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How Do I Become a Beat Cop?

By K. Kinsella
Updated Feb 12, 2024
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The term beat cop is a slang expression used in parts of North America and other English speaking nations which is used to describe a police officer who is responsible for patrolling a certain geographic area. Someone wishing to become a beat cop must typically graduate from high school and in some areas, police trainees must have also have completed associates or bachelors degree programs. Cops are normally employed by municipal or regional governments and some employers prefer to hire former members of the military although other people may apply for these roles.

Due to the nature of the work, many employers require anyone wishing to become a beat cop to pass a background check. This involves the hiring agency conducting research to ensure that an applicant does not have a criminal record. Police officers in many nations are required to undergo a fitness test which is also designed to screen out people who abuse drugs and other types of substances. A beat cop may be required to have a valid drivers license and in most places, there are minimum and maximum age restrictions for police officers. Additionally, some employers have minimum height requirements for police officers.

Some employers prefer to hire people who have completed college degree courses in topics such as criminal law; someone wishing to become a beat cop may benefit from having previously enrolled in law school. Basic police training usually lasts for several weeks or even months during which time students are taught about local laws and ordinances. In many areas, the training program includes a series of intense physical training sessions in which case someone wishing to become a beat cop may benefit from having gone through the boot camp sessions that military recruits are required to complete. At the conclusion of the training course, candidates must pass a written and a physical examination so recruits must have good study habits in order to successfully complete these tests.

Beyond physical and academic attributes, employers normally expect someone wishing to become a beat cop to exhibit certain character traits. Beat cops interact with members of the local community on a daily basis so these individuals must possess good interpersonal skills. Additionally, much of a beat cop's time is spent on patrol so these individuals must have good organizational and administrative skills in order to juggle office responsibilities and neighborhood patrol work. Most police departments promote from within and some employers prefer to hire cops who have the necessary leadership skills to eventually transition into more senior roles.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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