Ten Rules for Getting a Job in Law Enforcement

Do you know the secrets of getting hired in law enforcement?


  1. Prepare for the job.
  • Score five points for a graduate degree, four points for a bachelor's degree, two points for an associate's degree or 60 college credits. Score one extra point if your degree is in accounting or computer science (not criminal justice). Add one point if you graduated with honors, one point if you are a veteran (active, guard, reserve), one more point if you were in some form of military police or intelligence. Add three points if you are fluent in a needed foreign language (Spanish, but also Russian, Arabic, Vietnamese, Chinese, or other as needed in your community). Yes, you get more points for a language than for two years of college. You get four points if you graduated from any approved (POST) law enforcement academy, as they will save thousands on a candidate who successfully completed an academy. Security experience gets you one point. If you currently work in the system as a dispatcher, records clerk, community service officer, or in corrections, you get two points. You also need to consider your work ethic and history. If you have a history of termination, discipline, poor work habits, or unexplainable unemployment, deduct up to ten points and re-evaluate your future. If you have a strong work history, especially in sales or public contact but not law enforcement, give yourself up to two points.
  • A maximum total of 15 points for this question.
  • Understand and prepare for the testing process, including the oral interview.
    • If you really are practiced and prepared for the testing process, score one to five points. Some departments have mentoring programs and help with testing. Have you researched what help might be available, and taken advantage of it? Have you read books on police oral exams?? Have you talked to others that have taken orals? Have you actually practiced with friends and family?
    • A maximum total of eight points for this question.
  • Make sure you meet the minimum requirements, especially with regard to the background history.
    • A significant percentage of applicants waste their time and the department's time when they apply, knowing they are not eligible for hire. This can be due to a physical or health issue, but more often it involves a red flag in the applicant's background, such as drug use. Each agency's standards and requirements are different, but you need to talk to a recruiter or background investigator if you have doubts. Save everyone time and money. It does not matter if you were not convicted or never arrested. If you used drugs or did some other crime, it will likely come out in your polygraph or background investigation.
    • Score five points if you are eligible, and subtract 100 if not.
  • Go on ride-alongs.
    • You get one point per ride-along, and an extra point if it was with the agency you are applying to.
    • A maximum total of three points for this question.
  • Know about the agency where you are applying.
    • You need to know specifics about the agency you are applying to: mission, size of agency, population served, form of government, chief/sheriff’s name, names of those on the oral board, etc. Law enforcement agencies like the highway patrol, state police, sheriff's departments, police departments, Border Patrol, and other local, state and federal agencies all have distinct missions and functions.
    • A maximum total of three points for this question
  • Understand the various law enforcement jobs in your area--don’t just concentrate on the big police departments.
    • Know that there are lots of cop jobs. Don’t forget tribal (Indian) police, school police, college/university police, corrections, dispatch, transit police, various state and federal agencies, etc. Almost every federal department has some form of police or investigators such a Capitol Police, Secret Service, DEA, Homeland Security, etc.
    • A maximum total of three points for this question.
  • Do volunteer work, serve internships, and join police reserve units and Explorer posts.
  • This content continues onto the next page...
    • Enhance your experience.

      Thank you for your regular readership of and visits to Officer.com. To continue viewing content on this site, please take a few moments to fill out the form below and register on this website.

      Registration is required to help ensure your access to featured content, and to maintain control of access to content that may be sensitive in nature to law enforcement.