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The sniper on a SWAT or other law-enforcement team has a vital and difficult role. Marksmanship is only part of the job; the sniper is also an observer for the rest of the team and may be involved in hostage negotiations. Becoming a sniper involves extra training as well as the right personality and marksmanship skills.
Start at the Beginning
The first step in becoming a sniper is to become a police officer. You must be a U.S. citizen, and typically at least 21 years old, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Law-enforcement officers are trained in academies or other specialized training agencies. Your training will include classroom instruction in topics such as law, civil rights, local or state laws and ordinances, and police ethics, as well as first aid, emergency response and the use of firearms.
Some police departments require college coursework or an associate degree prior to entry. Some law-enforcement organizations offer cadet programs, in which candidates who are too young to become officers can learn basic skills. All have physical fitness requirements, such as vision, hearing, strength and agility standards. You will also need a valid driver’s license. You must pass written exams to become a police officer, and complete a series of interviews, and lie detector and drug tests.
Working for the Feds
If your goal is a sniper position in a federal agency such as the FBI or Secret Service, you must have a bachelor’s degree, related work experience or both, according to the BLS. Government law officers often begin their career in police departments and then apply to the FBI or Secret Service. You will also need references and might need a security clearance. FBI and Secret Service candidates train in specialized centers at the U.S. Marine Corps base at Quantico, Virginia, or the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers in Glynco, Georgia.
Once you become a police officer, you will need specialized sniper training. A sniper must be extremely accurate with firearms of all sorts and must also understand issues such as situational observation and reporting, rules of engagement, negotiation techniques, offensive opportunities and public safety. Sniper schools teach marksmanship, care and maintenance of firearms, and other specialized topics related to the job of being a sniper. You might be required to pass qualifying tests for marksmanship to enter the program and must typically pass both written and shooting qualification exams.
The American Sniper Association offers certification for law-enforcement snipers. You must be a member of the ASA to apply. Prerequisites include a 40-hour basic sniper course and at least one year of sniper operational experience. To become certified, you must pass a written examination with a score of at least 85 out of 100 points, a marksmanship score of at least 84 out of 120 points, and a fitness test with a score of at least 375 out of 500 points. In the Stress Fire Skills portion of the test, you must score 100 percent. Certification is effective for three years.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Police and Detectives
- FBIagentEDU.org: FBI Sniper/Observer Careers
- Oregon Tactical Officers Association: Sniper School Overview
- Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission: Sniper Basic, Course #0531
- American Sniper Association: Sniper Certification Program
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.