What Are the Restrictions to Becoming a Police Officer?


Police officers are responsible for maintaining the peace and enforcing the law in a community. These public servants help protect the lives and property of citizens. Not just anyone can become a police officer, though; there are restrictions that can compromise your chances of becoming a keeper of the peace.


  • A person interested in becoming a police officer must be at least 21 years old. Some departments, including the New York City department, won't take new recruits who are older than 35, but upper age limits vary from state to state.


  • Most police departments require applicants to have earned at least 60 college credits and have maintained a 2.0 grade point average. Some departments require applicants to have an associate's or bachelor's degree. Police departments usually make exceptions for those who have a high school diploma and have completed at least two years of full-time military service with an honorable discharge.

Criminal Record

  • All individuals trying to become a police officer must pass a background check. CityTownInfo.com states violations that can derail a police career include drug charges, an accumulation of traffic violations and some misdemeanors. No police department will hire a person convicted of a felony. Other convictions that might keep an applicant from becoming an officer include larceny, domestic violence and repeated convictions for less serious crimes.

Physical Fitness

  • Police officers must be agile and strong. In addition, they need good vision and hearing. When considering applicants, a police department tests aerobic capacity and strength. Applicants who fail any part of the physical fitness exam will be restricted from becoming a police officer until they can pass this test. Applicants also need to pass a medical examination, including drug and alcohol screening.


  • All police departments require applicants to be a U.S. citizen or a documented immigrant, and usually to be a resident of the state in which the department is located. Some police departments require applicants to live in the city or county where the department is located, while others only require applicants to live within a certain distance of the jurisdiction.

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