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How to Become a Patrol Officer

patrol officer

If you like to aid and protect your fellow citizens, and if are able to think quickly and stay calm in stressful situations, and have excellent people skills, you might perhaps consider becoming a patrol officer.

What a patrol officer does

As opposed to officers who work in a police station, patrol officers spend their days among the public, either on foot, on horseback, or in a patrol car. Specific duties include:

  • Responding to public calls for help
  • Investigating crimes
  • Arresting suspects and transporting them to the police station
  • Interrogating suspects
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Testifying in court
  • Responding to fires and accidents
  • Working crowd control at public events
  • Giving talks at schools
  • Searching for missing people


Each local police force sets its own rates of pay, but salaries generally fall into these guidelines:



New officer

£19,000 -£22,000

Experienced officer



£36,000 - £41,000



Overtime is often available and can add to a patrol officer’s income.

What skills do patrol officers need?

  • Honesty
  • Responsibility
  • Respect for the public
  • The ability to think quickly and remain calm in stressful situations
  • Good communication skills
  • Physical fitness
  • Good literacy skills
  • Confidence
  • Tact
  • Self-discipline
  • Knowledge of the law

What are the qualifications and entry requirements?

Each local police force sets its own standards. In general, though, there are no formal educational requirements. Requirements include:

  • Being at least 18 years old
  • The ability to pass background and security checks (although prior convictions don’t automatically rule an applicant out)
  • Being a British or Commonwealth citizen, a citizen of the EU or European Economic Area, or a foreign national who has been granted the right to live and work in the UK indefinitely
  • In many cases, having been in the UK for the previous three years (although this requirement is often waived for members of the military who have served overseas)
  • Passing assessment tests that evaluate math skills, reading and writing skills, interpersonal communication skills, information processing, and decision making
  • The ability to pass physical fitness tests and medical exams
  • For some police forces, completion of a Certificate of Knowledge in Policing

What training will you receive?

Candidates who successfully pass the entrance exams next spend two years as student/probationary officers. During that time they’ll receive training in and be tested on the following areas:

  • Policing skills
  • Legal matters
  • Investigation techniques
  • Professional standards
  • Working with the community

After completing your probationary period, you’ll be awarded the rank of Constable. At that point, you can further your development by pursuing a Level 4 Certificate in Police First Line Management or a Level 5 Certificate in Police Management.

What are the career prospects?

After completing your training and probationary period, you can apply to several specialties, including:

  • CID
  • Fraud
  • Traffic
  • Drugs
  • Firearms
  • Terrorism
  • Underwater search and rescue
  • Air support
  • Mounted police
  • Canine unit
  • The High Potential Development Scheme (a five-year program that develops candidates who show the potential to become future leaders)

A career as a patrol officer can be an exciting opportunity for men and women who would like to bypass the prospect of spending years at a desk job. If you think you have what it takes, contact your local police department for more information.

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