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How to become a police officer

The role of a police officer is to ultimately protect the public. They support those affected by crime and work in partnership with communities to enforce law and order. A police officer’s work improves the quality of life for those in their community and reduces their fear of crime.

A police officer’s salary starts out at approximately £19,000 and increased to over £40,000 with experience. Police officers typically work 37 to 40 hours per week, including evenings, weekends, and bank holidays.

Why choose a career as a police officer?

As well as a competitive salary and holiday allowance, there are many other reasons people choose to become a police officer. Here are just a few reasons people decide to apply to become a police officer and pursue the career:

  • Working in the police force is a rewarding career that allows you to make an impact through your job. A police officer plays an active role in preventing crime, protecting the community, and getting justice for victims.
  • No two days are ever the same when you become a police officer! Whether you’re patrolling your local community, policing a large event, or investigating a crime, a day in the life of a police officer is always varied.
  • You won’t be short of career opportunities when you join the police force either. There are a vast range of specialisms within the police force, so you can choose a path that you feel passionately about. You will also have the opportunity to climb the ranks during your policing career and progress to more senior roles.
Police officers
Police car

What are the key responsibilities of a police officer?

  • As we’ve already mentioned, your role as a police officer will be varied and every day will be different. So, here’s an overview of what your key responsibilities will be once you become a police officer:
  • Patrolling the local community to act as a visible presence.
  • Responding to calls for assistance from the public when an incident occurs.
  • Investigating crimes and offences by gathering evidence and interviewing suspects, victims and witnesses.
  • Conducting arrests while also considering human rights, health and safety, and security.
  • Dealing with sensitive situations such as delivering news of the death of a loved one to next of kin.
  • Attending and giving evidence in court and hearings.
  • Preparing and presenting case files to senior officers and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
  • Attending events such as sporting and music events, public meetings, processions, or strikes to control the traffic and crowds and intervene should a situation arise.
  • Gathering, recording, and analysing intelligence and information from members of the public to promote community safety and prevent crime.
  • Attending road-related incidents such as road traffic collisions and traffic offences.

What skills do I need to become a police officer?

To be successful in your journey to join the police, you’ll need to possess certain skills and qualities. Here are the attributes you’ll need to become a police officer:

  • Outstanding verbal communication skills.
  • An understanding of legal procedures and regulations.
  • Knowledge of public safety and security.
  • The ability to remain calm and patient during stressful or volatile incidents.
  • Empathy and sensitivity for dealing with traumatic situations.
  • Honesty, trustworthiness, integrity, and resilience.
  • Strong written skills to write reports and record details accurately.
  • Leadership and teamwork skills.
  • Physical fitness to cope with the demands of the job.
Police van

You can join the police from the age of 18. If you are under 18 years of age, you may want to consider becoming a police cadet. Police cadet programmes are open to those aged 17.

Alongside the necessary qualifications, the main requirements when applying for the police are:

  • You will need to pass enhanced background checks. These will check your criminal record and ensure that you are not barred from doing the role of a police officer.
  • You will also need to pass a fitness test. This test will ensure that you can cope with the physiological demands of the role.

There are several routes and qualification options you can choose from to become a police officer. The three main routes you can take to join the UK police force are as follows:

  • Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) – this three-year apprenticeship programme allows non-degree holders to work as an officer while also studying a BSc (Hons) degree in Professional Policing Practice. To apply for a Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship, you’ll need to meet the standard PC eligibility criteria and hold at least a grade 4 (equivalent to a grade C) in GCSE English Language and Maths, as well as UCAS points or 12 months of experience as a special constable or community support officer.
  • Degree Holder Entry Programme (DHEP) – those with a degree or students in their final year can pursue this option. Your degree can be in any subject, and during the two-year programme, you will start working towards a fully funded Graduate Diploma in Professional Policing Practice. This vocational route will require you to meet the standard PC eligibility criteria, as well as a level six degree qualification in any subject from a UK higher education provider. Students who are in their final year of their degree can also apply.
  • Initial Police Learning and Development Programme (IPLDP) – as another option for non-degree holders, this route allows recruits to gain practical experience alongside classroom-based learning. Entrants applying for this route will need candidates to meet the standard PC eligibility criteria. They must also hold a GCSE qualification in GCSE English Language at a minimum of a grade 4 (equivalent to a grade C), as well as a level three qualification such as A Levels, Access to Higher Education Diploma in Law and Criminology or the equivalent work experience.


For those considering the PCDA or DHEP routes to become a police officer, we can help you to achieve the qualifications required. If you need to achieve your GCSE qualifications in English and Maths, Open Study College offer both courses, plus the option to add your exams to your enrolment.

If you need to achieve your level three qualifications, our A Levels or our Access to Higher Education Diploma in Law and Criminology are great options. In particular, the Access to HE Diploma in Public Services has been designed specifically to help those aspiring to become a police officer and pursue a career in law enforcement.

PC eligibility criteria

There are several criteria you will need to meet to be eligible to join the police force. Find out more information on the PC eligibility criteria you will need to meet.

If you already meet the entry requirements for the routes detailed above, depending on the route you take, you could become a fully-fledged police officer within two to three years.

What opportunities are there for career progression in the police force?

Once you have completed your route to becoming a police officer, you’ll need to complete and pass your probationary period as a police constable. As you gain more and more experience, you’ll be able to apply for promotions to sergeant, inspector, or chief inspector. You can also look to specialise in a particular area of policing such as:

  • Dog handling
  • Mounted police
  • Cyber crime
  • Road traffic
  • Firearms
  • Counter-terrorism
  • Criminal investigation department (CID)

If you’re ready to take your next step towards becoming a police officer and you need help meeting the entry requirements for your chosen route, get in touch with our team.