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Police officer Policeman, policewoman, police constable

A police officer keeps law and order, investigates crime and supports crime prevention.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £19,000 to £50,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

Each police service has its own recruitment requirements, but the process is the same whichever service you choose. You'll need to:

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

You'll have to attend a Police SEARCH Recruit Assessment Centre. You'll be interviewed and given various tests, including physical fitness, medical and eyesight checks. The College of Policing has more information.

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • the ability to learn facts and procedures quickly
  • to be calm and decisive in challenging situations

3. What you'll do

This will depend on which force you join and whether you later specialise. You'll work with other police officers and staff such as police community support officers, crime scene and road traffic accident investigators.

Your day-to-day tasks may include:

  • investigating crimes and offences
  • responding to calls for help from the public
  • interviewing suspects and making arrests
  • giving evidence in court
  • policing large public events and gatherings
  • giving the public advice on personal safety and crime prevention

4. Salary

Starter: £19,000 to 22,000 (police constable)

Experienced: £36,500 to £41,000 (police sergeant)

Highly Experienced: up to £50,000 (police inspector)

Yearly salaries vary between police services. Overtime working may mean you can earn more.

Increases in pay are usually reviewed annually and are linked to performance.

These figures are a guide

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You would usually work 40 hours a week on a shift system which could include nights. You might be working as a uniformed officer on foot or in a patrol car. Even if you are office-based, you could be carrying out a range of tasks meaning you spend time outside as well.

6. Career path and progression

The first 2 years are a probationary period, when you'd be a student police officer.

After successfully completing your probation, you'd become a police constable, after which time you could specialise in a number of service areas, including:

• Criminal Investigation Department (CID), anti-fraud or road traffic
• drugs or firearms
• counter-terrorism
• air support or underwater search
• dog-handling or mounted policing

With experience you may be able to apply for promotion to sergeant, and then inspector. The Metropolitan Police Service, 'the Met', has a different rank structure.

There are many other openings for work in the police service besides those for police constables, eg working in IT, data and digital analysis and programme management.

Last updated: 21 December 2016