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. 

Here are the questions we’re most commonly asked.

Eligibility criteria

Do I need a degree before I apply?

No, you don’t need to have a degree before you apply, though once you’ve successfully completed your training, you’ll end up with a degree in Professional Policing Practice.

The police constable degree apprenticeship (PCDA) is an apprenticeship route for people who do not already have a degree. This is a 3-year course, with vocational on- and off-the-job learning. 

What qualifications do I need to become a police officer?

The minimum education requirement for joining the police is a Level 3 Qualification. This is defined as two A levels, but there are other qualifications that are equivalent especially if you have a qualification that was awarded outside of England or Wales, you can find more information on this here.

Some forces may have additional entry requirements, depending on the entry route you take to join the police, and you should always check the recruitment pages on your preferred force’s website for full details.

Is the eligibility criteria the same across all police forces?

There are some nationally consistent eligibility criteria you’ll need to fulfil in order to apply (mostly related to age, nationality, criminal records and finances, as well as the process for medical, vetting and fitness testing). You can explore the national criteria here: Basic eligibility check However, police forces are also allowed to apply their own local criteria in addition to the national eligibility aspects, so make sure you check your chosen force’s website for a full list of the role criteria.

I have a criminal conviction on my record. Does this prevent me from 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.

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.

I am an EU or EEA citizen (EU, Norway, Liechtenstein and Norway) or an individual outside the EU wishing to apply. Am I able to do so?

Currently yes, providing you have no restrictions on your right to live and work in the UK. Candidates who have lived abroad may be required to have resided in the UK for three years. This is due to the challenges often faced with obtaining adequate vetting checks from abroad and we need to ensure all applicants have to be vetted to the same standard before appointment. If in doubt, please check with your chosen force(s).

I have lived abroad / travelled recently. Will this impact my ability to apply?

This will depend upon individual circumstances and should be discussed with the chosen force(s). Generally, an individual travelling overseas on a gap year or similar is considered to be on an extended holiday and has therefore maintained residency in the UK. Additionally, if the vetting applicant has been living outside the UK while serving with the armed forces or on government service, they are classed as being resident in the UK.

What's the minimum age I can apply?

You can now apply to join the police service at age 17, though you'll need to wait until you're 18 before you can officially become a police officer. Check out the other basic eligibility criteria you need to meet. 

Application process

How do I apply?

To apply to become a police officer, you must choose the force(s) you wish to apply to, as the 43 police forces across England and Wales recruit directly. See which forces are recruiting right now.

What are the routes to joining the police?

There are a number of different entry routes into policing, depending on your educational and employment history. Explore ways into policing.

Are there specific pathways for ex-military personnel?

Currently, there is no specific national pathway for ex-military personnel to join the police service. You would need to apply in the same way as a regular member of the public. However, some forces are starting to offer specific pathways in their local area, so it’s worth checking your chosen force(s) website for details.

What does the assessment centre involve?

If you want to join the police service, you must be successful in a number of recruitment stages – one of these is the assessment centre. The assessment centre usually takes place over the course of a day and you will be asked to undertake a number of observed activities and tasks to test key areas of competency. When you are assigned to an assessment centre, you’ll be given information by your force on what to expect and how to prepare. Due to COVID-19, some forces are running assessment centres online, if you reach this stage, the force you are applying to will share more information on this. Find out more about the application process.

How long does the recruitment process take?

Recruitment times can vary by force so it’s worth checking when you apply what the expected timelines may be. In many instances it will take around 4-6 months, but it may be less or more than that depending upon the volume of candidates at any given time and how individuals progress through the various stages.

When will my chosen force be open again for recruitment?

If your chosen force isn't recruiting, check back soon, or you can find other forces in your area with the postcode search. Take a look at which forces are recruiting right now.


Does the police offer any internship or work experience opportunities so I can see what it’s like before I apply?

Some forces do offer internships or work experience opportunities. You would need to choose a force(s) and check their careers pages on their website for more information. Find out more about volunteering

How can I volunteer for the police?

Each of the police forces offer a range of different volunteer opportunities from becoming a Special Constable to volunteering as a call handler. Usually, they will have a dedicated area within their careers pages outlining the volunteer options and how to apply. If you can’t find these, it’s worth sending an email to the force recruitment team so they can direct you.

How can I become a Special Constable?

To become a Special Constable, you would apply to the police force in much the same way you would do for a paid constable role. Forces will advertise when they are open for applications to the Special Constabulary, with details on how to apply. 

Can I join the paid police officer workforce after becoming a Special?

Yes, you can apply to become a paid constable after joining the Special Constabulary. You’ll still need to apply in the usual way, however the process may vary by force, so check with your police force directly. Your experience and commitment as a Special Constable will be valued.


