What is it like to be a police officer? What does a job description for a police officer look like and how does it help you to determine if the job of a police officer is right for you? I can tell you from experience that a job description can be very misleading because the job description for a police officer and real life experience are two different things. I have seen somebody being accepted to Police Academy and then drop out voluntarily after week #1. It was not the physical stress or so, but in her case it was watching videos showing real dead people like accident victims or so. Definitely a part that was missing from the police officer job description she had read before applying for the job.
So, what do Police Officers do on a daily basis? Police officers enforce laws. They catch criminals. They record traffic accidents. They collect evidence. They do traffic speed traps. They rescue lifes. They sometimes have to testify in court. Some police officers simply work in offices. Others become undercover agents. And others again go from school to school and educate students. The list goes on and on. There are many variations of how the job of a police officer can look like.
The typical job description carries the following items:
- Education Requirements
- Physical Fitness
- Working Conditions
- Field of work
- Salary & Benefits
These requirements lay out what the minimum educational level of a Police Recruit has to be. Most agencies require a High School graduation or GED as the minimum educational level. If you want to become a detective or aim at a higher calling in the police force you will need at least a college degree on your resume. If you plan to specialize in certain field work for the police you need a related pre-existing education. An example would be a degree as a chemist or scientist if you want to work in that field as a police employee.
Police officers need to be physically able to perform this difficult job. A new recruit needs to pass several physical fitness exams to be able to graduate from the academy or to get the job with a different agency. In movies you might see overweight police officers, but in reality those might the ones sitting behind a desk and not those that patrol the streets taking care of safety. So, if you want to become a police officer expect to have a good physical stamina and be able to pass difficult fitness tests. Good ways to prepare for the fitness tests are running, circle training, and doing some weight training.
The job description of a police officer job will contain information about the job overall. If your basic idea is to become a Constable on Patrol (cop) then the job description is fairly easy. If you plan on applying for a highly specialized position the job description will carry such details. A crime scene investigator needs different skills compared to Police Officer that patrols the street on a horse (mounted police). The job description usually includes information about working hours or shift work. The job description might also contain information about weapons, uniform, and other job related items.
Field of Work
This one is fairly easy to understand and to explain. If you want to apply to a certain police job the field of work will be clear right from the start. Are you going to be a “normal” police officer? Well, you will patrol the streets in a patrol car as an example. The job description will be clear about your tasks. It will usually point out that you need to go through the Police Academy training first. Only smaller cities or counties usually hire police officers that learned the profession somewhere else without the requirement of going through an academy training class. Many police officers start their career by going through the Police Academy and then specialize into a certain field over the years.
Salary and Benefits
Salary and benefits for police officers can be quite different between cities and counties and of course depending on the geographic location. A new police officer usually receives 2 weeks of paid vacation per year. Salary often starts at or above the average national income level. Health insurance is often paid 100% by the employing agency or only requires a minor co-pay by the police officer. Life insurance benefits are usually below average compared to jobs in the open economy. One reason might be the risk that the job of a police officer carries. Rates can be quite high and so most cities and counties and state agencies only pay for one year of salary as the insurance amount. Police officers that serve 25 years or more usually receive a pretty good pension based on the number of years of service. That benefit is hardly seen in the open economy at private companies these days.
Other items on the typical job description are psychological exams and tests as well as a polygraph test and (of course) a detailed background check. Candidates can be as good as they want with everything else that they learn at the Police Academy. It all does not matter if one fails to pass the polygraph test or the psychological exams show character and integrity issues. A police officer is a public servant and accordingly he or she needs to be of outstanding character, trust, and integrity. These are skills one cannot learn. You either have them or you don’t.
The police officer job description is quite detailed in most cases. It is often longer than job descriptions for normal jobs. Police officers don’t have a normal job and this is shown on the typical job description for a police officer job accordingly. If you are looking for a job description similar to the ones for normal jobs, you will most likely be disappointed. Jobs and employment offers for police officers are simply different. Are you still interested in becoming a police officer?