Yes, you can become a police officer with a GED. In most states and departments, the minimum qualification is a high school or GED diploma.
There are several other qualification requirements, but for most departments, holding a GED credential is acceptable.
But, of course, it depends on the acceptance policy of specific departments. Your GED® diploma is equivalent to a common high school degree, so wherever holding a high school credential is the qualification, your GED is also sufficient.
Your GED diploma qualifies you for enrolling in credit-bearing college coursework, and holding a higher education degree looks so much better for employers, also when you want to be a police officer.
Practically all police departments require you to hold a high school or GED diploma and preferably a few years of education in college or university.
Federal police departments, though, require applicants to have at least a bachelor’s degree. If you have the choice, go for a high school diploma. Your GED is equivalent, but some departments have different standards, just like the Army, so that’s safer.
However, to be able to carry the title of Police Officer, many departments require you to have earned at least 60 college credits from an accredited educational institution and have a GPA of at least 2.0 or two years of active military service in the United States Armed Forces.
The rigorous police academy program
All police officers have completed a rigorous program at the police academy in their cities or states. Scroll down to learn more about police academy programs and requirements.
If you want to advance your work or career in law enforcement any further in some specialized field, however, further education and training will often be necessary.
Anyway, you may go to college first or straight to the Police Academy. Not having a college degree doesn’t have to be a serious roadblock if you really want to become a police officer.
When applying, your strengths matter
Generally, law enforcement agencies will accept applicants that hold a high school or equivalent diploma provided they meet the other minimally required qualification as set by the local or state police department.
When you apply for a job as a police officer, be sure to highlight your experiences, unique skillset, and other personal attributes to demonstrate you are a good candidate for the job, even without a college degree or a GED.
If you have prior experience in the protective services field or in the military, it goes without saying that those qualifications work to your advantage, so include that as well.
You may also consider earning a college degree in ASL (American Sign Language). When you’ve made it into the Police Force, this may prove to be very beneficial for your career as, more and more often, the skills of ALS graduates are required.
Generally, state and local law enforcement agencies apply some flexibility provided you meet the other minimally required qualification.
To qualify, applicants need to be U.S. citizens, at least 21 years of age, be in top-notch mental and physical health, and without any underlying medical conditions.
You must generally undergo a psychological test, a drug test, a polygraph test, and a thorough background check. An oral interview is also part of the application process.
There are many reasons why you may not qualify for the job, including repeated driving violations, felony convictions, and drug use, just to mention a few.
The key is to keep fit and maintain a healthy lifestyle so you’ll be capable of doing everything that comes with the job of a police officer, even before you apply.
Relevant work experience
It is important to explain how your work experience makes you perfectly prepared for police work, just as it would make you a good firefighting candidate if your police application won’t work out.
If you have military service experience, you may have an edge over other applicants as employers value the experience, knowledge, and skills that army veterans have.
They usually bring a well-rounded sense of duty, mental strength, and courage to the police force.
If you have some other related experiences, such as a volunteer or full-time firefighter, have worked as a private detective or security guard, or have driven armored cars, don’t forget to list that as well in your application. That might make you ace the job interview!
So even without a college degree, you may enter law enforcement successfully when you can demonstrate your command-relevant skills.
Police officers, for example, need to be extremely good listeners who are able to build trust, handle a crisis, or de-escalate a conflict. They must be able to write professional, coherent reports and be able to speak articulately when they’re testifying in court.
When you describe your work experience, put emphasis on your skills and knowledge that may transfer directly to police work.
You may, for example, write on the application, “Comforted anxious patients and maintained composure while providing emergency medical services as an EMT, and wrote detailed patient healthcare reports.”
If you are proficient in multiple languages, experienced in cross-cultural societies, or have excellent communication skills, list those skills as well. All of these factors will help you land the job of a police officer.
Mention other activities
If you are engaged in outdoor activities, mention that also when you submit your application. This will suggest that you will make an outstanding cop.
If you regularly participate in competitive outdoor sports or marathon running, for example, you indicate that you are physically able to stand your ground when you are confronted with a suspect.
Include also your volunteer activities, as it is important that police officers are connected with the communities they’re serving. Another plus is having an interest in technology and computers because the work of a police officer is becoming more and more high-tech-driven.
