What Qualifications Do You Need to Become a Police Officer in the UK?

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Police Officers are an essential part of society, dealing with crime and people’s concerns in order to make everyone in a community feel as safe as possible. It can be a very rewarding, hands-on career, and if it is something that you are interested in, you should know about the routes into the profession. This article is here to guide you through subject choices at GCSE, A-Level and Degree level that will benefit you and help you build the skills you will need to become a Police Officer.

There are several stages to go through if you would like to become a Police Officer, and you will gain the qualifications necessary for a career as a Police Officer. These include:

  • 5 GCSE passes in core subjects (including: English Language and Maths). You may also want to consider taking GCSE P.E. and Modern Foreign Languages, and should try to focus on passing Science too.
  • 3 A-Levels (we would recommend taking subjects such a A-Level: Law, Sociology, Physical Education, and a Modern Foreign Language) or a BTEC in Uniformed Public Services.
  • A degree-apprenticeship in Professional Policing Practice or a degree in Professional Policing.
  • A graduate diploma in Professional Policing Practice, and success in written assessments, fitness and medical tests, and interviews.
  • Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
  • Possible training for career progression.

Even though a summarised answer to the question ‘What Qualifications do You Need to Become a Police Officer?’ is given in the paragraph above, I would recommend that you read this whole article so that you can understand the process of becoming a Police Officer in as much detail as possible. This is something that will be incredibly useful when planning your career.

What GCSEs Do You Need to Become a Police Officer?

In order to become a Police Officer, you will need a minimum of 5 GCSEs at pass grades and above. These should include English Language, Maths, and Science as a baseline. However, you may find it useful to have GCSEs in a Modern Foreign Language or P.E., as these could contribute to the skillset that you will need as a Police Officer.

What GCSEs Do You Need to Study Policing Related A-Levels at Sixth Form?

The GCSE subjects which are compulsory at Secondary School (including: Maths, English Language and Science) are very important for your progression in to Sixth Form.

The subjects which you may find useful at A-Level include Law, Sociology, P.E. and Modern Foreign Languages and so if you would like to pursue any of these, you may want to consider entry requirements for Sixth Form courses when choosing your GCSEs.

To join most A-Level courses, it is not necessary for you to have any specific subjects at GSCE apart from the core subjects listed above.

For those considering taking our suggested A-Levels at Sixth Form, this applies to Law, Sociology and P.E., as these have strong groundings in core subjects. You may find that Sciences are very useful for studying Sociology (as it is a social science), and that English is important for those who want to study Law because of the essay-based nature of the course. Additionally, although GCSE P.E. is useful if you would like to continue with P.E. at A-Level, it is not necessary and it is actually more important that you have strong Science grades because of the amount of Biology in the course.

However, if you want to take a Modern Foreign Language at A-Level, you must take the course at GCSE (if you are not already fluent in the language!), so it is important to consider this option at GCSE level.

Which GCSEs Will Help You Develop The Skills You Need To Become a Police Officer?

One of the subjects which you could study at GCSE to build up the skills that you will need to become a Police Officer includes GCSE Physical Education (P.E.). This is not only an enjoyable subject to study at GCSE because of the practical element, but it will also give you the opportunity to start developing your teamwork and leadership skills, which will be essential for any aspiring Police Officer.

You could also consider taking a Modern Foreign Language course at GCSE, which will improve your communication skills, and perhaps widen your ability to speak to people in your community who you will be working with from different backgrounds. Being able to speak to someone in their native language could be very valuable in a number of different ways as a Police Officer. You will be able to put people at ease, as well as understand any information that they are giving you.

A Modern Foreign Language also gives you some insight into the culture of another place, and therefore could be helpful in making you more understanding of peoples’ backgrounds.

For very similar reasons, you may want to consider taking a subject such as Religious Studies. This will give you more insight into the religious beliefs that people hold. Again, it could mean that you have more of an understanding of people’s backgrounds, and this could improve your day-to-day working life.

There are many more skills which you will need to develop in order to be a successful Police Officer, such as negotiation, the ability to stay calm under pressure, assertiveness, maturity, and the ability to manage responsibility.

However, you can’t expect to be able to have all of these skills when you’re doing your GCSEs – that’s what the further training for Police Officers is there for! That being said, it would be incredibly useful to start developing the skills that you can now (such as leadership and teamwork), as it means that by the time you get to later stages of training, you will have already had a great amount of practice!

What GCSE Grades Do You Need to Pursue a Career as a Police Officer?

As a minimum requirement, you will need 5 GCSEs at pass grades and above, including GCSEs in English Language, Maths and Science (the core compulsory subjects). Although these are the minimum requirements, you should aim to get more GCSEs than this (you will take at least 9 at Secondary School). It is also important that you aim for the highest grades possible at GCSE in order to put you in the best position possible moving forwards in your studies and career.

