What is this job like?
Police and detectives enforce laws. They catch criminals. They collect evidence. At times they testify in court. Others patrol set areas to prevent crime. Some patrol and give out traffic tickets. Some police direct traffic. Most police wear uniforms. Detectives and special agents work in regular clothes. Most detectives are part of regular police forces. Special agents work for Federal and State agencies. They file reports about what they've done during the day.
Most police work on foot or ride in cars. Some, however, ride horses, bikes, or motorcycles. Some work in boats on rivers and in harbors. Some police work with dogs.
Most police and detectives work at least 40 hours a week. When they work longer, they get extra pay. Because police work is a 24-hour-a-day job, some police have to work nights and weekends. They have to be ready to go to work at all times. Police may work very long hours on a case. Some have to travel a lot, often on short notice.
Some police work outdoors in all kinds of weather. Some take very big risks when they chase criminals in cars or when they make an arrest. The job can be very stressful for the police officer. The officer's family may worry a lot. Good training, teamwork, and good equipment reduce the number of injuries and deaths among police officers.
How do you get ready?
Most police officers must be U.S. citizens. They must be healthy and strong and of good character. To get a job, a person must pass a written test, be at least a high school graduate, and have some work experience.
Some local, special, and State police units want recruits to have some college training. All Federal police agencies require a college degree. Many police units encourage new recruits to take college courses in police work.