How to Become a Police Officer: Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary
The world needs more good police officers, and your training as an EMT may help you become just that. While the connection between police officer and EMT may not be immediately clear, there are several.
Police are typically the first to respond to an emergency, sometimes arriving minutes (or longer) before an ambulance, and sometimes, those emergencies require emergency medical experience. Injuries are also common during a police officer’s shift—there may be victims of crimes, injuries during an arrest, and the officers themselves can be hurt in the line of duty. Knowing how to treat those injuries makes a police officer with EMT training incredibly valuable.
One Step Ahead
Most areas of law enforcement and security require you to undergo some basic medical training once hired. With your EMT certification, you’ll be ahead of the police academy class by already possessing the foundational knowledge that one acquires from basic medical training.
According to eHow.com “An officer who is co-trained in police and EMT procedure indeed is a valuable employee because he is prepared to assist not only the EMS but also the fire service and emergency management segments of emergency services.”
Surprisingly, only a handful of recruits enter the police academy with EMT or paramedic experience. The authors of “Pre-hospital and Disaster Medicine” conducted a survey among Law Enforcement officers to determine their level of medical education.
An overwhelming number of law enforcement officers only had CPR and First Aid skills. (Source: PDM Medicine)
- 69% had First Responder Training (CPR and First –aid)
- 26% had EMT basic training
- 5 % had EMT Paramedic
EMT Training for Police Enforcement
How Does EMT Training Help?
Training as an EMT or paramedic can prepare you for police work in many ways. It can help you:
- Strengthen your application and background check
- Stand out when applying for police work by exceeding the medical training requirements and standards
- Deliver assistance before an ambulance reaches the scene
- Improve your chances of becoming a SWAT member
- Prepare to deal with chaotic situations
- Be familiar with public safety radio procedure
Can You Be A Paramedic and A Police Officer?
You may be interested in law enforcement and emergency medicine, and there’s no law that says you can’t do both at the same time. These opportunities are rare, however—as most employers will want you focused (and rested) enough to complete your primary responsibilities.
There are cases (usually in smaller towns) where a person can work as both a paramedic and a police officer. Officer Mikeal Tordsen of Minnesota is one such example—he currently works as both a paramedic and a police officer thanks to an innovative partnership between the two departments.
Why Become A Police Officer
Both EMTs and Police Officers are considered first responders, but where an EMT or paramedic primarily respond to medical emergencies, police officers respond to a broader range of situations—no day is routine.
A police officer is the first line of defense between civilians and anything that may harm them, and if you wish to be a public servant and help as many people as possible, a career as a police officer is an excellent way to do so.
Police Officer Salary
On average, police officers enjoy a higher salary than EMTs. Furthermore, police officer benefits typically include generous medical, dental, and vision coverage plus uniform allowance, holiday pay, paid vacation, sick leave, and other perks.
The average police officer salary is $63,380 per year ($30.47 an hour) plus benefits and overtime.
Pay can vary according to where you serve. For example, the average salary for a police officer according to industry is:
|Industry||Average Hourly Pay||Average Annual Salary|
|Support Activities for Air Transportation||$30.10||$62,610|
|General Medical and Surgical Hospitals||$28.99||$60,300|
|Federal Executive Branch||$27.95||$58,130|
|Colleges, Universities & Professional Schools||$26.70||$55,530|
|Elementary and Secondary Schools||$26.59||$55,310|
Police Officer Job Outlook
The police officer job outlook is also a plus, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting a 5% growth in coming years.
Where Do Police Officers Get Paid The Most?
Location matters just as much as industry for police officer pay, with salaries varying greatly by city and by state. For example, police officers are paid the following salary on average by location:
Highest Paid Police Officers by State
|State||Average Hourly Pay||Average Annual Salary|
Highest Paid Police Officers by City
|City||Average Hourly Pay||Average Annual Salary|
|San Jose, CA||$60.57||$125,990|
|San Francisco, CA||$55.12||$114,650|
|Santa Rosa, CA||$51.85||$107,850|
|Santa Cruz, CA||$50.54||$105,120|
|Los Angeles, CA||$50.11||$104,230|
|Santa Barbara, CA||$49.08||$102,080|
Becoming a Police Officer
For an EMT to become a police officer, additional police training is required—all of which is covered during your time in the police academy. There you’ll receive a combination of classroom training, hands-on training, and physical training to help prepare you for a job on the police force. Classes will include:
- Traffic management
- Patrol procedures
- Firearm training
- Investigative techniques
- Defensive driving
- Computer skills, and
- State laws
Police Officer Requirements
What are the requirements for police academy admissions?