If you are not sure about how to revise effectively for your GCSEs, take a look at this useful article, which lists and explains some useful revision techniques. Additionally, if you are not sure when you should be starting your GCSE revision, this helpful article will guide you through planning and starting your revision.

GCSEs should not necessarily just be seen as something that you have to get through to go into a certain career (though they are to some extent!), but instead see them as an opportunity to learn basic skills which you will be able to build on and use in your dream career.

If you would like to find out more about the importance of GCSEs, take a look at this useful article, which answers any questions that you may have about how important GCSEs are to universities, Sixth Forms and employers.

What A-Levels Do You Need to Become a Police Officer?

Choosing the right A-Levels can feel tricky, but if you want to become a Police Officer don’t worry. Although there aren’t any specific required A-Levels that you must have in order to go into working with the Police, you can choose related subjects that will help you build up the foundation of knowledge that you will need to develop to become a Police Officer. The subjects that we would recommend include: BTEC Uniformed Public Services, A-Level Law, A-Level Sociology, A-Level P.E., and A-Level Modern Foreign Languages.

Helpful Course: BTEC in Uniformed Public Services

This is a more vocational 2-year course offered by Sixth Forms and Colleges. It is equivalent to 3 A-Levels and you will need to have 4 GCSE passes to be able to join the course, as well as do an interview (in most cases).

This course is designed to give you some insight into working in the emergency services, and will therefore be incredibly relevant to someone who wishes to become a Police Officer. You will be taught by someone with experience in the field, and benefit from a number of practical activities.

By taking this course, there is a possibility that you will be able to go straight into working in the emergency services, though there are also potential pathways to lead you to University should you want to continue your studies.

Helpful A-Level: Law

As a Police Officer, your job will be to enforce the law, and so it seems fairly obvious to say that it is important that you have a good understanding of it!

Although this is not essential, as further training will give you all of the knowledge that you need to understand the Law well enough to do your job, an A-Level in Law will give you a good opportunity to build up your basic knowledge of the law and legal system.

You will also be able to develop your written communication skills alongside learning relevant content with this A-Level. This is important for a career in the Police, where you will need to be skilled at both written and verbal communication.

Helpful A-Level: Sociology

A-Level Sociology is a great subject for prospective Police Officers. The subject studies the behaviour of groups within society, and could be easily applied to the groups and individuals that the Police deal with on a daily basis.

This is another subject which allows you to develop written communication skills while learning relevant concepts because of the essay-based nature of the subject.

Social Sciences are a great way of gaining insight into issues that you will come across daily when dealing with people (so you could also consider taking A-Level Psychology). Specifically, these subjects may give you insight into group behaviour in terms of social influence and obedience.

Helpful A-Level: Physical Education (P.E.)

As I mentioned before, P.E. could be a great subject to choose at both A-Level and GCSE levels, because of the need for Police Officers to have good teamwork and leadership skills.

It is not only this which makes the subject a good choice though. When applying to become a Police Officer, you will need to pass a fitness test, and staying in the habit of keeping fit will help you greatly with this, as well as improving your continued ability to do your job to the best standard possible.

Helpful A-Level: Modern Foreign Language

Communication is a key skill for Police Officers, and so if it is possible, a second language to an A-Level standard would be a great tool to have. You can communicate better with individuals in the community that you work in if you understand their native language, and this can benefit you in so many ways.

You can use language skills to deal with the public in a more effective way, as you would be able to understand individuals better who don’t have English as their native language. You can also understand and interpret information that people provide better.

An A-Level in a Language also gives you the opportunity to understand the culture of a particular country in incredible detail, and therefore could also improve your knowledge of different cultures and customs. Learning about another country could make you more tolerant and understanding of people’s individual backgrounds which will be beneficial in a career as a Police Officer.

What A-Level Grades Do You Need to Pursue a Career as a Police Officer?

There is not one set of specific grades that you will need overall to become a Police officer, as long as you get passes in your A-Levels. However, you should obviously aim to achieve the highest grades possible in your exams, and make sure that you check the entry requirements of the specific University courses that you are interested in.

If you achieve higher grades, chances are that it will be a result of a better understanding of the content, and that is the really important thing overall. If you want to be able to apply any of your knowledge that you have learned in your time at Sixth Form to your career, a deep understanding of the content is vital.

The content that you learn during your A-Level courses can be used as a basis for further learning, making your progression into a career as a Police Officer a lot easier!

What Degree Do You Need to Become a Police Officer?

If you are interested in becoming a Police Officer, it is not necessary for you to do a degree, as you can usually complete a degree-apprenticeship with a Police Force, where you learn on the job while also completing a degree in Professional Policing Practice. However, some may want to do a degree before joining the Police, and it is possible to do a degree in Professional Policing. This could lead to shorter on-the-job training.

