Law Enforcement Employment

Educational Requirements for Law Enforcement Employment:


           Although most local police and sheriff’s departments require only a high school education to apply for entry-level positions, this minimum requirement is very misleading.  The average educational level for successful applicants is approximately 2 years of college.  Selection is through a highly competitive examination process, which emphasizes communication skills, reading, writing, a broad general knowledge and some specific knowledge of the criminal justice process.  An applicant with only a high school diploma is at a considerable disadvantage.  Less than 5% of all peace officer applicants are successful, and most of those who fail are the ones who do not have a college education.


            Many state and federal criminal justice agencies, and some city police departments, require a 2 or 4-year college degree just to take the exam for entry positions. In addition, a college degree is a virtual necessity for promotion to the rank of sergeant, lieutenant, or above in most law enforcement agencies.  Most police command personnel have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in Criminal Justice or other related field and police executives for large departments will frequently have a Ph.D. or law degree.