Career Guide

Police Officer

Ben Maples  · Nov 2nd 2022

One of the most important jobs to have today is those who serve and protect our great nation.

Police officers walking

Police officers protect their surrounding communities. They preserve order, protect against crime and support the safety of their local area.

Police Officer Career Guide

What is a police officer?

As a police officer, your role is to preserve law and order. You will be responsible for a specific area or community. Within that community you’ll work to uphold law and ensure safety for people living there.

Your role takes multiple forms but these are largely split into prevention, protection and resolution. You will work to limit crimes that could take place by protection of communities and prevention of antisocial behaviour. You’ll also manage general safety when a crime has been committed, and look into how a crime has happened after the fact.


Your responsibilities as a police officer will vary depending on your location, level of experience and police rank.

Common duties include:

  • Patrolling the local area to deter antisocial behaviour and provide security to the local population, particularly when there are higher likelihoods of crimes being committed, such as during major events or sports matches.
  • Working closely with the local community and its various groups and organisations in order to inform your practice.
  • Working in partnership with governmental and non governmental bodies, such as social workers, schools, local retailers and leisure outlets.
  • Attending incidents or crime scenes where support has been requested, such as a physical altercation or road traffic collision.
  • Securing crime areas to prevent further harm coming to the public, or to prevent a scene from being disturbed.
  • Apprehending someone who has committed a crime and taking them into police custody providing this does not infringe their human rights.
  • Attending large public gathering such as strikes or potentially volatile events to preserve order and safety for the public.
  • Taking evidence from a crime scene, such as conducting interviews with victims and suspects.
  • Producing detailed crime reports to be submitted to prosecution service for your country.
  • Attending court to give evidence or testimony where needed.
  • Working within a larger multidisciplinary team of police workers, and external agencies where relevant.
  • Keeping up to date with changes or adaptations to law and criminal prosecutions.


A police officer salary varies depending on level of seniority, position and location. Salaried officers in the London Metropolitan police service are generally paid higher than those in regional areas.

There are several different routes to becoming a police constable (the first rank within the police force).

The starting salary for a police constable apprentices is £23,556[1]. Fully qualified constables earn £26,682. This on average rises to £43,032 after 7 years of service[2]. The average salary for a police sergeant is £45,867 - £48,129 per year while police inspectors earn from £54,600 - £59,064 and £60,234 - £62,634 for chief inspectors. Salaries are slightly higher in London[3].

Police officers in the Metropolitan police have police pay scales. This begins at band G, with officers at this band earning £22,306 - £22,543. This increases to £67,261 - £77,982 at band A, the highest band.

Police Officer Career


There are several different routes to becoming a police constable (the first rank within the police force).

The first route is via a Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA). This police apprenticeship route combines academic teaching with on the job training, and you will complete the course with a degree of professional policing practice. You will usually complete this in three years, and you’ll need two A levels or equivalent to join the program.

You could also enter the police force via a degree holder entry program (DHEP). Those with a degree in any subject can apply for a two year work based training program in their local area.

Another option is taking a professional policing degree, then applying for a role on completion as a probationary officer.

Some forces also offer the traditional route to policing, called the Initial Police Learning and Development Program (IPLDP). You join the police force and carry out a 2 year training program, after which you are ready for full duties.

Training and development

Police officers carry out a probationary period once they join the force. The length of this depends on their training route. For those on the DHEP or professional policing degree application routes, this lasts two years on joining. Those taking the PCDA route have a three year probation period, adjacent to finishing their degree.

While you don’t need direct police work experience when applying for the different training routes, it can be helpful.

Probationary years include mentoring from a senior officer as well as plenty of on the job training. This may also include class based learning and written projects, depending on your area and training route.

Police officers also carry out regular training and learning both formally and informally.


Your skills as a police officer combine practical experience with a strong knowledge of your specialism areas.

These include:

  • A working knowledge of law, criminal prosecution and rights to ensure your duties are carried out effectively and within the bounds of your profession.
  • A good understanding of your local area and the common issues that may arise that require police support, such as particular crime dense areas.
  • Excellent verbal communication for handling sensitive situations with confidence and discretion, especially when dealing with individuals who may be under the influence, or are aggressive.
  • Excellent written communication for filing detailed reports about incidents, or gathering information to be used in a court.
  • A calm attitude to help supporting in potentially stressful situations.
  • A passion for the security and safety of the general public.
  • Ability to work well independently, making important decisions quickly and with confidence.
  • Ability to work well within a team, working alongside senior and junior officers who you may answer to, or be in charge of instructing.
  • Ability to work well with individuals in other areas of work, such as social workers, local business owners and specialist individuals such as crime scene investigators.
  • Good physical fitness - you will have to past a medical test to ensure you have the capacity to fulfil the role.
  • Ability to recognise when your own safety is at risk, and act accordingly.
  • Decisiveness, especially in connection with bringing in further support officers or specialists.
  • Resilience in working in emotionally challenging situations, such as when a member of the public has been or is in danger of being harmed.
  • Knowledge and recognition of the issues affecting particular groups in order to treat all individuals with respect and fairness.
  • Ability to keep up to date with changes to law or prosecution rights to ensure you stay in line with relevant legislation.
  • Ability to work in challenging circumstances and environments.

Police Officer

Work Experience

While you don’t need direct police work experience when applying for the different training routes, it can be helpful.

One route to access work experience and an understanding of what a police officer is via the Police Cadets. This opportunity is available for those aged 10 - 18. You will work alongside officers, learning about their role and volunteering on age appropriate activities. Work like this would be an excellent addition to your CV or police officer job application.

You could also build on your awareness of policing through volunteering as a special constable. Special constables undertake considerable training and on full completion have the same responsibilities and duties as an employed police officer. You will need to pass a judgement test and behavioural styles questionnaire to enter this route.

As a police officer, your role is to preserve law and order. You will be responsible for a specific area or community.

A final option is gaining experience through being a police support volunteer (PSV). The responsibilities within this role will vary depending on your location and the force you work in, but could range from administrative tasks through to updating witnesses and monitoring CCTV footage.

Career Prospects

Career prospects within police officer jobs are varied. There is a set route of progression for all officers as outlined in the National Police Promotion Framework, which explains how a constable can move through the ranks to the rank of sergeant and inspector. This involves an assessment of an officer’s current abilities, an exam covering law and police procedures, a selection process based on positions available in your area, and a temporary year spent in the role including an assessment of your work.

Talented constables can also apply to the Fast Track program. This allows those with strong ability to move through the ranks of the Police Promotion Framework to the role of inspector more quickly than is traditionally carried out.

Alongside progressing through roles within the force, you could also move into specialist units. You could specialise in firearms or working with police dogs. These positions are usually highly competitive, so it’s a good idea to look at what is available in your local area.


  • [1]Inspector pay scales — Retrieved 1 November 2022.
  • [2]Constable pay scales — Retrieved 1 November 2022.
  • [3]Sergeant pay scales — Retrieved 1 November 2022.

undergraduate Uni's

Get your questions answered by sending them an enquiry now.