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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: £20,000 to £60,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

You'll need to contact your local police force to apply.

Each police force has its own recruitment rules, but the basic guidelines are the same. 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

If your application is successful, you’ll be invited to an assessment centre where you’ll:

  • have an interview
  • take written tests
  • take a physical fitness test
  • take a medical and eyesight test

If you've got a degree, you could apply for the Police Now Graduate Leadership Development Programme.

If you've got management experience you could apply for direct entry as an inspector or superintendent. Lead Beyond has more information about direct entry.

The College of Policing has more information on careers in the police service.

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • the ability to communicate well
  • confidence, courage and initiative
  • the ability to learn facts and procedures quickly
  • to be calm and decisive in challenging situations
  • the ability to work in a team

3. What you'll do

You'll work as a uniformed officer on patrol, checking the security of public areas. You’ll also work at a police station.

Your day-to-day tasks may include:

  • responding to calls for help from the public
  • investigating crimes and offences
  • interviewing suspects and making arrests
  • giving evidence in court
  • controlling traffic and crowds at large public events and gatherings
  • giving the public advice on personal safety and crime prevention
  • promoting respect for people in relation to their race, diversity and human rights

You'll work with other police officers and staff like police community support officers, and investigators for crime scenes and road traffic accidents.

4. Salary

Starter: £20,000 to £23,000 (constable)

Experienced: up to £38,000

Highly Experienced: up to £43,000 (sergeant)

Inspectors can earn up to £53,000 and chief inspectors up to £60,000.

Salaries vary between local police forces.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You'll usually work 40 hours a week on a shift system. This could include nights, weekends and public holidays.

When you're on patrol, you'll usually be in a car or on foot. Depending on your area, you'll also patrol by bicycle, motorbike, horseback or boat.

The job can be physically demanding, and sometimes dangerous.

6. Career path and progression

You'll spend 2 years as a student officer before becoming a police constable. You'll then decide whether you want to specialise in a particular area of policing. You could consider:

  • 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, inspector, chief inspector or higher.

In the CID you'll also have the title of detective added to your rank - for example, detective sergeant or detective chief inspector.

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Last updated: 21 April 2017