Inside Police Officer Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"People Respond Differently Than Expected...
I was surprised at how many people resent you for being a police officer. I thought a few criminals would not like you, but its actually a much larger amount of people. Another surprise is how often people will tell you a story about there experience with a police officer and how horrible and terrible they were. Having been able to be present at and also watch videos of these experiences, most people just lie about these bad experiences because they can't accept responsibility for their own actions." (State Trooper; 2013)

Career: 5 years of experience, currently based in Florida, male
School: Studied Business Administration at Flagler College in Florida; completed Bachelor degree in 2005

"The Real World Takes Some Getting Used To...
There have been many surprising discoveries. I became a cop to help clean up the streets, but I've quickly learned that not everything is black and white. There are more than 50 shades of grey. No one is completely good or bad, but some people do seem completely evil. Sometimes we have to take parents away from their children. Some of these defense attorneys are as bad as the perps. You need a strong stomach and a detached emotional state to succeed in this career. It's not like TV. There can be long periods of boredom. And we're not nearly paid enough." (Police Officer; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Georgia, female
School: Studied Criminal Justice at University Of Phoenix in Georgia; completed Bachelor degree in 2011

"I Should Have Majored In English.....
Most people would be surprised by the amount of paperwork involved in Law Enforcement. Popular media tends to focus on/glorify the action or investigatory aspects of the field, and nearly always ignores the administrative necessities of the job. The action parts of the job (chases, arrests, fights, investigations, etc.) are still there, but doing those things generates a surprising amount of paperwork. The fact is that I write every single day at work. I write incident reports, memos, emails, lesson plans, and proposals. Since my promotion to Sergeant, I also review, critique, and edit other people's writing as well. The only thing I do at work more than writing is driving." (Police Officer; 2013)

Career: 13 years of experience, currently based in Missouri, male
School: Studied Criminal Justice Administration at Columbia College Of Missouri in Missouri; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Report Writing Factors Large...
I was surprised by the amount of paperwork that is involved with my position. For nearly every thing that happens, an incident report must be typed and written. Even for things that most people would view as mundane, reports must be filed for accountability concerns and to make sure there is a clear timeline of events for every major incident." (Police Officer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, male
School: Studied Criminal Justice at University Of Florida in Florida; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Police Officer's Routine Work...
Being a police officer is not the running around chasing criminals and stopping crime. I'm usually pushing paper, writing reports, writing tickets, and doing administrative work more than anything." (Police Officer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in California, female
School: Studied Criminal Law at Loyola Law School in California; completed Professional degree in 2011

"Low Salary Range...
I was surprised at the low pay scale of my career." (Law Enforcement; 2013)

Career: 6 years of experience, female
School: Studied Law Enforcement at Alexandria Technical College in Minnesota; completed Associate degree in 2002

"Not All Action...
I was very surprised by how much of law enforcement is hurry up and wait. Some days you have basically nothing to do, while other days you're lucky to keep up." (Police Officer; 2014)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Tennessee, female
School: Studied Criminal Justice at Middle Tennessee State University in Tennessee; completed Bachelor degree in 2010

"Technology Makes Work Easier...
I am surprised by the amount of people who speed I am surprised that its a lot more work than people make it out to be" (Police Officer; 2014)

Career: 1 years of experience, male
School: Studied Criminal Justice at Bucks County Community College in Pennsylvania; completed Associate degree in 2012

"Police Work Can Get Boring...
I was surprised how quickly the excitement of the job wore off and all I could think about was the extensively boring paperwork and follow up that is required of the job. I was also surprised at how difficult it was to get hired. There are often hundred's of applicants applying for a single job opening." (Police Officer; 2014)

Career: 13 years of experience, currently based in Minnesota, male
School: Studied Law Enforcement at Minnesota State University-Mankato in Minnesota; completed Bachelor degree in 2001

"Cop Work Equals Paper Work...
The amount of paperwork can be overwhelming at times" (Police Officer; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Florida, male
School: Studied Law Enforcement at St Pete College Allstate Center in Florida in 2012

"Surprising Police Technology...
The role of Police Office has changed greatly over the years. Technology has made investigating crimes a lot easier and the probability of solving crime has increased." (Police Officer; 2013)

Career: 24 years of experience, currently based in New Jersey, male
School: Studied Police Officer at Essex County Police Academy in New Jersey; completed Certificate degree in 1989

"Many Different Skills And Knowledge Are Required...
I was surprised at how many different things you must stay proficient with and how much knowledge I had to have to be a good law enforcement officer. It's much more than pulling people over and writing tickets. You have to have enough knowledge and skills to go from a civil dispute to a weapons call." (Sheriff's Deputy; 2013)

Career: 10 years of experience, currently based in South Dakota, male
School: Studied Criminal Justice at National American University in South Dakota; completed Bachelor degree in 2009

