Apprenticeship (PCDA) entry route

You don't need a degree to join the police. Many forces offer the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) entry route which is a mixture of dynamic practical on-the-job learning alongside academic classroom-based theory and learning.  You’ll be a police officer from your first day on the job so you can earn while you learn. The PCDA route normally takes three years to complete, with the option to specialise in your third year. 

Entry Criteria

You’ll need a Level 3 qualification (which is two A-levels or equivalent) in at least two subjects OR be able to demonstrate relevant experience or training that can be considered equivalent to a Level 3 qualification to apply via this route. Relevant experience and training will be considered on a case-by-case basis – please speak to your chosen force about the experience and training you have. They should be able to confirm if it’s equivalent to a Level 3 qualification.   

An overview of the PCDA training 

The PCDA training focuses on practical learning and is specifically designed to prepare you for policing. There will be an element of classroom-based studying (with a partner university) throughout which will help to equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to be a police officer. However, you’ll be employed as a police officer from day one and will spend the vast majority of your time on the frontline with experienced officers. 

Throughout your training, you’ll undertake a number of operational deployments including:

  • Response - this involves responding to emergency calls from the public and going out to the scene of the incident  
  • Neighbourhood policing - this involves working with a neighbourhood policing team (NPT). They are usually a small team of police officers and police community support officers (usually 3-10) who are dedicated to policing a certain community or area.  
  • Investigations - using all the tools available to you both office based and out in the community.   

You’ll be supported every step of the way with coaching and tutoring, and you’ll be working alongside experienced officers throughout. You will be appointed a tutor constable to who will chart your progress as you alternate between periods of study and working on the front line, putting theory into practice with help from officers and staff.   

And at the end of three years, you’ll gain a Level 6 Degree in Professional Policing Practice. Unlike applying to study full-time for the Pre-join Degree in Professional Policing Practice at university (which you have to fund yourself), your chosen police force will fully fund your degree and you’ll also receive a competitive salary throughout the whole PCDA programme. 

Hear from PCDA officers

Three police constable degree apprenticeship officers at Nottinghamshire Police – one of the first forces to introduce this entry route – tell us how the PCDA helped them to further their education while working in force and gaining a range of experience.

Many forces are recruiting officers in this way right now - check if your chosen force is offering the PCDA entry route.


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