An Article which may be useful for those looking at pathways into becoming a Police Officer can be found here, and I would recommend that you take a look at it to decide what option is best for you.

What University Degree Do You Need to Acquire to Become a Police Officer?

If you would like to do a degree that is related to Policing, you should take a degree in Professional Policing.  This would be a 3-year Bachelor of Science course. Some examples of the different courses which are available are listed below:

Although this is a great degree to choose if you would like to pursue a career as a Police Officer, you do not have to do this specific degree. Any degree can lead to a career in policing, as a further training course is required either way – so don’t worry if you already have a degree and want to go into a career in the Police!

Once you have done a degree, you will have to do further training, which will be discussed in the next section.

Make sure that you look at the entry requirements for any course that you are interested in taking at University (preferably Professional Policing if you are planning your career and haven’t started a degree yet!). It is incredibly important that you know what A-Level subjects or grades you need for specific University courses.

If the entry requirements are in UCAS Points, you can use the UCAS Points calculator to work out how many you have, and how many more you will need to earn. Additionally, if you would like to know about how to earn more UCAS Points, take a look at this useful article.

Can You Become a Police Officer Without a University Degree?

If you want to join the Police straight after your time at Sixth Form, this is another route which you can take! You don’t actually need a degree to be able to join the Police. In fact, you can do a degree apprenticeship with the Police Force of your choice, and will be able to learn on the job while also earning a degree in Professional Policing Practice.

If you would like to find out which forces are recruiting, you can take a look at this useful website, which will enable you to find routes into the Police according to your position (whether you have a degree or not) and your location.

What Other Courses Do You Need to Complete to Become a Police Officer?

Because there are different routes into the Police, the steps that you should take after graduating will vary. If you have a degree, you can do a Graduate Diploma in Professional Policing Practice while working as an officer. There are also a number of different steps that you will have to go through in order to get on to any training course or start any job working for the Police. These include: fitness and medical tests, as well as written assessments and interviews.

If You Have a Degree: A Graduate Diploma

For those who have a degree which is not related to Policing, there is an option to do a graduate diploma in Professional Policing Practice. This is a 2-year course which is based on on-the-job training, with some additional learning to support your work.

If you want to find out which forces are currently recruiting graduates in your desired location, take a look at this useful website.

Required: Other Aspects of Your Application to the Police

During your application to a Police Force, you will have to go through extensive background checks. If you have lived outside of the UK for any period of time, these may take longer than usual, but it does not mean that you won’t be able to join!

You will also have medical and fitness tests to complete. The fitness test is not intended to scare you off, but is there to make sure that you are physically fit enough to be able to do your job as a Police Officer effectively. If you fail the first time, there is no need to worry, as you will be able to retake it up to 3 times. However, if you don’t manage to pass it the 3rd time, you will have to wait 6 months to be able to reapply to any Police Force again.

You will also be required to complete components such as a written assessment, which tests your basic English comprehension and writing, verbal reasoning, and maths skills. This is likely to be accompanied by an interview.

There are courses which are available to help you prepare for these components, and one example can be found here. Make sure that you do your preparation for these tests, so that you feel comfortable during your application process, and are able to put yourself in the best position for success possible.

What On-Going Training Are Police Officers Required to Complete?

As with most professional roles, you must complete on-going training once you have started working for the Police. You must do some Continuing Professional Development (CPD) regularly over the course of your career, so that you can keep up with professional skills that you need daily, and make sure that you can remain competent at your job.

You may also want to consider extra training which will allow you to progress into different roles within the Police Force. This is one way to make your career exciting and varied, and to develop new skills.

Required: Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is an important part of most professional careers, and this is certainly true for Police Officers. It is important that you are as capable as possible in your career, so that you can make communities safe and people feel protected.

As a Police Officer, you will need to complete CPD, and it will provide you with the opportunity to reflect on your skills and weaknesses, as well as the chance to help you keep up to date with the changes in the demands of the role in terms of knowledge, skills and experiences.

You can also tailor some aspects of CPD to your needs, which can enable some career progression, which we will discuss in the next title. It can also improve the morale of the whole Police Force and improve the public’s trust in the Police.

If you would like to find out more about Continuing Professional Development for Police Officers, take a look at this useful document which is produced by the College of Policing. It details how CPD is structured for Police Officers and what its purpose is.

Career Progression

Once you have started working in the Police, there are many opportunities to progress. There are many ranks in the Police Force, and should you wish to, there will be chances to move up those ranks into new careers.

More information about career progression in the Police can be found here. Going into a career where there are clearly set out roles which you can move up could provide you with good motivation to set yourself goals for progression, and this is one of the many benefits of a career in the Police Force.

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