How To Decide If Becoming A Police Officer Is Right For You

January 13, 2024
4 mins read

How To Decide If Becoming A Police Officer Is Right For You

By Careers Desk

Tuesday, October 8, 2019.

Policing is a high-pressure job that isn’t suitable for the faint of heart. Examples of daily tasks include resolving conflict, arresting criminals, delivering warrants and being present for emergencies. The salary and benefits may sway some people to pursue policing, but are your daily responsibilities as an officer fulfilling your career ambitions? Becoming employed as a cop is a lengthy process, and before enrolling in college or signing up for the police academy, you need to decide if this career path is right for you and your lifestyle. Here are some factors that will help you make this decision.

Hollywood versus reality

Are you a fan of Hollywood movies and television series about law enforcement, such as Criminal Minds, True Detective, Law & Order, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, among countless others? It’s important to remember that Hollywood’s depictions of cop shows include dramatic high profile cases, which offer a skewed perception of police work. Crime television shows should not be the reason you pursue law enforcement.

Soft skills needed

The work of an officer is not solitary, so you should become accustomed to working with a law enforcement team and the general public. If you want to be viewed as a respectable officer that upholds the rules and regulations of society, a few essential soft skills you need are:

Good communication skills



Conflict resolution and management

Active listening

Ability to built trust



You enjoy challenges

As an officer, you may be required to patrol neighborhoods, control traffic, arrest those breaking the law, write crime reports, interview suspected criminals and much more, all while embracing irregular work hours. Many of your interactions will be respectful and compliant, but you never know when you will have to arrest felons and other violent criminals. The dangers can be overcome by acquiring the educational background and soft skills needed, allowing your encounters to be cautious and reflective. If you are someone that thrives on challenges, then policing is right for you.

You have a clean record

A police officer acts as a role model in their respective community. Any law enforcement agency you work for will complete a background check on you to ensure they are hiring someone that is trustworthy and will not pose a risk to the public. They will check for previous illegal activity or convictions, problems with gambling and debt, past employment history, verify your references and check your educational background. It’s best not to omit anything when you apply; otherwise red flags can disqualify you from getting hired.

Understand educational requirements

Higher education will always progress your policing career and allow you to be hired in a leadership role. This is the case when learning how to become a police officer in Ontario, Canada, and obtaining a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement related field. These degrees will endow your critical and analytical skills, giving you a professional edge. There are even online bachelors of policing programs available that you can complete while working. Once you complete your bachelor’s, you can enroll in a police academy that will provide you with more hands-on work experience, from firearms training, defensive driving, learning self-defense, first aid, as well as becoming more familiar with state laws.

Psychological evaluations

Before getting hired, a police psychological exam will be performed to determine if you are mentally fit for the role. These evaluations include the use of a polygraph exam, a drug screening, as well as a psychological assessment performed by a professional. Do you have a good moral character? Are you devoid of any anger management problems?

Your level of truthfulness will be put to the test with the polygraph exam questionnaire, while the psychological assessment will determine if you are capable of facing the difficult situations the job may present you with. You will be asked questions about your personal history related to employment, drug use, education, and much more.

Be physically fit

The role of a police officer is as physically demanding as it is mentally. A police officer’s agility and reflexes will be put to the test during the police academy training. Do you have the stamina needed to sprint after a felon that is running away? Cardio exercises you will need to get accustomed to doing include planking, endurance runs, sprint training, push-ups, and sit-ups, and bodyweight squats. These workouts will improve your speed, core strength, and flexibility while minimizing your risk of injury on the job. Your diet naturally goes hand-in-hand with fitness as it fuels your body and gives you the energy you need for daily tasks. It’s time to cut out fast food and eat more protein, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats such as nuts, and drink plenty of water every day.


After studying and training, you want to know that you will be hired and paid a fair wage for the work that you are doing. Prospective salaries can even influence someone’s decision to pursue a career. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median salary for officers is $63,380 as of May 2018. In terms of future outlook, it is also stated that police employment is set to grow by 5% by 2028.

Prepping for the interview

Once you apply for an open police officer position, you will need to prep for the interview. You will be asked to talk about yourself, why you want to work in law enforcement, what your strengths and weaknesses are, where you see yourself in the future and much more. Offering run-of-the-mill generic answers such as ‘policing is cool’ or bad-mouthing a previous employer is guaranteed to disqualify you from candidacy Every answer should be reflective and specific to the employer you wish to work for.

If you are interested in working in this fast-paced career path, know that there is no shortcut to it. It is a lengthy process, there will be challenges, and you may even be faced with some dangerous situations, but the rewards are just as big. You are making a difference in your community, and your role revolves around your ability to help others. If you’ve read all of this and you have a keen interest in learning more, you know this is the career path for you.

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