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First Career?

Policeman standing near squad carChoosing law enforcement right out of school can lead to a lifelong career that is rewarding and fulfilling.

If you are in college and are contemplating the best way to prepare for a law enforcement career, consider taking a course in criminal justice, interning, or volunteering with the local or campus police. While criminal justice studies are the traditional route for those aspiring to a career in law enforcement, many other fields of study will provide you with a good foundation. Sociology, psychology, and social work are a few fields that are particularly well suited for police work.

Most agencies will require you to have at least a high school diploma or GED. Some agencies require a bachelor’s degree or a minimum number of college credit hours. Others offer additional pay based on educational attainment. Regardless, keep in mind that education beyond high school will only help you in your law enforcement career. Having a four-year degree or an advanced degree will be an asset in your career progression, particularly when seeking a promotion or specialized assignment.

Policewoman standing near squad carIf you are fresh out of high school and are looking to go straight into law enforcement, some agencies have minimum age requirements as young as 18 or 19 years old. Additionally, some agencies offer tuition assistance if you wish to pursue a college degree.

If you’re considering law enforcement but are unsure if it is right for you, consider volunteering with your local police or sheriffs department, serving as a reserve officer, or interning while in college. Many agencies offer citizens’ police academies and citizen ride-a-longs, which can be great ways to gain insight into the department, its functions, and culture.

If you’re a teen or young person looking to get a jump start on your future career in law enforcement, check out our Opportunities for Youth page.