Is policing right for me?

Two male officers walking out of a building, smiling at each other.

Starting a career in the police can be one of the best things you’ll ever do. You’ll be able to make a real difference in your community, reducing crimes and making people safer. But being a police officer isn’t for everyone – it’s one of the most challenging careers you can choose, being physically, mentally and emotionally demanding.

You should consider whether you can: 

  • Deal with the complex and sensitive cases, requiring clear reasoning and evidence gathering
  • Think on your feet – problem solving and responding to new challenges
  • Develop new skills as data and technology become ever more important to policing
  • Work well with colleagues as part of an effective team
  • Have great people skills, remaining calm and patient with members of the public, particularly in stressful or volatile situations
  • Handle traumatic situations and be able to communicate information sensitively
  • Be decisive and use your police powers appropriately
  • Give clear and accurate evidence in court
  • Work shifts, nights and weekends (including public holidays)
  • Be flexible about where you work - you might not work in your preferred location

You’ll receive training and support throughout your career to help you manage the demands of policing, but it’s important to be sure that becoming a police officer is right for you.

tablet screen

Are you cut out for it?

Take our quiz to find out if a career as a police officer might be right for you. 

Common Questions

It’s natural to have questions if you’re thinking of becoming a police officer. We’re happy to answer them all – however big or small, easy or difficult.

Do I need a degree to join the police?

No, there is a degree holder entry route but in most cases, you’ll need a minimum Level 3 qualification such as an A-Level or equivalent. This varies between different forces. The police force you apply to will clearly set out the specific criteria you need to meet on their website.

Do I need a driving licence?

Whether this is essential or desirable will vary by force. Check with the force(s) you are applying to if you don’t currently hold a licence.

Is there racism in the police?

Racism sadly exists in policing as it does in society. We can now say that policing is more inclusive, more diverse, and more reflective of our communities than it has ever been. But it’s also true that racism, discrimination and bias do still occur.

All forces and the College of Policing have developed a new Police Race Action Plan to address the significantly lower levels of trust and confidence among some Black people and the race disparities affecting Black people. 

Read more about the Police Race Action Plan.

What is the police doing to address sexism?

Women are hugely valued in policing, with increased opportunities for personal development, career progression and flexible working. However, for too long everyday sexism has existed in policing, with some colleagues worried about speaking up as either a victim or a witness of sexist behaviour. 

We are determined to eradicate sexism and misogyny from policing. To do that, we’re using behavioural science to understand why it happens and what we can all do to stop it. By applying science to these issues, we're creating an evidence-based plan for change. It includes developing confidential reporting systems, ensuring that policies protect people who report sexism, and training to help supervisors spot issues early on.

Find out how we’re tackling sexism and misogyny in policing.

Will I have to work shifts and weekends?

Yes, there will likely be times when you’re needed for shifts working evenings and/or weekends. Speak to your chosen force(s) if you have a restriction (for example, caring duties) that might prevent you from undertaking particular shifts, as they may be able to discuss alternative options with you.

Does a criminal record stop me applying?

There are a number of factors to consider here (for example, the severity of the conviction, and how long ago) so there is not a blanket answer to this. Our best guidance is to speak to the force(s) you wish to apply to, to get their advice. The more you can be open and honest about any history you might have, the better and more accurate the advice from the force will be. Find out more about Vetting 

The truth about policing

Is policing really a diverse, welcoming and supportive place to work? Is the culture really changing?

In this video you can hear officers share their honest views on whether policing is a macho environment, why women are still under-represented and how family-friendly policing is.

View the full video transcript

Kimberley, a serving police officer, and Jennifer, a member of the public, sit opposite each other in a dimly-lit interview room. They begin a conversation.

00:00:30,000 --> 00:00:32,440
Jenifer: Has anything ever made you feel scared on the job?

00:00:32,440 --> 00:00:35,000
Kimberley: We have these red buttons on our radios,

00:00:35,000 --> 00:00:37,440
if somebody presses that red button, your heart stops 

00:00:37,440 --> 00:00:39,280
because you’re just like ‘where is that officer?

00:00:39,280 --> 00:00:40,760
Where are my keys? I’m going

00:00:48,840 --> 00:00:50,360
Jenifer: Do you think the police are sexist?

00:00:50,360 --> 00:00:52,360
Kimberley: No. In a word.

00:00:52,360 --> 00:00:55,400
I can only talk about my experience in our force.

00:00:55,400 --> 00:01:00,480
But I think every sort of issue that might be in policing

00:01:00,480 --> 00:01:04,880
in relation to sexism or racism or against disabilities

00:01:04,880 --> 00:01:07,120
or any of those kinds of issues,

00:01:07,120 --> 00:01:10,280
there’s something in place to try and tackle that.

00:01:10,280 --> 00:01:14,560
So, I just know with policing now that there’s a zero tolerance to it.

00:01:14,560 --> 00:01:20,000
If someone was then to report it to a manager, it’s then dealt with.

00:01:20,000 --> 00:01:23,120
Things are in place to not allow that to continue

00:01:23,120 --> 00:01:24,520
and that is the difference.

00:01:24,800 --> 00:01:27,280
Jenifer: Has anything ever made you feel scared on the job?

00:01:27,280 --> 00:01:30,800
Kimberley: Oh yeah for sure like absolutely.

00:01:30,800 --> 00:01:32,600
You’re only human at the end of the day.

00:01:33,360 --> 00:01:35,440
But of course, when you’re driving to something

00:01:35,440 --> 00:01:36,440
the adrenaline is going,

00:01:36,880 --> 00:01:38,720
you’re like ‘what am I going to be facing?

