How to Become a Police Officer in California

Becoming a police officer in the state of California requires you to go through a rigorous selection process and then more training in a police academy.

While it is possible to enroll in an academy it is quite expensive plus a majority of cadets in these institutions are sponsored by a police agency then subsequently hired by that same agency that sponsored them.


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    Make sure you are qualified. Here are some of the basic requirements (These minimum requirements are pursuant to Government Code (GC) Sections 1029, 1030, and 1031, and Commission Regulations 9050-9055.):
    • Candidates should be at least 18 years of age (some agencies may have a higher age requirement).
    • Must be a US citizen.
    • A high school diploma or GED.
    • Pass the reading and writing assessment test.
    • Must not be convicted of any felony or misdemeanor charges.
    • Pass all background checks.
    • Have a valid California Driver's License.
    • Pass all medical and psychological exams.
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    Check local police departments if they have open houses, this is a great way to getting a feel what it's like in the academy, know the test schedules, benefits, requirements and more.
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    Submit your application. After selecting a department and securing all the necessary requirements submit your application on the scheduled testing date.
    • Some departments require candidates to complete a basic academy course while other departments hire candidates first before sending them to their own academy. There are departments that require you to attend their academy regardless of whether or not you have completed a basic police academy course. So make sure to ask the department your interested about this requirements, if they require a basic police academy course, ask them which academies are certified.
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    Prepare for your exam. Next step is a pre-employment written exam. Best way to be prepared is to get a study guide, some departments have study guides available upon request, you can also get a study guide online for a fee. This is a good investment as it will increase your chances of passing the written test.
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    Be physically fit. After passing the pre-employment exam, you'll go through a Physical Agility Test (PAT) and go through an obstacle course. So it is important that you are in top shape before you go through this.
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    Prepare for your oral interview. If you pass the physical test, next step would be going through the oral interview board on which a panel of seasoned officers will ask you a series of questions that will test your communication and problem solving skills.
    • After successfully completing the exams, you will go through a series of tests before qualifying for the academy - a polygraph test, psychological test, detailed background investigation, and a comprehensive medical exam. After going through these tests a committee or the police chief will make the decision if you will qualify for the academy or not.
    • Upon acceptance to the academy, you will go through an intensive 6 (approximately) month training program that will require commitment and discipline. Remember that you will under a probationary non-sworn status where you won't have any police authority. After you complete all the requirements and pass the academy exams, you'll be officially sworn in the police force.


  • Dress professionally during the oral board interview, listen well and speak clearly when answering questions.
  • Be early in the oral board and written exams, this will make a good impression.
  • Show respect to all police officers who you will come in contact with during the application process.
  • During a polygraph exam, listen carefully to the questions and answer truthfully.
  • Having a college degree will help candidates get hired and have a higher starting salary.

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