary depends on the city or state a policeman works in. Higher salaries can be expected in cities where the local average wages are higher.

Since the police department is a government undertaking, all policemen receive benefits like medical and life insurance, sick leave, and paid vacation, in addition to receiving uniform allowances.

Where to Go for More Information

Drug Enforcement Administration
DEA Office of Personnel
8701 Morrissette Dr.
Springfield, VA 22152

National Law Enforcement Recruiters Association
PO Box 17312
Arlington, VA 22216

National Sheriffs Association
1450 Duke St.
Alexandria, VA 22314

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw and Public Service