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Police officer: Entry requirements

There are no formal educational requirements for entry to the police service. The profession is open to graduates, those with an HND qualification and non-graduates alike. Recruitment and selection procedures are managed by police forces at a local level, although a nationally agreed competency-based framework is applied.

Entry is open to British and Commonwealth citizens, EC/EEA citizens and foreign nationals who have no restrictions on their leave to remain in the UK.

Pre-entry experience is not essential, although it is advantageous to have some experience of working with individuals or groups in the community, such as sports coaching or working with local youth groups.

Other useful experience might be as a volunteer, such as in the Metropolitan Police's Volunteer Police Cadets . You can also volunteer to be a police community support officer (PCSO) or a special constable, or 'Special'.

Specials are volunteers who receive expenses and, after full training, have the same powers as a regular police constable. They are generally used to ensure public safety at major events or in combating city centre crime and disorder. Positions are available throughout the UK.

When applying, it is important to be able to explain your reasons for choosing a career in the police force, and provide details of any contacts made within the service. You should be able to demonstrate knowledge of the local force, the area which it covers, its senior officers, its structure and key challenges.

Candidates will need to show evidence of the following:

  • effective communication skills, including tact and diplomacy;
  • community focus;
  • a sense of personal responsibility, integrity and resilience;
  • problem-solving skills;
  • a confident and calm manner;
  • good literacy skills in order to accurately record details;
  • respect for diversity;
  • teamworking skills and the ability to work independently;
  • professionalism, honesty and trustworthiness;
  • sound judgement and a proper respect for confidentiality;
  • ability to act with resolve, tolerance and restraint.

Prospective entrants complete the initial application form, which is assessed and scored against entrance criteria. Candidates are asked to provide personal details, including the names of family members and associates, details of participation in youth organisations and groups, interests, sports and special skills they may have for the position.

If this application is positive, the next stage is an assessment centre comprising a series of tests and an interview. Successful applicants are then required to complete a medical history questionnaire and pass job-related fitness and medical tests. Appointments are then made, subject to references and security clearance.

People with minor convictions and/or cautions are not automatically precluded from entry to the police service, although certain offences and conditions will make you ineligible, so check with your local force. Details of spent convictions, as defined by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 , must be disclosed.

In Northern Ireland, potential officers follow an application form with the initial selection test (IST). Before being offered a training position, they are required to attend an assessment centre and undergo a medical examination, during which the police vetting process begins.

In Scotland, candidates follow the application form with a Standard Entrance Test (SET), which measures literacy, numeracy and information handling skills, and an initial fitness assessment. This is followed by an initial interview with recruitment sergeants, vetting procedures and a final in-depth interview before undertaking a full medical and a final fitness test.

More information on recruitment is available from the:

For more information, see work experience and internships and search postgraduate courses.

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Written by AGCAS editors
January 2014

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