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Police officer

  • Hours

    40 per week

  • Starting salary

    £19,000 + per year

Police officers keep law and order, investigate crime and support crime prevention. If you like the idea of making communities safer and want a varied and challenging job, this could be the ideal career for you.

You’ll need a confident and responsible attitude. Strong communication skills will help you to support members of the public.

Recruitment is handled by individual police services, and requirements vary. You’ll need to have lived in the UK for three years, be over 18 and pass background and security checks. If you're an experienced senior manager, you may be able to apply for direct entry at the rank of superintendent.


Work activities

You’ll work as a uniformed officer on patrol in a car or on foot. You could also work at a police station. On a day-to-day basis you’ll typically:

  • respond to calls for help from the public
  • investigate crimes and offences, and make arrests
  • interview witnesses and suspects, prepare crime reports and take statements
  • search for missing people
  • give evidence in court
  • attend accidents and fires
  • complete duties relating to custody and deal with public at the station reception
  • communicate with officers out on the beat
  • police large public events, concerts and demonstrations
  • visit schools and colleges to give talks on crime prevention and safety

You would need to complete a trial or 'probationary' period as an officer. After that you could specialise in a specific branch such as the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), the drug squad or the traffic police.

Working hours and conditions

You’ll normally work 40 hours a week on a shift system, which may include nights, weekends and public holidays. Overtime is often available. You can also apply to work part-time.

You’ll spend much of your time outdoors on foot, in a patrol car or on a motorcycle. You’ll have some duties indoors, for example at the police station or at court.


Salaries can vary between police services.

The current starting salary is between £19,000 and £22,000 a year. With several years' experience, earnings can reach around £36,500 a year.

A sergeant can earn between £36,500 and £41,000 a year, and inspectors can earn up to £50,000.

There may be extra pay for working overtime. Police officers working in the London area may receive an extra cost of living payment.

Figures are a guide.

Entry requirements

Recruitment is handled by individual police services. Their requirements vary but in general you’ll need:

  • to be 18 or over
  • to be a British or Commonwealth citizen, European Union (EU) or other European Economic Area (EEA) citizen, or a foreign national with the right to stay and work in the UK for an indefinite period
  • to pass background and security checks, and give details of any previous convictions

In most cases, you will also need to have been resident in the UK for three years before applying. There may be exemptions for those who have been working overseas including British military staff who have served abroad.

You’ll also need to attend a Police SEARCH Recruit Assessment Centre. Assessments include interviews, exercises and tests. If you’re successful at the centre you’ll need to complete fitness, medical and eyesight checks. Visit the College of Policing website to find out more about the recruit assessment centre for police constables. (Opens new window)

You’ll normally apply to one police service at a time. If unsuccessful, you may have to wait a minimum of 6 months before you can re-apply.

Most new police constables will need to complete the Certificate of Knowledge in Policing (CKP), which can be completed before joining. Visit the College of Policing website for more information about the CKP course and to view a list of accredited providers. (Opens new window)

As a graduate you could apply for the Police Now Graduate Leadership Development Programme. (Opens new window)

If you’re a senior manager with experience in setting strategy, standards and policy across a department or organisation you could apply for direct entry at the rank of superintendent. (Opens new window)

Check with your local service for details about their application process and entry requirements. You can find contact details for all UK police services (Opens new window) on the Police.UK website.

You could get some idea of what the career might be like by working as a Police Community Support Officer or Special Constable with your local service.

The College of Policing website has more information and guides (Opens new window) on entry to the police service, training and progression.

Training and development

You’ll spend the first two years as a student police officer or ‘probationer’. During this time you’ll complete the Initial Police Learning and Development Programme (IPLDP). The IPLDP covers subjects like:

  • crime and investigation
  • public protection
  • community engagement and crime prevention

After successfully completing your probation, you’ll be awarded the rank of police constable.

After becoming a police constable, you could apply to specialise in a number of areas, for example:

  • CID, fraud or traffic
  • drugs or firearms
  • counter-terrorism
  • air support or underwater search
  • dog handling or mounted policing

Each service has its own application process for specialist units and there is usually strong competition for places.

Each service will offer opportunities for progression to the ranks of sergeant, and then inspector, through the National Police Promotion Framework. (Opens new window)

As a serving police constable you could apply for the fast track programme (Opens new window) from the rank of constable to inspector.

Skills, interests and qualities

To become a police officer you'll need:

  • confidence and a responsible attitude
  • the ability to react quickly and take positive action
  • resilience
  • the ability to remain calm in challenging situations
  • the ability to work alone and in a team
  • strong communication skills
  • courage and initiative
  • good physical fitness
  • good literacy skills
  • a firm but tactful approach
  • the ability to help and support people
  • the ability to give and receive instructions
  • knowledge of the law

More information

Skills for Justice (Opens new window)

College of Policing (Opens new window) (Police recruitment)



There are over 43 police services in the UK, including non-geographic services like the British Transport Police and Civil Nuclear Constabulary. Each one recruits its own staff. Check the website for the police service you want to join for information on vacancies. Visit Police.UK for a list of police services. (Opens new window)

After your probationary period, you can apply to specialise in one of the branches of police work such as the CID. With experience in your job role, you can take exams and apply for promotion to the level of sergeant, inspector and chief inspector or higher. In the CID you would also have the title of ‘detective’ added to your rank. For example, detective sergeant or detective chief inspector. Promotion opportunities will be advertised within each service.

Job market information

This section gives you an overview of the job area that this profile belongs to. You can use it to work out your next career move. It can help if you’re looking for a job now or want to do some further training.

The 'Market statistics' charts are based on figures from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The list of job vacancies under 'Apply for jobs' is from the Universal Jobmatch database. The vacancies are not from the National Careers Service.

Median income: Security
Avg Inc
UK Sector
27017 36128
Gender: Security
Female Male
35 65
Working pattern: Security
Part-time Full-time Self-employed
17 80 3
Gaps in sector due to skills shortages: Security
This sector* All vacancies*
4.5 16.2
Employment forecast: Security
Forecast Employment Figures
Year Predicted nos. employed
2014 358000
2015 352000
2016 342000
2017 340000
2018 340000
2019 340000
2020 338000

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