In order to apply for the police academy, you’ll need to meet the following requirements (some of which may vary according to individual academy policy):
- High school diploma or GED (some states require additional college credits)
- Good physical condition
- Minimum age of 21 (this can vary by state)
- Valid driver’s license
- No felony or drug convictions
- Must be able to legally possess a firearm
- Must pass a physical fitness and drug test
Many police academies will also require you to pass an entrance exam. This will test you on basic cognitive skills, language, math, and problem solving (if you’ve successfully completed your EMT training and certification, this should be no problem).
Police Exam & Certification
How do I become certified as a police officer?
Once you complete your police academy training, you’ll take your state’s Police Officer Certification Exam. The questions for this exam are going to come straight from your textbooks, so pay close attention and study hard. Remember, taking practice tests online is a great way to prepare, but nothing is better than reading and understanding the curriculum. If you apply the same dedication and focus you used to acquire your EMT certification, your police officer certification exam should also be successful.
Police Academy Cost
How much does it cost to become a police officer?
Police academies are typically affiliated with local community colleges and training centers, and tuition is usually less than $5000. Some police departments will even reimburse those tuition expenses after you’ve been hired. But as you’re putting together your budget, don’t forget to include the additional costs of gas (driving to and from classes), books, school supplies, and any hours you’ll miss at work due to classes.
How Long Does It Take To Become A Police Officer?
Police academy length varies from state to state, but most academies will average around 800 credit hours (around 21 weeks of classes). For example, here’s what a police recruit in the city of Los Angeles can expect:
- Academics: 230 hours
- Driving: 40 hours
- Firearms: 113 hours
- Human Relations: 100 hour
- Law: 105 hours
- Physical Training: 142 hours
- Tactics: 98 hours
- TOTAL: 828 hours
How Do I Become a SWAT Medic?
One position that perfectly combines law enforcement training with emergency medical training is the job of SWAT Medic, a vital part of any city’s SWAT team. Many SWAT medics start as police officers who then must take additional emergency medical training, but if you’re already certified as a paramedic, you’re over halfway there!
In order to become a SWAT medic, you’ll need additional tactical training in addition to your police academy and EMT training. You’ll attend TEMS training (Tactical Emergency Medical Services), where you’ll learn specific skills such as suspect restraint, additional firearms training, hostage survival, team wellness, ballistic wound treatment, pediatric trauma, biological threats, tactical gear, forensic evidence, and more.
Life as a Police Officer
What Does a Police Officer Do?
Police officer work hours are similar to those of EMTs and paramedics in that both work shifts that cover the full 24-hours in a day… after all, emergencies can happen at any time.
A police officer can expect to work a full 40 hours per week, typically broken up into 8-hour days, although some precincts have begun experimenting with 10- and 12-hour shifts.
Like an EMT, there are no “black-out” days on the calendar for work—in other words, weekends and holidays still need someone on duty.
And also like an EMT, there’s no way to predict exactly what you’ll witness or experience during any given shift. Some days, an officer will spend most of his or her time at their desk doing paperwork. Other days, they may spend every hour of their shift outside the police building responding to calls.
Your day will also depend on what type of police career you choose to pursue, as there are many specializations within the force. You may work with an investigative unit (CSI, for example), or with the police dogs of the K-9 unit, with community relations, with SWAT (special weapons and tactics), harbor patrol, motorcycle patrol, or you may even spend your shift on horseback. The possibilities are endless.
Climbing the Police Officer Ranks
As a police officer, the opportunity for advancement is constant. Police departments follow a military-like ranking structure, and your hard work and perseverance (and successfully passing a few more exams) can help you climb those ranks steadily. The order of rank, from lowest to highest, is as follows:
- Officer / Deputy / Trooper / Corporal
- Detective / Inspector / Investigator
- Deputy Chief of Police
- Assistant Chief of Police / Assistant Commissioner
- Chief of Police / Commissioner / Superintendent
Are You Ready?
A police officer’s work isn’t easy. But then again, neither is an EMT’s. Both require a great deal of inner strength. Successful police officers and EMTs are people who can put the needs of others ahead of their own, and who truly want to serve and protect their community. For this reason (and many more), an EMT or paramedic can make an excellent police officer, and police departments across the country would greatly benefit from their experience.
If you’re considering emergency medical training as a first step toward a life as a police officer, be sure to check out the Unitek EMT program to see how we can prepare you to earn your EMT certification and send you on your way to an enriching career in uniform.