Police officer: job description

Police officers uphold law and order by detecting, preventing and investigating crimes.

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

Police officers respond to reports of incidents and follow up to help solve crimes. This could involve speaking to victims of crimes and witnesses, searching for evidence, investigating what has happened, making arrests and interviewing suspects. Later, they may need to give evidence in court.

There is also a preventative aspect to police officers’ work. For example, they may patrol areas and attend large events.

Alongside location-focused police forces, there are specialist forces such as the British Transport Police and the Ministry of Defence Police.

Typical duties include:

  • interviewing suspected criminals.
  • taking statements.
  • writing crime reports and keeping them up to date.
  • gathering prosecution evidence.
  • giving evidence in court.
  • fostering good relationships with the public.
  • patrolling areas by foot, bike, motorcycle and car.
  • making and processing arrests.
  • searching suspects.
  • responding to emergencies and accidents.
  • offering advice and reassurance to the public.
  • providing advice on crime prevention.
  • controlling traffic and crowds.
  • keeping the peace/mediating in tense situations.

You’ll work shifts as a police officer; these vary from one force to another. You’re likely also to need to work extra hours to respond to emergencies.

Graduate salaries

Graduates joining the police under the degree holder entry programme earn between around £24,000 and £31,000. (Salaries vary across forces, with salaries in London being highest.)

Salaries are similar if you join the Police Now national graduate leadership programme (one of the graduate entry routes into the police): £24,780 and £31,020, plus location allowances.

Typical employers of police officers

  • Local police forces.
  • The Ministry of Defence Police.
  • British Transport Police.
  • Civil Nuclear Constabulary.
  • National Police Air Service.

Most forces, including specialist ones, advertise jobs on their websites and on local jobs boards. The Police Now national graduate leadership programme is advertised on targetjobs.co.uk.

Qualifications and training required

It is possible to become a police officer both with or without a degree.

You could qualify through a police constable degree apprenticeship, which takes a minimum of three years to complete. You will need at least 48 UCAS points with at two A levels, one of which should be A*–C and one that is A*–E (or equivalent).

You could also take a degree in policing, which usually lasts for three years. Once you’ve graduated, you can apply to join the police.

If you’re a graduate you could join a degree-holder entry programme. As mentioned, 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.

You’ll need to meet other non-academic entry requirements to join the police, and these vary from one force to another. A number of forces require you to have lived in the UK for at least three years before you apply for a job. Check with individual forces for their entry requirements.

Key skills for police officers

  • Assertiveness.
  • The ability to think on your feet.
  • The ability to remain calm in challenging or dangerous situations
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills, including the ability to listen.
  • Confidence working with people from all backgrounds.
  • Teamworking skills.
  • Problem solving skills.
  • Negotiation skills.

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