How To Become a Police Officer

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 19 October 2022

Published 26 May 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Becoming a police officer is a great choice for anyone interested in protecting their community and helping people stay safe. Working as a police officer is a rewarding job that helps people feel they're making a difference. However, you'll need specialist training before assuming a position on the police force. In this article, we will explain what police officers do and the steps to take to become one.

What does a police officer do?

Police officers protect and serve the community, including its people, businesses and property. They work to prevent crime and resolve disputes between members of the public. They work for either their state or territory police force or the Australian Federal Police. State and territory officers focus on local crimes and issues. Australian Federal Police Officers deal with national concerns, such as counter-terrorism, drug trafficking and the protection of political figures.

The duties of police officers depend on their rank, experience, location and police force. Some common police officer duties include:

  • Responding to emergency calls, including burglaries and domestic violence incidents

  • Investigating crimes and arresting and interviewing suspects

  • Assisting crime victims and their families and protecting witnesses

  • Enforcing traffic laws, including conducting random breath tests and issuing tickets to offending drivers

  • Supervising crowds and maintaining order at major events, including sporting matches and festivals

  • Documenting incidences, maintaining records and preparing reports on local crime

Related: 14 Careers in Criminal Justice (With Salaries and Duties)

The average salary of a police office

The average salary for a police officer is $63,694 per year. Salaries vary depending on each officer's rank, experience level, responsibilities and location. Australian Federal Police officers typically earn more than officers from state and territory police forces.

Read more: Understanding the base salary in your compensation package

How to become a police officer in 8 steps

Police officers must satisfy a range of requirements and pass an application process before joining the police force. To become a police officer, you need to complete the following steps:

1. Meet the minimum educational and status requirements

Police officers must satisfy several basic requirements before entering the police force. You must:

  • Have Australian citizenship or permanent residency

  • Be 18 years or older

  • Have a Senior Secondary Certificate of Education (Higher School Certificate, Victorian Certificate of Education etc.), if you are under 21

  • Have a minimum of Year 10 and a Certificate IV/Diploma level qualification or trade certificate, if you are 21 or over

  • Have a current provisional or full driver's licence

While a degree isn't essential, candidates with degrees, especially in a related field such as law, justice or criminology studies, have a competitive advantage.

2. Get a Level 1 First Aid certificate

Enrol in a course for your Level 1 First Aid certificate, sometimes called Basic Emergency Life Support, through a training college. This qualification will help you perform basic first aid when you're the first responder at emergency scenes. During the one-day course, you will learn various skills including cardiopulmonary resuscitation, bandage application and the management of cardiac, anaphylactic and respiratory emergencies. Your certificate stays valid for three years.

3. Get preliminary job-specific qualifications

In some states, it is mandatory for aspiring police officers to complete foundation-level training programs before they can apply for jobs. For example, to join the New South Wales Police Force, holding a University Certificate in Workforce Essentials is required. This type of qualification teaches basic police concepts and workplace skills that prepare candidates for the job.

4. Apply for the police force

You can apply for several police departments or just one, depending on your willingness to relocate. As the application process varies between departments, read your application form carefully to make sure you're answering all questions and submitting all required documentation. Depending on the department, you may submit your application online or in person.

Read more: How to prepare for a job interview

5. Pass the application requirements

If your application is approved, you will be expected to complete more testing. This testing will show whether you are of good character and are physically and mentally fit for police duties. To pass the application process, you must pass the following tests:

  • Medical test

  • Psychometric test

  • Criminal check, including driving history check

  • Security check

  • Narcotics test

  • Fitness test, including a beep test, push-ups, phased sit-ups and swimming freestyle 100 metres unaided and continuously

  • Police Entrance Exam in core competencies including literacy, comprehension, numeracy, reasoning, and digital literacy

  • Face-to-face interview or series of interviews

Read more: 7 Types of Employment Tests: Definitions and Purpose

6. Complete police academy training

If your application is successful, you'll complete a training course at your nearest police college. Through lectures and practical exercises, you'll learn more about the law, police procedures, values and safety. It will also help you start working towards a job-specific qualification, such as a Diploma of Policing or Associate Degree in Policing Practice. Training lengths vary depending on your location but usually last between 12 to 24 weeks.

7. Gain practical experience

After completing your training, you'll get practical field experience as a probationary officer. This period will help you apply and develop the skills you learned at the police academy. You'll work at a designated police station for a period of one or two years, depending on your police force. Your responsibilities will increase as you become more confident and competent. After completing your probation period, a supervisor will assess your achievements throughout the training. Passing officers graduate with a diploma or associate degree.

8. Commence work as a confirmed constable

After graduating with a diploma or associate degree, you'll become a confirmed constable. You may continue working at the same police station or get transferred to another community in need. You'll start with general duties at first but may specialise later.

Common FAQs about becoming a police officer

The following is a list of some of the common questions people ask about becoming a police officer. The answers to these questions can help you decide whether becoming a police officer is the right career path for you.

How do you prepare to become a police officer?

As the police department will conduct thorough background checks, you should make sure you have a clean criminal record. Make sure you follow all rules to keep your records clean. You need a clean driving record for the last 12 months, so you should delay your application if you've had recent infringements.

Police officers are subject to alcohol and narcotics checks. If you use narcotics or drink to excess, you should adopt healthier habits. Eliminating these habits early will help you pass tests during your application period.

Police officers need a good level of physical fitness. Improving your endurance, through long-distance running, and strength, through weight training, can help prepare your body for police work.

Tattoos are permissible if you can cover them with your uniform. If you have tattoos on your face, neck or hands, you should get them removed before applying for the police force.

When can you start working for a specialist area, such as the dog squad or traffic branch?

Police officers advance through the force based on merit. If you show promise, you can apply for specialist vacant positions after three years. Entry into some specialist areas is very competitive, so you may need to spend more time on general duties or complete special psychological or physical tests to ensure you're the best fit.

Read more: How to choose the right career path

What hours will you work as a police officer?

When you start working as a general duties police officer, you'll usually work 38 hours a week. These hours may be at any time of the day or night, as every police department needs officers at all times. Shifts are usually irregular and may include working overnight and on weekends and public holidays. You'll usually receive a Programmed Day Off each month and four rest days each fortnight.

Are there good job prospects for police officers in the future?

Job prospects are good for current and aspiring police officers. There has been strong growth in the sector recently, with the number of police officers increasing from 58,200 in 2014 to 67,200 in 2019. Experts predict there will be 73,800 police officers working in the country in 2024. Opportunities exist throughout the country in all states and territories, in capital cities and regional areas.

Do you have any control over where you're posted?

The police force posts officers where there is the greatest need. However, officers typically request their preferred Local Area Commands. Depending on the state or territory, there may be limits on your request. For example, in New South Wales, police officers can request five Local Area Commands with no more than two country locations. There are no guarantees the department will grant your request, but they do consider these preferences when posting probationary and confirmed constables.

What skills are important for police officers?

Police officers work closely with the public and other officers, so strong people skills are essential. Desirable people skills include emotional intelligence, teamwork, sensitivity and conflict resolution. As police officers often handle several cases at once, good time management and organisational skills are also helpful.

This article is based on information available at the time of writing, which may change at any time. Indeed does not guarantee that this information is always up-to-date. Please seek out a local resource for the latest on this topic.

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate’s experience, academic background and location.

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