Growth Trends for Related Jobs

What Is the Best Job to Get Before Becoming a Cop?

careertrend article image
Hemera Technologies/ Images

Thinking about police officers might invoke images of police cruisers chasing down speeders and people in uniforms hopping fences to apprehend criminals, but the job of a police officer involves much more. From spending hours completing paperwork to communicating effectively with the public, police officers must possess a wide range of skills and abilities. By applying for a job that gives you similar experience, you increase your chances of getting hired as an officer.

Security Guards

Security guards provide security for buildings, people and items. Some security guards do not carry lethal weapons while others do. A position as a security guard always looks good when applying for police work, because the position provides you with knowledge and skills that you’ll commonly employ as a police officer. For example, looking for suspicious behavior and communicating with people are skills that police officers and security guards share. Security guards earned a median annual wage of $23,920 in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. You generally do not need a degree or college experience to become a security guard.

Correctional Officer

Correctional officers work in jails and prisons and help keep order within the inmate population. A position as a correctional officer can be physically and mentally demanding, especially when violence within the institution occurs. Because correctional officers must communicate with inmates on a daily basis, keep violence under control and fill out paperwork constantly, they share similar duties with police officers. Correctional officers generally do not carry weapons, unless they are part of a special team that’s meant to deal with uncontrollable violence. You do not need a college degree to become a correctional officer unless you plan to work in a federal prison, which requires a bachelor’s degree. Correctional officers earned a median annual wage of $39,040 in 2010, according to the BLS.


Joining the military gives you an enormous advantage when applying for a police officer position. Joining the military is a long-term commitment and one that involves serious risks, but it does help tremendously if you plan to become a police officer later in life. Because those in the military are well-trained in combat, identifying suspicious behavior, communicating with others and possess leadership qualities, they usually make good police officers as well.

Educational Requirements

In addition to seeking out jobs that help you become a police officer, you also need education. Many states and counties require candidates to have some college experience that usually involves criminal justice programs. A bachelor’s degree gives you the best opportunity. Law enforcement certifications also help. Not all states and counties require an educational background.

Academy Training

Prior to becoming a full-fledged police officer, you must agree to enter the police academy. The academy focuses on training you for everything you’ll face as a police officer and utilizes many of the skills you learned in the previous jobs you took to get experience to become an officer. From basic tactics and driving maneuvers to CPR and arrest methods, the police academy ensures that you have knowledge of what to do regardless of the situation you find yourself in. You will likely spend more than 10 weeks in the police academy, with some academies lasting longer than 20 weeks.


Located in Pittsburgh, Chris Miksen has been writing instructional articles on a wide range of topics for online publications since 2007. He currently owns and operates a vending business. Miksen has written a variety of technical and business articles throughout his writing career. He studied journalism at the Community College of Allegheny County.