Can I join in a role other than a police officer?

Yes. Alongside our officer roles, there’s a vast range of police staff roles that are vital to the police service. The types of roles you can find vary hugely by police force so you would need to visit the police forces’ website to find out what roles they offer and when they are open for recruitment.

How can I start a career in forensics?

There are usually specific qualifications you will need to work in the forensics teams within the police service. Once you have the relevant qualifications, you will need to choose a force(s) and check their website for vacancies.

How do I become a dog handler?

Dog handlers usually join the police service as a constable and choose to specialise once they’ve successfully completed their probationary period. If you aspire to specialise into this (or another route), speak to the force you wish to join about your options.

How can I join CID / as a detective?

A large proportion of detectives start out by joining as a regular police constable first, then specialise after successfully completing their probationary period. However, some forces are starting to offer direct pathways to join as a detective without the need to serve as a regular police constable first. Likewise, Police Now has introduced a programme for graduates aspiring to become detectives. Check the Police Now and force websites for more information on these pathways.

Diversity and inclusion

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  

Are people with disabilities or neurodivergent conditions welcome?

Everyone is welcome in policing. There are tens of thousands of officers and staff with disabilities across UK forces. Many have progressed to senior positions. 

There are some conditions that will prevent you from becoming an operational police officer, but we have all kinds of roles in our forces, so see if you’re eligible and give it a go.

The police service does not accept any form of discrimination and is committed to protecting all its officers. If an officer with a disability is experiencing discrimination, the Disabled Police Association can provide support and advice.

Will I be able to practice my religion while on duty?

The on-call nature of policing means flexibility is sometimes required, UK police forces are committed to creating a diverse workforce that respects and accommodates the faith needs of officers wherever possible. If you’d like more information, there are also a number of support organisations you can contact, or feel free to get in touch with your preferred force directly.


Policing has a negative culture doesn’t it?

We acknowledge that in the past some officers have behaved in unacceptable ways and we’re working hard to change any culture where those attitudes or actions were allowed to occur. What we should also say is that thousands of dedicated, brave and committed police officers come to work every day to keep the public safe – and the majority of them are welcoming, supportive and inclusive of their peers.

We know we need to rebuild the public’s trust and improve perceptions of policing. We can and will do this through better performance, strong ethics and high standards.

Is there room for progression in policing?

There are plenty of opportunities for police officers to progress in different ways. Some officers want to try different teams, some want to specialise, some want to study and train for the next level up, some want to progress into leadership roles.

The police service supports everyone to develop their skills, pursue their career ambitions and reach their potential.

After joining

Will I have to work shifts including evenings 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.

Is there a probationary period?

Yes. For those joining through the traditional entry route or the degree holder route, this is two years. For those joining through the police constable apprenticeship, this is throughout the duration of the apprenticeship (three years). For all entry routes, you will be working alongside experienced officers during your probation period so that you gain valuable on-the-job skills and experience that will complement your classroom-based learning.

How long before I can specialise and / or progress?

Once you have successfully passed your probationary period, you may choose to follow a specialism (for example, CID, firearms, dog handling etc). Likewise, you may be keen to know the steps and processes for promotion for the future. Speak to your force about your career aspirations so they can direct you towards the right pathways in future.

Where will I be deployed if I join a particular force covering a large area?

A number of factors will need to be considered when deploying you on duties, particularly the operational needs of the area. However, you may discuss any restrictions you have with your force and they will do what they can to support individual needs whilst ensuring operational requirements are fulfilled.

Will I have to wear a uniform?

Yes, all police constables wear a uniform in order to make them visible to the public - this helps to reassure the community.


How much will I be paid?

Starting salary levels for a new police constable may vary by force area, so please check your chosen force(s) website. Generally speaking, starting salaries for new police constables is between £23,556 and £26,862 (pay point 0 and 1). In addition to annual pay awards, police officers who have not reached the top of their pay scale receive annual incremental pay of at least 2%, and often 4-6%, depending on rank and experience, subject to satisfactory performance.

In addition to basic pay, officers in London receive London Weighting of £2,697 and London Allowance of up to £5,338. Officers in Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Surrey or Thames Valley may receive regional allowances of up to £3,000 per annum. Those in Bedfordshire, Hampshire or Sussex may receive a regional allowance of up to £2,000 per annum.

How much annual leave will I have?

National guidance states you will start on at least 22 days per, rising after 2 years’ service to 25 days and at incremental points thereafter (up to a maximum of 30 days). Please check with your chosen force for confirmation of annual leave allowances.


of 43

Police forces recruiting right now

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