A police officer is one of the most common aspirations for a young child growing up. Becoming a police officer can be one of the most rewarding professions available, but it is certainly not for everyone. Police officers’ primary objective is to protect and serve the citizens of the area in which they have jurisdiction. “Protect and serve” can be anything from responding to a murder attempt, to stopping a petty shoplifting crime. 

Types:  Plain clothes, Uniform, Narcotics, etc.


     Most states require cadets to be 21 years of age but there are a few that will enroll cadets as early as 18 years of age. A college degree is almost never needed depending on the state or county. Requirements for a police officer include being a U.S citizen, having a valid driver’s license, and being in physical shape to handle the rigors of the job. Qualifications vary depending on your specific state so it is important to search for state specific requirements.

     There are a vast amount of specialized units to progress to, such as K9 unit, narcotics, S.W.A.T., traffic, terror squad, detective, private investigator, lieutenant, undercover, and even commissioner. The possibilities are endless once you accrue enough experience as a patrol officer. Your job will be to “protect and serve,” which can be very rewarding. Police officers deal with a wide array of situations: robberies, fights, murders, natural disasters, crisis situations, traffic accidents. It is not an easy job by any means. It takes a very trained and seasoned mind to witness and cope with some of the situations that arise on the job. 

     Physical Fitness is important in a job with such a variety of potentially physical situations. You will need stamina and endurance if a foot chase were to arise, and strength when arresting a resisting individual. Fitness is obtained, tested, and maintained at the police academy.

     Mental Toughness, in my opinion, is the most important thing for a police officer to possess, even more than physical fitness. Many instances will occur in which a suspect will intentionally try to influence the officer’s emotions (in a harmful or persuasive manner). If an officer loses his composure in these situations, the criminal and/or the officer can be at serious risk. It is also important to note that a police officer is always the first to arrive at gruesome murders and other death scenes. This exposure can be very taxing on someone’s psyche so it very important for potential officers to understand the risks and follow proper training protocol.


     All states will require completion of the police academy, which differs in length based on the state but typically ranges from 4-6 months of training. Training includes daily physical activity, mental preparation, and simulations to prepare for on the job experiences. Physical activity is rigorous, but not as intense as the firefighter test for example.

Work Environment

     Being a police officer can be a very dangerous job. Although most police officers will NOT experience a situation in which they would need to draw their weapons, they still must be extremely cautious in all situations because people are unpredictable and a situation that seems unthreatening can become lethal in a matter of seconds. When most police officers leave the academy they begin on patrol. Patrol is where officers are faced with the most unpredictable situations. Salary starts off very low, especially in big cities that require an abundant amount of officers, but maxes out rather quickly.


Total Employment: 662,390

Mean Annual Wage: $64,490

Median Annual Wage: $61,050

Top 5 Highest Paying States

State Employment 

Annual mean wage 

California 73,000 $100,090
New Jersey 19,580 $83,570
Alaska 1,070 $81,980
Washington 9,610 $78,600
District of Columbia 5,140 $75,360

 Top 5 States with Highest Employment

State Employment 

Annual mean wage

California 73,000 $100,090
Texas 63,380 $62,430
New York 46,940 $73,000
Florida 38,770 $58,400
Illinois 31,430 $73,870

 Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (

Pros: Fast progression up the salary ladder, usually ends with a very nice pension depending on the economic state of your city, great benefits and perks, a sense of accomplishment and service to the community, and huge amounts of opportunities to grow into new positions in law enforcement.

Cons: Your mentality can be swayed from the power you obtain; due to various reasons police officers do not have the best reputation in big cities. This job can be extremely dangerous, and can also be mentally draining due to the gory and violent nature of the job.


     A police officers biggest obstacle is developing and keeping a certain mentality when dealing with the job. It is very easy to lose focus of the common goal of police officers when one starts to take advantage of the power he/she was given upon graduation of the academy. It is also worth noting that becoming somewhat desensitized to certain things is a necessity to perform the job well. Things like death, domestic abuse, obvious drug use, and gang violence are common things that an officer will witness and have to deal with. Most police officers can expect a pretty nice pension upon retirement. Smaller towns with lower crime ironically get paid a lot more than officers in big cities with more crime. One of the great things about law enforcement is the room for progression. Based on our NoDegree scale we rate police officers a 7.4 out of 10.  

References and Helpful Links

Please note: Affiliate Links Below

Becoming a Police Officer: An Insiders Guide to a Career in law Enforcement by Barry Baker - Amazon

A must read for anyone who is considering a career in law enforcement.  Barry Baker gives a lot of insight into the things you will face in your career and what you need to do to get ahead (or stay out of trouble).

Police Oral Board Secrets: Tips on How to Become a Police Officer by Mark Easton - Amazon

Get the tips so that you can ace your board exam and get your career off the ground!