Though it is key to emphasize your strengths, please refrain from making a laundry list of all the things you do and your hobbies. Employers and admission officers will probably not be so interested in your musical talents or quilting skills.
When you don’t hold a college degree and want to secure as a police officer, keep in mind that it will definitely help if you can submit some strong letters of recommendation from upstanding citizens in your community, like your former high school principal or the pastor from your church.
Maintain a high level of visibility by attending athletic events, art fairs, or charity fundraising meetings. You may also want to do volunteer managerial work for your local youth organization, where you can meet people and show community spirit and engagement.
And when you get engaged in public service, just mention that you are interested in becoming a police officer when you’re talking to professional contacts you have made. Someone might put in some good words for you when talking to the local police chief when they’re out on the golf course, right?
You may want to start out your law enforcement career at perhaps a smaller police department, where holding a college degree may not be required.
After you have landed that job, follow a college course on a part-time basis while you’ll be working toward your degree. When you’ve completed your degree, you’ll be qualified to apply for a job in any larger police force.
Before attending the police academy, make sure you’ve got yourself in excellent physical condition as the curriculum at a police academy includes very rigorous physical training.
If you want to become a law enforcement officer, you’ll have to go to a police academy and complete a rigorous law enforcement training program. Generally, your coursework will include:
- Criminal law classes
- Firearms management
- First aid and medical intervention classes
- Defensive tactics and strategies
- Investigative procedures classes
- Conflict management classes
- Community policing
- Motor vehicle law classes
- Patrol procedures
- Emergency driving techniques
You’ll also be required to take and pass a rigorous physical test, but the exact curriculum at a police academy may vary slightly from police department to police department and will depend on the jurisdiction.
Sometimes, you’ll receive training at a state academy, but when you’ll be working in a larger metropolitan area, usually, you’ll be required to get training in a police academy specifically for that city’s force.
In the U.S., there are also public colleges that run police academies. These usually operate separately from a police department but the programs they offer are all acceptable forms of police education and training. Law enforcement training programs may last from 12 weeks to even 12 months.
As a police officer, you’ll be playing a significant role within communities to maintain safety and peace. Police officers keep order by responding to emergency calls, enforcing laws, patrolling community areas and neighborhoods, or arresting suspects.
While police academy entrance requirements may vary slightly from state to state, there are a few general requirements. As said above, to become an officer of the law, you are required to hold a high school or GED diploma and attend training at a police academy.
Training – In practically all states, applicants for training at a police academy need to be at least 21 years of age, U.S. citizens, and licensed drivers. The 21-year-old age requirement ensures that applicants are competent and mature enough to successfully function as police officers.
Education – As stated earlier, most police departments require applicants to hold a high school or GED (an acronym for General Education Development) diploma and there are also academies that require a college degree or college coursework.
Being a knowledgeable, educated police officer is advantageous, and holding a college degree or having gone through some sort of formal education will definitely increase your chances of getting admitted into the police academy. This will also allow you to advance more rapidly in your career.
Clean criminal record – To become a police officer, you need to have a perfectly clean criminal record. Police academies would never accept candidates with criminal histories whose judgment when handling firearms and criminal suspects could be questionable.
If a police officer has a criminal past, he could very well pose a serious threat to the integrity and safety of the community and the police department itself. All police departments will interview candidates and run thorough background checks and drug tests.
Physical capability – To get admitted to a police academy, you need to demonstrate sufficient levels of health, strength, and physical capabilities. You may be required to pursue fleeing criminals on foot, climb over fences or walls to get to a victim or citizen, or wrestle dangerous or unruly citizens to the ground.
You will have to pass tests in vision, hearing, agility, and strength, and you’ll also have to show your fitness level and athleticism. You will also have to undergo physical exams that may include long-distance running and sprints, weight-bearing exercises, and situps, push-ups, and press-ups.
Character – Police academies will only allow applicants to their training programs who can demonstrate outstanding ethical and moral character. While protecting their local communities and enforcing the law, you’ll need to be capable of employing a steadfast ethical and moral code.
Police academies will always look for candidates that have high morale, who are honest, kind, trustworthy, and perceptive, and who are capable of demonstrating leadership skills and good judgment.