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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 so it is worth contacting the force you are interested in joining to see if they are recruiting. Vacancies may also be advertised on websites such as All Police Jobs, as well as 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).

You could qualify through a police constable degree apprenticeship, which takes a minimum of three years to complete and requires candidates to have two A levels (or equivalent) as well as to be competent in both written and spoken English. You could also take a degree in policing, which usually lasts for three years and after which students can apply to join the police.

For those who have a degree, there are degree-holder programmes that lead to a graduate diploma in professional policing. One is the Police Now Leadership programme, which 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.

Different police forces will have different expectations of officers. The Metropolitan Police, for example, ask candidates to have lived or studied in London for three out of the last six years. They also have a policy against tattoos on the face, on certain areas of the neck and that are considered discriminatory or offensive.

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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