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United States police departments employ approximately 883,600 people as of 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All law enforcement agencies look for recruits who are well-qualified and capable, but police departments each have different recruiting standards. Both the high school and college background of an individual is considered during the application process.
High School Requirements
Most police departments require new recruits to have a high school diploma. In some agencies, a General Equivalency Diploma (GED) is accepted in place of a standard diploma. A GED is common for individuals who were not able to complete high school. Some police departments require recruits to have good high school attendance and behavior records, while others are more lenient. During a background check, law enforcement agencies often contact previous high school teachers and acquaintances to verify the character and record of a recruit.
High School GPA
The high school Grade Point Average (GPA) of a recruit is usually not directly examined by police agencies. In many cases, a diploma or GED is all that is needed to meet the high school requirements. However, high school GPA is an important factor in college admission. Applicants who are accepted to the University of Southern California, for instance, have an average high school GPA of 3.8 according to Petersons.com. A prospective police officer with a very low GPA may not be able to obtain the college degree required by many law enforcement agencies.
Many police departments require applicants to have either an Associate's or Bachelor's degree in addition to a high school diploma. Some departments accept several years of college education or military experience instead of a full degree. In Sugarland, Texas, for example, police recruits do not need a degree but must have completed at least 30 college credit hours. Many Federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, require a four-year Bachelor's degree.
The Grade Point Average attained by a recruit while in college is considered by many police agencies. Some departments set minimum GPA levels. For example, the police in Beaumont, Texas require at least a 2.0 college GPA for admittance into the training academy. Law enforcement departments may waive this GPA requirement for candidates who have previous experience in the military or other agencies.