Police officer

A police officer keeps law and order, investigates crime and supports crime prevention.

Annual Salary

£20,000 to £60,000

Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588 (source Office for Statistics)

Working hours

37 to 40

Future employment

There will be 1% fewer Police officer jobs in 2024.
In your local area

What's it all about?

You'll work as a uniformed officer on patrol, checking the security of public areas. You’ll also work at a police station.

You'll need:

In this role you could be:

  • responding to calls for help from the public
  • investigating crimes and offences
  • interviewing suspects and making arrests
  • giving evidence in court
  • controlling traffic and crowds at large public events and gatherings
  • giving the public advice on personal safety and crime prevention
  • promoting respect for people in relation to their race, diversity and human rights

You'll work with other police officers and staff like police community support officers, and investigators for crime scenes and road traffic accidents.

You can get into this job through:

  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • applying directly


You could take a Level 2 or 3 Diploma in Public Services before applying to the police, although this is not essential.

You'll usually need:

  • 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D) for a level 2 course
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) for a level 3 course


You could start by doing a police constable degree apprenticeship.

You'll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and college qualifications like A levels for a degree apprenticeship

Volunteering and experience

You can get a taste of what it's like to work with the police by volunteering as a special constable.

You could also get paid work as a police community support officer (PCSO) before applying for police officer training.

Direct application

You'll usually apply to one police force at a time.

If your application is successful, you'll be invited to an assessment centre where you'll:

  • have an interview
  • take written tests
  • take a physical fitness test
  • have a medical and eyesight test

You can prepare for your application by doing the Certificate in Knowledge of Policing.

If you're unsuccessful, you may have to wait a minimum of 6 months before you can re-apply.

If you've got management experience you could apply for direct entry as an inspector or superintendent.

If you have an upper second class degree, you could apply for the Police Now Graduate Leadership Development Programme.

Career tips

If you're aged 13 to 18 you could become a police cadet.

Restrictions and requirements

You'll need to:

  • pass enhanced background checks
  • be a British or Commonwealth citizen, a European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) citizen, or a foreign national with the right to stay and work in the UK for an indefinite period
  • be over 18 years of age

£20,000 to £60,000

Starter salary: £20,000 to £23,000 (constable)

Experienced salary: up to £38,000

Inspectors can earn up to £53,000 and chief inspectors up to £60,000.

Salaries vary between local police forces.

These figures are a guide.

37 to 40

You'll usually work 40 hours a week on a shift system. This could include nights, weekends and public holidays.

When you're on patrol, you'll usually be in a car or on foot. Depending on your area, you'll also patrol by bicycle, motorbike, horseback or boat.

The job can be physically demanding, and sometimes dangerous.

You'll spend 2 years as a student officer before becoming a police constable. You'll then decide whether you want to specialise in a particular area of policing. You could consider:

  • Criminal Investigation Department (CID), anti-fraud or road traffic
  • drugs or firearms
  • counter-terrorism
  • air support or underwater search
  • dog-handling or mounted policing

With experience you may be able to apply for promotion to sergeant, inspector, chief inspector or higher.

In the CID you'll also have the title of detective added to your rank - for example, detective sergeant or detective chief inspector.

Further information

You'll need to contact your local police force to apply, as each force has its own recruitment rules.

You can find out more about careers in the police from the College of Policing.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • knowledge of public safety and security
  • customer service skills for treating people fairly and with respect
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • leadership skills
  • sensitivity and understanding for dealing with traumatic situations
  • active listening skills
  • negotiation skills for keeping people safe
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
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