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Police officers uphold law and order through the detection, prevention and investigation of crime.

After qualifying as a police officer, some choose to specialise in a specific branch such as the drug squad or the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

What does a police officer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Duties can include:

  • interviewing suspected criminals
  • taking statements
  • writing crime reports
  • dealing with paperwork
  • gathering prosecution evidence
  • giving evidence in court
  • fostering good relationships with the public
  • patrolling areas by foot and car
  • making and processing arrests
  • searching suspects
  • responding to emergencies
  • offering advice and reassurance to the public
  • controlling traffic/crowds
  • keeping the peace/mediating in tense situations

For many, the sense of reward derived from serving the community and preventing crime will outweigh the negatives.

Typical employers of police officers

  • Local police forces
  • Specialist forces
  • The Ministry of Defence Police
  • British Transport Police

Most forces will advertise locally in the regional press so it is worth contacting the force you are interested in joining to see if they are recruiting or see the police recruitment portal online. Vacancies may also be advertised on specialist forces websites, in local and national newspapers and on TARGETjobs.

Qualifications and training required

It is possible to become a police officer both with or without a degree, although all entrants must pass standard police initial recruitment tests (fitness, medical and educational). There are no height restrictions or upper age limits for applications.

The requirements for becoming a police officer vary across police forces; some will ask that applicants hold a Certificate in Knowledge of Policing, have acceptable A levels, or have experience in a relevant role. It is recommended to contact your chosen police force in order to find out their eligibility requirements. While previous experience is not always expected, attendance at familiarisation events and involvement in local police work can be advantageous. Visible tattoos, debt problems and certain criminal convictions may prevent entry.

For graduates, the Police Now Leadership programme is open to candidates with a minimum 2.1 in any degree discipline and works with a number of forces across England and Wales. Applicants for the programme will be expected to undergo fitness checks and will be tested for substance misuse during the application process.

Key skills for police officers

  • Open-mindedness
  • Resilience
  • Assertiveness
  • Maturity
  • Able to handle responsibility
  • Able to remain calm in challenging or dangerous situations
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Communication skills
  • Teamworking skills
  • Problem solving skills
  • Negotiating skills

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