Become a Police Officer
What You Need to Know
- Police officers work on the frontline of crime prevention and detection. However, their specific jobs can vary significantly, including everything from dog handlers to traffic officers.
- There is no age limit to becoming a police officer, nor are there any height restrictions anymore.
- You do, however, have to be a British citizen, an EC/EEA national, Commonwealth citizen, or foreign national with no restrictions on your stay in the UK.
- While you will be subjected to a thorough background check, you may still be able to become a police officer even in you have minor offences on your record.
- Competition is tough: Around 35,000 people a year apply to become police officers, though only 5,000 of these get accepted.
- However, showing that you are committed to serving your local community may help improve your recruitment prospects.
- Aside from serving as a frontline officer, a range of support roles are also available in forces across the country. These can include call handlers, data analysts and even front desk staff.
What Do Police Officers Do?
At the most basic level, police officers work on the frontline of crime prevention and detection, though they can go about this in a wide variety of ways. For instance, you could serve in the police as a traffic officer, an animal handler, a community liaison specialist or an armed response officer. What all roles do have in common, however, is that you will work to;
- Protect the public from crime.
- Provide a reassuring presence within the community.
- Investigate crimes and apprehend the culprits.
- Support victims of crime and provide help to those who have witnessed a crime.
But whatever route you do choose to go down, you are likely to enjoy a challenging, exciting and rewarding career. Indeed, it may be a cliché, but, for the most part, no two days are the same when working as a police officer.
Who can Become a Police Officer?
There is no age limit to becoming a police officer, nor are there any height restrictions. You do, however, have to be a British citizen, an EC/EEA national, Commonwealth citizen, or foreign national with no restrictions on your stay in the UK.
No formal qualifications are necessary, though you will have to pass written tests, and if you're offered a trainee position you will also be subject to security checks including a criminal record check, though you can still join the police force if you have minor offences or cautions.
Additionally, you will be required to pass fitness and medical tests. While these are not that physically demanding, it’s still a good idea to be in reasonable shape before starting the application process.
Applying to the Force
Every year, around 35,000 people apply to become police officers in one of England, Wales and Scotland’s 51 forces – but only 5,000 are successful.
Before you apply, make sure that the force you wish to join is currently recruiting - note that you can only apply to one force at a time.
If the force you wish to join is recruiting, then you will first have to confirm your eligibility and then answer a number of competency questions. These answers will be checked by the force itself and, if you are successful, you will be invited along to an assessment centre. Here, you will undertake a job interview, four interactive exercises, two written exercise and a numerical and verbal reasoning test. Should you pass this, then you will be asked to take a fitness test before finally undergoing background, security and eyesight tests.
Be aware that this recruitment process can be lengthy, particularly if a force chooses to run additional assessment stages such as a second interview. So don’t expect to apply one week and then be on the beat the next.
Improving your Chances
Again, competition for police officer jobs is fierce, especially in bigger cities such as London, Manchester and Birmingham. However, there are a number of ways you can improve your chances of successfully navigating the recruitment process.
Above all, you should be able to show a demonstrable interest in helping your local community. This could be through helping out with a community group such as a Scout troop, or by being an active member of a Neighbourhood Watch scheme. Volunteering as a Special Constable, however, is perhaps the best way of standing out from the crowd and this is also a good way of getting a ‘second chance’ if your application is unsuccessful first time around.
As well as working as a frontline police officer, there are also many other opportunities through which you can help serve a community. These include support roles – for example, administrative staff, call handlers, data analysts and librarians – though opportunities vary between forces.
To be considered for support roles, you will need to apply directly through an individual force rather than through the Police Recruitment system. While you will not have to undergo such a tough assessment, you should be prepared to undergo background and security checks.
- Visit the official Police Recruitment website and see if your local force is recruiting.
- If you get a call back be sure to read out guide to job interviews.
- If you’ve already worked in the police and want a new challenge, becoming a private detective could be the perfect option.