Becoming a Police Officer
An Insider's Guide
to a Career in Law Enforcement

A Most Honorable
Important Profession
Copyright © 2019  Barry M. Baker  

Detective Lieutenant
Barry M. Baker retired
from the Baltimore Police
Department in 2004.  
During his thirty-two year
career, Baker served as a
patrol officer, sergeant,
and lieutenant, as well as a special
operations lieutenant and detective
lieutenant.  Baker spent the first twenty
years of his career as a patrol officer,
making him uniquely qualified to speak
from a breadth and depth of experience.
There are Five Indispensable Truths
for a Successful Police Career:
The Police Hiring Process
Do you have a particular
police department in mind?
Let’s say you’re considering a police career with the
Baltimore Police Department.  You Google, Baltimore
Police Department application process, and the first
return is:
Hiring Process

Civil Service Test
Preliminary Interview
Background Investigation
Polygraph Examination
Psychological Examination
Physical Examination


Minimum Qualifications

Must be a U.S. citizen
Posess a valid driver’s full license
Must be 20 years of age and 9 months upon
beginning the academy
Must have a high school diploma or GED
Must be able to pass an extensive background check
Some police department websites offer more
information than others.  Large police departments
are generally in a cycle of continual recruitment;
whereas, small police departments experience a
significantly lower rate of turnover.  The small police
department may only direct you to submit a
generalized application that covers all local
government employment.  If and when a police
position opens, your application will be on file.

Let’s break down the main components of the hiring

Civil Service Test – In my opinion, the civil service
test is not that difficult.  If you have an average IQ,
and you received a reasonably good high school
education, this part of the hiring process should be
a mere formality.

However, I'm sure you've heard the phrase "famous
last words."

There is never any substitute for preparation.

Preliminary Interview – This is really important.  
You must be totally honest with the interviewers.  
You must not lie or obfuscate when answering any
questions put to you.  Remember, you’ll still have a
background investigation to get through.

Background Investigation - Here’s a list of
background check subjects listed on the Baltimore
County Police Department’s website:
Employment history
Criminal record and arrest history
Driving record
Credit history
Military history
Personal references
Residential history
Polygraph examination
Psychological examination
Polygraph Examination – Some people really
freak out on this one.  As long as you haven’t
withheld important information during your
interview, you shouldn’t have any problems with the
polygraph examination.  You might like to
about my experience with the polygraph.  Believe
me; it’s all about the polygraph examiner.

Psychological Examination – No police
department wants to hire an individual with serious
psychological problems.  Again, as long as you’re a
reasonably well adjusted person, you won’t have a

Physical Examination – You’ll undergo a physical
examination by a physician designated by the police
department.  You should know going in if you have
a medical history which might disqualify you from
police employment.
There are some police departments that require a
higher level of education than a high school diploma
or GED.  Also, most
Federal Law Enforcement
Agencies require a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree
for entry level hiring.  I’ve gone into
detail here
regarding education and how it will affect your hiring
and subsequent career advancement.

Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer

The national average for police academy training is
21 weeks.  Some will be shorter in duration with
others as much as 27 weeks.  Figure on spending 6
months in classroom and practical training

Generally, you’ll commute daily for training.  The
exception is state police academies which conduct
their training on a more military style model.  For
example, if you’re attending the
State Police Academy, you’ll reside on site in a
dormitory and begin your day with a morning run at
5:30 am.  Your classroom instruction will last until
8:00 pm.  You will get personal time from 8 pm until
lights out at 9:30 pm.  This will be your schedule
Monday thru Friday.  

More police academies are providing college credits
for your classroom instruction.  If you complete the
Maryland State Police Academy, you’ll have 45
college credits toward a degree.  That’s a big deal
when you consider the cost of a four year degree.  
This is something you should consider when
choosing a police department.

Each state has a commission for police training
standards or Police Officer Standards and Training
(POST).  You can visit your state’s
POST website to
learn the training requirements in your state.
17 self-help articles to aid you in the
police hiring process
Police Academy
This is a very clean and concise page with all the
important information to include: