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What Education Do You Need to Have to Be a Police Officer?

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Police officers are law enforcement officials who protect the residents of their district, and who apply local, state and federal laws to maintain order. The education needed to be a police officer varies by state. Some states require officers to complete at least some college coursework, often two years. Others hire trainees still in high school and promote them to full police officers once they reach the legal age and have enough work experience in the hiring agency.

All Officers

All law enforcement officers receive emergency medical training, including reviving and resuscitating accident and crime victims, stemming blood flow and restoring blood circulation. Police academies provide this training. Trainees attend these academies for 12 to 14 weeks, depending on their state and the needs of the specialty they’re training for.

Academies also teach trainees how to direct traffic and perform the administrative tasks that take up much of their work time. These tasks include filling out paperwork such as police reports and using non-biased jargon on those reports. Trainees also learn how to communicate with news media personnel.

Specific Environments

Academies teach trainees the specific requirements of the laws relevant to the environment they’ll be working in. For example, border patrol officers will learn details of immigration law. Game wardens and park rangers will learn laws concerning the conservation of natural resources like land and water.

Officers patrolling the coastal waters must learn naval navigation and procedures for performing rescues from water. Bailiffs, police officers who work in courtrooms, receive training in the procedures and protocols of courts of law, such as the events in a court trial.


The people a police officer encounters is an essential factor impacting her education. Border patrol officers, for example, must be bilingual and able to maintain a high level of rapport with coworkers and the public. Typical officers of this type have already acquired these skills in childhood or early adulthood.

Officers in concentrated urban environments receive special training to handle gang violence. This may include learning the identities, credos, behavior and recruitment patterns of the major gangs present in a district.

Correctional officers receive training needed to supervise and control prison inmates. Procedures for handling riots and methods for detecting concealed weapons are some skills involved in this training.


Special weapons and tactics officers, also known as SWAT officers, receive specialized training in martial arts, riot control and counter-terrorism tactics and techniques. This training includes learning when and how to use weapons like sniper and assault rifles and devices for riot situations such as tear gas, gas masks, body armor and rubber bullets.