From Uniform to Uniform

Careers in the Police Service

Many service leavers opt for careers in the security industry but often overlook the fact that similar and often more responsible and better salaried opportunities are open to them in the police forces throughout the United Kingdom.

Of course, there are many similarities with service life too. It is a disciplined, uniformed job that requires a high level of teamwork within a command structure not dissimilar to what a serviceman or woman has come to expect.

Any working police officer would probably tell you that their job is a complex mix of excitement, danger, compassion, and paperwork.

Most of the time, the challenges you will face on the job will be mental rather than physical, as in the armed forces, requiring you to understand what makes people behave as they do, and to use that knowledge to form strong policing skills. But sometimes you will find yourself in situations where physical ability and quick reactions could save your life, and the lives of others. Second nature to the service leaver you might say.

There are few other jobs in civilian life that offer such an extreme mixture of ordinary activities and extraordinary situations.

If you enjoy challenges and like the idea of helping to make communities safer, this could be an ideal career for you. As a police officer you would work to maintain order. You would help prevent and investigate crime. And you would also find and prosecute offenders. Police officer recruitment is handled by individual police forces, and their requirements can vary. In general you will need to have lived in the UK for three years. You must be over 18. And you will have to pass background and security checks. A good service record will help you well on your way.

Good police officers have honesty and confidence. They also have social awareness and a responsible attitude. They can also remain calm in sometimes life-threatening situations. It all sounds so familiar you might well wonder why you didn’t consider this route sooner.

Pay and benefits
Police officers receive very competitive pay and benefits packages. Rates of pay vary by force, generally starting at an annual rate of around £23,000, and rising with each year of experience. Officers in some forces receive additional allowances to complement their salary. Your chosen force will be able to provide more specific information.

Pensions and benefits
Police officers also receive a wide range of benefits, including excellent pension plans, a fair and inclusive promotion policy, flexible working hours and more.

If you become a police officer you can expect a flexible working schedule, paid over-time, a minimum of 23 days annual leave and fully paid sick leave.

Am I eligible?
Here are some of the basic eligibility requirements for police officer candidates.

Applicants from all backgrounds and ethnic groups are encouraged to apply. Applicants are not limited to any particular age group – in fact, we welcome those who are looking for a career change. The minimum age to apply is 18, and there is no upper age limit, though you should bear in mind that the normal retirement age for police constables and sergeants is 60. You should also be aware that all new recruits, whatever their age, are required to undertake a two-year probationary period.

Basic guidelines for applicants
As you might imagine, applicant guidelines are fairly comprehensive, but here are a few highlights:

• there are no minimum or maximum height requirements
• there is no formal educational requirement, but you will have to pass written tests
• you must be either a British Citizen, a citizen of the EU or other states in the EEA, or a Commonwealth citizen or foreign national with indefinite leave to remain in the UK
• although you may still be eligible to join the police service if you have minor convictions/cautions, there are certain offences and conditions that will make you ineligible. If you are at all unsure, contact your chosen force for more information
• you must physically and mentally be able to undertake police duties

Get fit before you apply
One of the most rigorous elements of our screening process is the physical fitness training. Because all officers must be able to move quickly while carrying a lot of heavy equipment, they have to be in pretty good shape. This should not be a problem for anyone who has recently served in HM Forces.

If you pass the assessment process, you will then have to take a physical fitness test. To pass, you will need to be reasonably fit, and able to run short distances fairly quickly. Later you will also have to pass a medical examination. Always remember to check with your chosen force if you have any specific concerns.

How do I apply?
Please note you can only apply to one force at a time.

Don’t forget to check the precise eligibility criteria with your chosen force before applying.

Please check with your chosen force for more information regarding current and future recruitment campaigns. Vacancies exist throughout the UK but most opportunities are likely to be with the larger Metropolitan forces such as the Met,  Greater Manchester, West Midlands, Thames Valley among others.

What happens after I apply?
After you’ve sent in your application to be a police officer, a three-step process begins.

1: On receiving your application form, the force that you have applied to will check your eligibility and mark your responses to competency questions (if these are used by the force). If your application is successful, you will be invited to  attend an assessment centre (step 2).
2: If you pass the assessment centre, you will then take a fitness test
3: Next, your references will be checked, you’ll undergo a background, security, medical and eyesight checks.

Some forces may choose to run additional assessment stages, such as a second interview.

Fast Track and Direct Entry Programmes
Unlike the armed forces there has been no direct entry officer scheme although some forces have introduced fast track promotion schemes developed by the College of Policing. Following a public consultation on direct entry to policing, the Government asked the College of Policing to develop new talent management programmes: a Fast Track (Constable to Inspector) Programme and a Direct Entry (Superintendent) Programme.

These new programmes will enable a wider pool of talent to enter the police service, as well as rapidly promoting the very best talent from within the service. They will attract individuals with new perspectives and diverse backgrounds to support the continuous development of policing.

For more senior officers the fast track Direct Entry Superintendent scheme is an attractive proposition. The Programme is designed to attract highly talented leaders from outside policing to come into the police service at a senior rank, bringing fresh perspectives and new ideas. Candidates will be trained over 18 months, and given coaching and mentoring, to equip them with the skills to excel as superintendents.

As a direct entrant at the rank of superintendent, you will already be confident leading teams with focus and vision, and comfortable making tough decisions under pressure. You will need to be fit and healthy, possess a high level of personal integrity, and have an exceptional ability to understand and influence people from all walks of life.

It will be for forces to decide whether to participate in the programmes. Further information is available on

Police community support officers
If you’re leaving the services and want to give something back to your community you might consider taking up a challenging role as a police community support officer.

As a police community support officer (PCSO), you will work on the frontline of your local force, providing a visible and reassuring presence on the streets and tackling the menace of anti-social behaviour.

This is a paid, usually full-time position that can lead to a long career with the police.

PCSOs have different roles in different forces, but they usually patrol a beat and interact with the public, while also offering assistance to police officers at crime scenes and major events.

Depending on where you work, you could:
• deal with minor offences
• offer early intervention to deter people from committing offences
• provide support for front-line policing
• conduct house-to-house enquiries
• guard crime scenes
• provide crime prevention advice

You would be a critical part of the force
Although PCSOs do not have the same powers as regular police officers, they still carry a lot of responsibility, and are a critical part of the police service.

For further information on all police careers check out vacancies and opportunities with your preferred Police Force, details are readily available through your local telephone directory or on line. All police forces have web sites with full details on careers and selection processes.