"Amount Of Paperwork...
There is more paper work involved in being a police officer than most would think. People think it is gunfights and hard times on your beat but there is quite some down time in which there is a surprising amount of paperwork." (State Police Officer; 2013)

Career: , currently based in New York, male
School: Studied Criminal Justice at St. Francis in New York; completed Bachelor degree in 2011

"COPS On TV Get All The Action...
I was surprised by the type of cases we pursue on a daily basis. It's a lot more of the mundane stuff, and I often wonder where to officers on shows like COPS actually work. Theft, the most classic crime is easily the most common." (Police Officer; 2013)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Virginia, female
School: Studied Administration Of Justice at University Of Virginia in Virginia; completed Bachelor degree in 2006

"Shocking Amount Of Training That Is Required For Police Officers...
Most people never have any thought about the amount of behind the scenes requirements. Such as the vast amounts of paperwork and the required on-going training that is required to keep your certification." (Police Officer; 2013)

Career: 16 years of experience, male
School: Studied Criminal Law at Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy in Tennessee; completed Certificate degree in 1999

"I was surprised to find that the majority of people you encounter are very hostile and non compliant, that you really need to be patient in order to deal with these individuals. I thought overtime was your choice but in some situations you cannot avoid this, like for example a major event, hurricane, New Year's Eve, etc." (Police Officer; 2012)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in New York, male
School: Studied Criminal Justice at CUNY John Jay in New York; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"I was surprised to find that you have to be really organized to be able to get all the services completed in the time limit provided. I was surprised to find that you have to be really calm especially with people that get really upset when they receive their summons." (Process Server; 2012)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Illinois, male
School: Studied Criminal Justice at Marquette University in Wisconsin; completed Bachelor degree in 2010

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Police Officer: "The best parts of my job are the great people with whom I work and the people that I get to meet almost daily. It is very rewarding to know that you helped save someone's life or "catch the bad guy" that burglarized someone's home. I also enjoy speaking with people, which is something that all police officers do on every shift. I dislike having to deal with the same people all the time and being unable to sometimes stop them from committing crimes or impacting the quality of life for their neighbors. Regrettably, there are times when we are unable to act because someone is not breaking the law but is still impacting someone else's quality of life. It is sometimes difficult knowing that I cannot always catch every criminal, but I do my best to catch as many as I can." (2011)

Game Warden: "As with any other law enforcement career, being a Game Warden can be dangerous. Wardens patrol alone, often in remote locations with minimal backup. Wardens receive specialized training in the Fish and Game Academy which prepares them for these activities. Training alone is not enough and must be combined with common sense and good people skills to achieve rapport with the community and accomplish a task safely. The best part of the job is seeing young people having fun and being safe while hunting or fishing." (2011)

Police Officer: "The best part of my career is being able to know that I made a difference in the community and that I have put bad people in jail. The worst part of my career is everything that I do involves paperwork, such as writing reports and filling out property forms. These forms can be very long and take a long while to fill out properly. But It still is not a horrible part of the job. Another bad part about the job is the risk of getting hurt or killed." (2011)

Police Officer: "The best part about being a police is having the authority, training, and tools to be able to help people when they are going through the worst times of their life. In fact, as a police office I have had the blessing of being able to save several lives. The worst part of being a police officer is the emotional toll that it takes on me. Some people pour all of their hate, fear, anger, depression, and malice upon you and it starts to add up over time. Even decent people rarely appreciate the work that you do for them, so it definitely qualifies as a thankless job." (2011)

Lieutenant: "The best part of my job is helping the people who need us. It is very satisfying to see a career criminal get sent to prison for a long time. It is also satisfying to see the officers that I supervise do a good job and get promotions. I guess that the worst part of my job is dealing with employee problems and having to discipline them. I have never been happy about having to fire an employee. It would be different maybe in a large department where you really don't know your employees and their families." (2011)

Police Officer (Patrolman): "The best part of my job is the opportunity it allows me to have a positive impact on people and the community that I serve. I am in a unique position to help people on an almost daily basis. I am able to help people in small ways -- opening the doors of a locked car -- or in much bigger ways, by using my training to assist a person during a medical emergency or in the aftermath of a crime or accident. I am in a position where I can use my "authority" to effect positive change in a whole host of ways just by doing my job. The worst part of my job is the flip side of this, getting discouraged periodically at not being able to make positive change in people and the community. It is sometimes hard to help people who don't want, or think they need, your help. And the same goes for trying to help within the community. But, I would never be so frustrated or discouraged that I would stop trying to help as much as I can." (2010)

