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​How To Get In: Police Academy Requirements

Whether your dream is to become a police officer, detective, or investigator, you'll need to complete a rigorous police academy training program before you can begin work in the field.

Getting admitted into the police academy alone is an achievement. You must first pass the educational requirements and go through a series of screenings and tests. Only then will you be admitted to the academy. While individual departments tend to set their own specific requirements for entrance into the academy, there are some general requirements that are essentially universal.

Educational Requirements

In the past, most departments only required new recruits to have a high school diploma or equivalent (GED). Now, an increasingly large number of departments have begun to require a bachelor's degree for admission into the academy. In most cases, a bachelor's degree in criminal justice is preferred and will help in preparing recruits for what's to come.

Background Screening

You'll also need to undergo a thorough background screening before you can even be considered for admission to a police academy. This typically includes both a fingerprint search and a background check. Specific requirements here can vary from one department to the next, but all will automatically dismiss applicants who have been convicted of a felony. Some departments may also not accept those with misdemeanor charges or will require applicants to go through a "waiting period" after a misdemeanor conviction before applying.

Physical Fitness Evaluation

While you don't need to be in amazing shape to be accepted into the police academy (after all, you'll get plenty of physical fitness training during your time in the program), most departments do have some specific physical fitness requirements in place. These can vary greatly from one department to the next, but most will involve a physical completed by a trained doctor or physician to determine whether or not you're physically capable of performing the job of a law enforcement officer. Many departments will also hold a physical training entrance exam at the start of the academy.

Psychiatric Evaluation

Last but not least, don't be surprised if you're asked to consent to a polygraph examination before you're admitted into the police academy. During this exam, you'll likely be asked a series of simple "yes" or "no" questions. This psychiatric evaluation is done to ensure that you're mentally stable enough to handle the job of a police officer and keep citizens safe. Be as honest as possible during your evaluation, as a polygraph test will determine if you're lying, which could very well exclude you from consideration altogether.

It’s A Battle

Your time in police academy will be difficult, but take heart: If you’ve made it in, you have the mental and physical abilities to successfully complete the training. Begin your work of getting into the academy by finding a criminal justice program near you.

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