Depending on their training and assigned jurisdiction, police officers enforce city, county, state or federal law [source: Police Careers]. A police officer's many areas of responsibility include making arrests, collecting and maintaining evidence, responding to emergencies and patrolling highways. If you want to become a police officer, you must meet the following preliminary requirements:

  • You must be at least 20 years old.
  • You must have a clean record, with no previous felony convictions.
  • You must pass a background check.
  • You must be a United States' citizen.
  • You must have a valid driver's license.

Here's how to become a police officer:

  1. Earn an associate's or bachelor's degree. If possible, study criminal justice, a foreign language and public relations.
  2. Take the necessary civil exams and physical fitness tests. This should be done after earning your degree.
  3. Apply for a job at a law enforcement agency. Keep in mind that many agencies expect their employees to take continuing education courses and attend seminars throughout their career.
  4. Attend a police academy [source: New York]. The academy you attend will depend on the police force you are joining. Most police academies offer a three or four month course of study.

[source: Police Officer Requirements]

While earning your bachelor's degree, take the time to prepare yourself for the job ahead [source: Police Officer Requirements]:

  • Get into good physical shape. Police officers must have very good physical endurance.
  • Gain experience dealing with the public. You can do this by volunteering within the community while studying for a degree.
  • Get some practical experience before applying to a law enforcement agency. For example, you can work as a security guard, a public service officer or a military cadet.
  • Familiarize yourself with the police officer's job by speaking with a police officer. You might want to arrange to ride along on calls and visit police stations to familiarize yourself with a police officer's daily routine.