Police Officer: "The best part of my job is knowing that I am helping people who need help. It doesn't seem like a lot when I show up to help a person whose vehicle is broken down, but I know that they are very thankful for the assistance I give them. Often people don't know what to do in stressful situations. My training and experience often takes over and I am able to assist them without hesitation. The worst part about my job is that I often have to deal with gruesome scenes, such as accidents involving a fatality, and I sometimes have to inform loved ones that they have lost a family member. This can be difficult. I have a family and I know that I would not want to be on the other end of the line." (2010)

Chief Of Police: "The best parts of my job as Chief of Police include the selection of new employees; their development and training; and being able to lead and steer the department in a manner that I believe will achieve the best results and in finding resolutions to problems. I enjoy working with the public and having the opportunity to address their concerns, fears and questions. I have always found police work to be very rewarding. After over thirty years of service, I still enjoy coming to work and trying to make a difference in my community. The current fiscal woes are troublesome, distracting and sometimes discouraging. We know what we need to do to make our community a better place but we lack the money to do them." (2010)

Deputy Sheriff: "The best part of my job is being in a position of authority to serve and help others. Those in law enforcement are generally respected and appreciated by the general public. It is a job one can take some pride in doing. One of the parts I like best is seeing so much of what goes on behind the scenes of crime stories in news headlines. The worst part is bearing witness to the suffering, confusion, and hopelessness felt by some individuals caught up in the criminal justice system." (2010)

Career Background

Police Officer

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  How to Prepare for the Job
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Career Video

Career Tips

"Is This What You Want To Do Forever...
you should decide if this really what you want to be. It can be a low job so shoot for something hirer" (Police Officer; 2014)

"Keep Learning...
If you want to be successful, I would recommend attending a police academy, even if you are not with a department yet. Additionally, I would say that continuing education is important, to stay on top of your field." (Police Officer; 2014)

"Get To Know People...
I would recommend getting a 4 year degree that required a lot of psychology and sociology classes because you are going to need to know people and those classes can provide a good start. I would also recommend studying a second language, especially Spanish. Spanish is in great demand in many areas now, and some departments even pay more to Spanish speaking officers." (Police Officer; 2014)

Be persistent in your job search. Always study and rest before your test." (Law Enforcement; 2013)

"Writing Skills Can Make Or Break Your Law Enforcement Career...
The importance of writing skills in Law Enforcement cannot be understated. No matter what course of study you undertake prior to (or during) your employment as a police officer, improving your writing skills is going to be key to success in your career." (Police Officer; 2013)

"Get To Know Law Enforcement Professionals...
Get to know people in the industry. It is very hard to get your foot in the door for new law enforcement officers" (Police Officer; 2013)

"Be Prepared For The Very Unexpected...
In police work, you have to understand that most days will be unexceptional and not even noteworthy. In that respect, it's like many other jobs. But never treat anything like a routine, it can cost you your life." (Police Officer; 2013)

"Be Thankful For The Mundane...
To be a police officer requires patience. There are a lot of mundane or frustrating interactions in talking to people and resolving disputes. However you should be thankful for that, because when things get dangerous you will appreciate those neighborly disputes and noise complaints when they come around." (State Police Officer; 2013)

"You Will Have To Be A Psychiatrist More Often Than A Sharpshooter...
You have to be a people person and a good talker. You will be using your mouth way more than your gun. Many situations can be resolved with a little patience and good communication. This job involves a lot of paperwork and talking and only a little shooting. But, make sure to master both." (Police Officer; 2013)

"Computerized Policing...
To be an effective police Officer you should have good computer skills. Most of the time is spent tracking criminals in databases." (Police Officer; 2013)

"Prepare To Write...
While in school, take at least one writing class and focus on it as best as you can. The reports you write as a police officer will come up when you are called to testify in court and it is best to have clear and concise reports that encompass everything involved in the incident you were writing about." (Police Officer; 2013)

"Police Officer's Fitness Is A Priority...
To be a successful police officer you have to be in good shape. While there maybe stereotypes out there about police officers and their fitness I can tell you that this job can be life or death and if you're not in shape you are putting your life on the line as well as your partner's life." (Police Officer; 2013)

"Your Attitude Dictates Success...
The best police officers are ones that are highly motivated to stop crime, but also have little to no ego. My biggest advise could would be that you have to be humble. Your job is not to judge anyone, only to enforce. Most officers that are unsuccessful at their jobs came into policing for the wrong reasons." (State Trooper; 2013)

"Being Well-Rounded Is Key...
Be prepared for the times where nothing is happening, but also be prepared for the times when it's exciting. Have compassion, empathy, and patience. Don't forget your family and have a fail-proof stress reliever." (Sheriff's Deputy; 2013)

"Be A Reserve Police Officer First...
For those interested in working as a police officer I would recommend volunteering as a reserve police officer first. This will give you a real look at what is required without having to dedicate your life to it first." (Police Officer; 2013)

