Make a positive impact in the fast-moving world of policing – investigating crimes and enforcing law and order

Whether you want to be on the frontline or using your analytical brain as a detective, policing has many career opportunities. It can be demanding – with unsociable hours and plenty of paperwork – but equally rewarding too.

You’ll usually start as a police constable and work for a probationary period, before choosing if you want to specialise in areas like the fraud squad, firearms unit, child protection, or as a dog handler, among many others.

You can work your way up to sergeant then inspector, all the way up to chief constable one day. Starting salaries are above average at over £29,000, and experienced senior police officers can earn over £100k. 

The impact you could make
  • Be part of an emergency response team – responding to 999 calls, preventing crime or being first on the scene for victims.
  • Work with your local community to resolve tensions over an issue like crime or antisocial behaviour.
  • Join the mounted police unit and work on your horse at public events like football matches, demonstrations, and public celebrations.
What you could study
  • Understanding policing practice
  • Crime investigations
  • The criminal justice system
  • Police problem-solving
  • Criminology and crime prevention
  • Evidence-based policing
  • Police powers, accountability, and code of ethics
  • Vulnerability, risk, and public protection
  • Community policing priorities
  • Digital policing and counter terrorism
  • Applied investigation and interviewing skills
  • Frontline policing

Study options

Options to study in this field include:

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Example module
"Crime scene to court, forensic criminology, and policing practice."
Second year professional policing student, University of Gloucestershire
Example assignment
"Poster on how being raised in cults can affect a child’s psychological development and a mock police interview with a suspect, victim or witness."
Second year policing and investigations student, University of Derby

Subjects it's useful to have studied first

Some policing courses or apprenticeships will have requirements for previous qualifications in certain subjects. Entry requirements vary, so always check with the provider.
Physical education
Modern foreign languages
Hard skills you'll develop
  • Crime scene management
  • Forensic awareness
  • Crime investigation techniques
  • Police intelligence and community policing
Soft skills you'll develop
  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Listening skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Problem-solving

Careers: Where it can take you

Find out more about your career prospects from studying policing. The following information is based on a typical police officer (sergeant and below) role.
Available jobs
133,794 in the past year
4.86% growth over next eight years
Average salary
Up to £54,495

What is a… police dive contractor?

You may never have heard of a police dive contractor, but they work as part of the police's underwater search unit, making sure operations are carried out safely and in line with protocol. Police divers search for and recover evidence under water, including dead bodies. Police dive contractors support these teams by making sure that any dive project is properly planned and carried out, and that dive teams and the public are safe. It’s an exciting role with a lot of responsibility. 

Getting in: Entry requirements

Find out more about what you'll need to study policing at university or as an apprenticeship.

Average requirements for undergraduate degrees

Entry requirements differ between university and course, but this should give you a guide to what is usually expected from policing applicants.

A levels
Scottish Highers
Other Level 3/Level 6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma or SQCF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative

The expert view

College of Policing
Could you be the difference? Becoming a police officer is life changing – not just for you, but for the people and communities you serve. It is a hugely rewarding career and opens up opportunities to develop both personally and professionally. There are various ways to join the police to best suit you and your experience, and applications from all backgrounds and cultures are welcomed. Whichever route you decide to take, you will be equipped with the skills needed to meet the complex policing challenges we face today, whilst playing your part in keeping people and communities safe.

Considering an apprenticeship?

Applying for an apprenticeship is just like applying for a normal job. Here’s what you need to know:
  1. Deadline

    Apprenticeships don't follow the same deadlines as applying to uni, the deadline is down to the employer.
  2. Where to apply

    You apply directly through the employer.
  3. No limits

    You're not restricted to one apprenticeship application; you can do as many as you like.
  4. Apply to university and apprenticeships

    There's nothing stopping you applying to university through UCAS, while also applying for apprenticeship vacancies.

A day in the life of a protective services apprentice

Explore further

Go deeper into topics around policing with the following.
  1. Joining the Police

    This website has role spotlights so you can research jobs you might want to end up doing, like becoming a dog handler, intelligence officer, domestic abuse investigator, dedicated football officer, and more.
  2. Life as a PC

    Read these interviews with staff at the Met Police for insight into what life is like as a police constable, inspector, and other roles.
  3. North Yorkshire police on YouTube

    Follow a police force you’re interested in to better understand how they operate. This site features CCTV footage and videos from real-life cases, behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with victims, and discussions on how services can be improved. 

Application advice

Whether it's personal statement tips or what to write in a cover letter for an apprenticeship application, our advice will help you get ahead in your policing journey.
Skills, experiences, and interests to mention
  • Start off by showing you understand the sector you’re heading into. Policing isn’t for the faint-hearted, so mention content you've seen that's helped you understand the demands of the job. You could also talk about the role you want to end up doing, if you know already.
  • Policing involves a lot of ‘soft skills’ like empathy, good listening, and the ability to diffuse an argument. Can you give examples of when you’ve demonstrated these skills, maybe through interactions with younger siblings, through teaching or childminding experience, volunteering, or helping elderly neighbours?
  • You also need to be fit and resilient. What hobbies do you have that improve your fitness? Maybe you like the gym, football, or HIIT exercises. Maybe you’ve also had a life experience that built up your resilience.
  • As a police constable you’ll need to do a lot of writing and presentations. Think about what you’ve done in school or college that you can talk about in your personal statement. Some A levels subjects lend themselves to clear or persuasive writing, so don’t forget to mention those too.
  • Have you got, or could you apply for, any relevant work experience? You can apply for the volunteer police cadets through your local police force. If not, what part-time jobs or work in the community have you done that demonstrate the other skills needed like teamwork, independent work, patience, and honesty? Working in a restaurant, for example, covers a lot of these attributes.

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