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What Kind or Licenses or Certifications Do You Need to Become a Police Officer?

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A police officer protects the life and property of people in the community. To work as a police officer, individuals must complete a comprehensive examination to earn state certification. While there is no formal educational requirement to obtain some police officer positions, many candidates complete an undergraduate certificate or a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice before enrolling in the police academy. An academic background helps candidates prepare for the state exam and make them more attractive in a competitive job market.

Minimum Requirements

For many law enforcement jobs, candidates receive on-the-job training. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals who wish to become police officers must be citizens of the United States, meet the minimum age requirement and demonstrate rigorous physical and personal qualifications. Applicants typically need at least a high school diploma or GED, and some departments require undergraduate coursework or a degree. Candidates must not have a record of felonies or have been dishonorably discharged from the military, and they are tested for vision, hearing, strength and agility.

Preferred Attributes

Completion of physical education courses is considered a plus for the individual aspiring to be a police officer. Participation in sports also makes a candidate attractive because the individual is believed to have developed competitiveness, agility and stamina — qualities that are required in law enforcement jobs. In some areas, knowledge of a foreign language is considered an asset.

Certification Programs

Those who aspire to be police officers must complete police academy training. This training is separate from the optional undergraduate certificate programs that are available. The certificate in police officer training is generally 24 to 30 credits. Certificate programs can prepare candidates for a two or four-year criminal justice program. Some programs require a personal interview for admittance, along with a physical examination and a high school diploma.

Certificate Courses

Certificate programs for those who aspire to be police officers offer lectures and lab work. Students learn about government and law enforcement while developing communication and problem-solving skills. Most certificate programs require a grade point average of 2.0 upon completion. Certificate programs typically include courses in computers, investigative procedures, safety and first aid, and the fundamentals of psychology and sociology.


Sharon Penn is a writer based in South Florida. A professional writer since 1981, she has created numerous materials for a Princeton advertising agency. Her articles have appeared in "Golf Journal" and on industry blogs. Penn has traveled extensively, is an avid golfer and is eager to share her interests with her readers. She holds a Master of Science in Education.