"Do You Really Want To Be A Cop...
I think that it is important to ask yourself why you want to become a police officer and discuss it with someone you know that is currently one. If you don't know any officers, stop by your local police station and ask to speak with someone about a potential career in law enforcement. I know many people that started this job who quit after a short time because they did not fully realize or understand what being a police officer really means. An officer puts his/her life at risk for the purpose of protecting others, and often times unknown others. It is not normal to wear a ballistic vest and firearm on your hip for most jobs and, it takes a certain kind of person to put on a "badge and gun" every day." (Police Officer; 2011)

"First Few Years In A Jail...
There are many good reasons for choosing the DFG. The DFG is unlike many other departments where new officers must spend the first several years of their careers working in a jail environment or in an administrative job. As soon as you have successfully completed the DFG Academy, you will be doing what you were trained to do . . . patrolling the fields and streams or ocean and enforcing the law! You also have the ability to transfer anywhere in the state. What this means is as your personal or family needs change, you can transfer to any of the almost 300 different positions statewide. Also, Wardens have their offices in their homes and a great deal of flexibility in their schedules. Because Wardens work out of their homes, they work independently and do not need to report to a precinct every day for assignments. Wardens are given a patrol area and become the experts on how best to protect the resources in their district." (Game Warden; 2011)

"Get A Degree...
My pieces of advice to all future Peace Officers would be for them to get a degree in a field that not only would help them as a police officer but also help them outside of this field if they were to get hurt and not be able to be police officers again. Always practice your shooting and stay proficient. And always read up on new laws, case law, and which cases make it to the Supreme Court and what the final verdicts are." (Police Officer; 2011)

"Humility And Courage...
If you are thinking about trying to become a police officer, you need to check yourself and make sure that you're mature enough to handle the emotional stress that will be thrown at you over the course of your career. Additionally, you need work on your humility. You will not succeed if you believe that you are superior to those you are arresting. You must see them as people who have just as much value as you do. You certainly need to have a lot of courage. Not just bravery in battle, although that is very important, but also moral courage that compels you to do the right thing, no matter how hard it is." (Police Officer; 2011)

"Your Behavior May Come Under Scrutiny...
I would encourage anyone looking to get a job in law enforcement to get a degree. There are so many departments that give you instant raises for degrees. I would also tell you to watch the news everyday. Look at the officers who have done something stupid and lost their jobs because of it. Law enforcement officers live in glass houses and the things that you used to do in your off time might now be looked down upon. I would also say that the things you do before you are in law enforcement will follow you for years, so be very careful. And most importantly, use common sense and treat others with respect. Good judgment cannot be taught and a book is not always right." (Lieutenant; 2011)

"First Steps To Becoming A Police Officer...
The path to becoming a police officer, especially in the Commonwealth of Mass, is much different that many other professions. To start, a person who's interested in a police career has to take and pass a civil service exam. I had a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice when I was hired as a police officer, which I believe helped me in getting the job. I later pursued a master's in the same discipline, which I hope will help advance my career as time passes. Education, staying out of trouble, taking the civil service exams, and pursuing a job in the Criminal Justice field are the first steps in getting a job as a police officer. Any internship or volunteer work within a police or law enforcement agency, while in high school of college, can be very helpful to a person looking to get into the field. Networking and getting to know people who are in the job now can be valuable too. There are not a lot of police officers being hired right now in Massachusetts, which will hopefully change as the economy improves, but that does not mean that there are not jobs in other parts of the country (if a person is willing to re-locate) or with different local, state and federal agencies." (Police Officer (Patrolman); 2010)

"Join The Armed Services...
I would first suggest joining one of the Armed Services, such as the Army National Guard. Having a military background will give you a head start on a few things that you will need to do my job. The Army will give you discipline and weapons training. Most police academies have a paramilitary structure, so if you already have been to basic training in the service, you will have a head start on your career." (Police Officer; 2010)

"Thick Skin And A Strong Stomach...
First, be sure you want to become a police officer to make a difference in your community. If you seek money, go elsewhere. Second, have a thick skin and a strong stomach. You'll need both. We frequently see people at their very worst and the exchange is sometimes not very pleasant. Lastly, have a strong mind and a kind heart. Both will serve you well and allow you to serve others. If I had it to do over again, I would follow the same path!" (Chief Of Police; 2010)

"Traits Of An Effective Police Officer...
If you are interested in pursuing a job in law enforcement, remember that it requires dealing with all kinds of people. It is important to be patient, firm, not easily intimidated, and it is better not to be overly judgmental. It is important to be discreet and to exercise personal restraint so that you put people who are volatile at ease rather that contributing to a possibly explosive situation. Compassion for people from all walks of life, who have made even the worst mistakes, is crucial. Never assume that someone doesn't feel remorse for what he's done or who he's been. Never think that someone cannot improve, even if the best solution for that person and society is a lifetime incarceration." (Deputy Sheriff; 2010)