Young Academic Career Profile: Police Officer

Young Academic offers students across the United Kingdom a fully comprehensive service – with careers being one of our main focuses. We will be running a series of Career Profiles – this one being on a career in the Police force. Check the profile out below and keep your eyes peeled for some more advice on the best way to succeed in Uniformed Services.

As a police officer, or constable, the aim of your work would be to preserve order, prevent and investigate crime, and detect and prosecute offenders.

You could work as a uniformed officer on the beat (on foot or in a patrol car) or on police station duties. You would carry out a range of tasks, which could include:

  • responding to calls for assistance from the public
  • making enquiries into crimes and offences and making arrests
  • interviewing witnesses and suspects, preparing crime reports and taking statements
  • searching for missing persons
  • giving evidence in court
  • attending accidents and fires
  • custodial duties
  • working on the station reception desk, dealing with the public
  • working in the communications room in two-way contact with officers on the beat
  • policing large public events, concerts and demonstrations
  • visiting schools to give talks.

You would need to complete a probationary period as an officer, after which you could specialise in a specific branch such as CID, the drug squad or the traffic police.


You would normally work 40 hours a week on a shift system, which may include nights, weekends and public holidays, with two rest days each week. Overtime is often available. You can apply to join the police force on a part-time basis.

You will spend much of your time outdoors on foot, in a patrol car or on a motorcycle. You will have some indoor duties, for instance in the police station, the courts, or on private or business premises.


Salaries can vary between police forces.

  • The starting salary is generally between £20,000 and £23,000 a year.
  • With several years’ experience, earnings can reach around £36,500.
  • A sergeant can earn around £40,000.
  • Inspectors can earn around £50,000.

There may be extra pay for working overtime. Police officers working in the London area may receive an additional cost of living allowance.

Figures are intended as guideline only.

Entry Requirements

Police officer recruitment is handled by individual police forces and their eligibility criteria can vary. However, in general you will need:

  • to be a British citizen, a citizen of the Commonwealth, EU or other EEA country, or a foreign national with indefinite leave to remain in the UK
  • to be at least 18 years old
  • to satisfy background and security checks and declare any previous convictions
  • above average physical fitness, with good vision and colour vision (with or without glasses or contact lenses).

In most cases, you will also need to have been resident in the UK for the three years prior to putting in an application.

As well as meeting the above criteria, you will also need to pass a series of tests before being accepted as a trainee police officer. These cover areas such as working with numbers, communication, reading and writing skills, information handling, decision making and reasoning. You will also have a physical fitness test and a health check.

Check with your local force for exact details – see the Police Service Recruitment, Police Service of Northern Ireland and Scottish Police Forces websites for contact details.

As a probationer or serving officer, you may be able to join the High Potential Development Scheme (HPDS). This Scheme is designed to develop future leaders and senior officers within the police force and leads to a Masters qualification. Check the Police Service Recruitment website, or the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) website for details.

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