00:01:38,720 --> 00:01:40,600
What gets you through that is knowing that

00:01:40,600 --> 00:01:43,720
you’ve got a team behind you so you’re never on your own.

00:01:43,720 --> 00:01:46,400
It’s almost like a family, as cliché as it sounds, it really is. If something…

00:01:47,360 --> 00:01:49,560
I’ve heard things over the radio.

00:01:49,560 --> 00:01:53,920
We have these red buttons on our radios, they're like an alarm which 

00:01:53,920 --> 00:01:56,480
if somebody presses that red button, your heart stops 

00:01:56,480 --> 00:01:58,200
because you’re just like ‘where is that officer? 

00:01:58,200 --> 00:01:59,920
Where are my keys? I’m going’

00:02:01,400 --> 00:02:04,200
It’s just your mentality because you just look out for each other.

00:02:04,200 --> 00:02:06,920
The fear is there but you’ve got people to back you up.

00:02:06,920 --> 00:02:08,640
Jenifer: That’s amazing.

00:02:09,320 --> 00:02:11,200
Did you always want to be a detective?

00:02:11,320 --> 00:02:13,520
Kimberley: Yes, I think I always did.

00:02:15,160 --> 00:02:18,760
I kind of knew that was where I wanted my career to go.

00:02:18,760 --> 00:02:20,440
Getting an investigation, getting a case

00:02:20,440 --> 00:02:23,560
and really picking it apart, who’s done what

00:02:23,560 --> 00:02:26,000
and who’s involved and why?

00:02:26,000 --> 00:02:29,080
Not knowing really what you could be going into.

00:02:29,080 --> 00:02:30,600
You could come into work one day and think:

00:02:30,600 --> 00:02:33,840
‘right this is what I’m doing today, this is my To-Do list’.

00:02:34,080 --> 00:02:35,760
Then something happens and you’re going

00:02:35,760 --> 00:02:38,600
 it doesn’t matter what you’ve planned 

00:02:38,600 --> 00:02:40,960
and you have to switch into that mode 

00:02:41,400 --> 00:02:46,680
and deal with that and you know, there’s not many jobs really where it is like that

00:02:46,680 --> 00:02:50,280
and that’s what keeps it fresh, even for like 15 years in the job.

00:02:50,560 --> 00:02:52,200
Jenifer: Do you think there’s anything that 

00:02:52,200 --> 00:02:53,560
gives you an edge over your male counterparts?

00:02:54,160 --> 00:02:56,760
Kimberley: From a personal point of view, I think

00:02:56,760 --> 00:03:01,200
being a female from a black minority ethnic background

00:03:01,200 --> 00:03:04,440
and having kids, I think that makes me quite unique.

00:03:04,680 --> 00:03:07,400
I’m quite proud of the opportunities I have to do things

00:03:07,400 --> 00:03:09,600
that can potentially open doors for other people

00:03:09,600 --> 00:03:11,920
to see that actually you being somebody unique

00:03:12,320 --> 00:03:16,240
can have a really big voice in somewhere like policing.

00:03:16,240 --> 00:03:18,240
If you are new coming in and you want to see

00:03:18,240 --> 00:03:20,840
those women in those managerial positions,

00:03:20,840 --> 00:03:22,400
you want to see them high-ranking and think:

00:03:22,400 --> 00:03:25,000
‘Actually I could get there’, it isn’t just all men at the top.

00:03:25,320 --> 00:03:27,680
Jenifer: Do you find it difficult juggling being a mother

00:03:27,680 --> 00:03:30,040
and being in the police as well?

00:03:30,200 --> 00:03:34,880
Kimberley: Yeah. Yeah definitely. My husband’s in the police as well

00:03:35,600 --> 00:03:38,960
and we’ve got three children. So, for quite a few years

00:03:38,960 --> 00:03:42,640
we have had to be on opposite shifts

00:03:42,640 --> 00:03:45,200
and literally passing ships at the night at times.

00:03:45,480 --> 00:03:47,320
But the police is good for,

00:03:47,520 --> 00:03:50,200
there are opportunities to do flexible working.

00:03:50,840 --> 00:03:52,840
They do recognise that obviously most people are 

00:03:52,840 --> 00:03:55,280
going to have children or other caring responsibilities

00:03:55,960 --> 00:03:59,760
so there are things in place to make it easier, but it is hard.

00:03:59,760 --> 00:04:03,000
Jenifer: Do you ever feel like you’re a detective mum?

00:04:03,000 --> 00:04:05,480
So finding out whose done what?

00:04:06,240 --> 00:04:08,320
Kimberley: Yes, without a doubt.

00:04:08,880 --> 00:04:11,000
I do find myself questioning my children

00:04:11,800 --> 00:04:15,320
in an interview technique style at times. 

00:04:16,000 --> 00:04:18,000
I can actually see like an interview process

00:04:18,000 --> 00:04:20,400
going around in my head and I’m like these are my kids.

00:04:20,400 --> 00:04:22,360
But to be honest it works! 

00:04:22,360 --> 00:04:24,720
So I’m going to probably carry on with that.

00:04:24,720 --> 00:04:26,120
Jenifer: It is great training!

00:04:26,360 --> 00:04:27,880
Kimberley: Good training yeah!

We see a close-up of the whirring tape deck recording the conversation. It clicks as the recording ends.

Did you find this page useful?
What made you visit this website today?
Tick all that apply