Police Officer

Job Description:

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

Job Category:
Government & Public Services

What you will 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 offenses
  • 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.


You’ll need:

  • legal knowledge including court procedures and government regulations
  • knowledge of public safety and security
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • negotiation skills for keeping people safe
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • sensitivity and understanding for dealing with traumatic situations
  • the ability to understand people’s reactions
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • leadership skills
  • confidence, courage and initiative (ambition/drive)
  • the ability to learn facts and procedures quickly
  • the ability to work in a team (teamwork skills)
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a Police Officer in the United Kingdom, there are no specific subject requirements, but you will need to meet certain eligibility criteria and pass the application process, which may include an assessment centre, interview, and background check. While there are no specific subject requirements, having a good general education can be beneficial in preparing for a career in law enforcement. Here are some suggested subjects and skills that can be helpful:

  1. English: Strong communication skills, both written and verbal, are essential for any role in law enforcement. You’ll need to write reports, interact with the public, and communicate effectively with colleagues.
  2. Mathematics: Basic mathematical skills are important for tasks such as handling evidence, documenting incidents, and understanding legal procedures.
  3. Physical Education (PE): Physical fitness is crucial for police work. Participating in PE and maintaining good physical health can prepare you for the physical demands of the job.
  4. Citizenship: Some schools offer courses in citizenship, which can provide an understanding of the legal and ethical aspects of policing.
  5. IT Skills: Proficiency in using computers and technology is increasingly important in modern policing. Familiarity with IT can be an asset.
  6. Science: While not mandatory, some police forces may require or prefer candidates with a background in science, particularly if they are interested in roles such as a forensic specialist.

Post School

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. In the UK, for example, 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

Those with a degree can apply for the Police Now Graduate Leadership Development Programme.

Those with management experience can 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.

Related University Subject profiles include Law and Legal studies & Criminology

Working Hours 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.

Career Path & 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.