Police Officer Advancement Opportunities

by Allison Crowson, MJA on 1/29/16 12:19 PM

policeofficeradvancements.jpgThe police officer career path offers many advancement opportunities within the criminal justice field. Although every organization has slight variations of job titles and career stages, each allow for motivated and qualified individuals to seek professional growth.  

Types of Advancement Opportunities

Police officer advancement opportunities exist in every department; however, the promotion process may differ from one agency to the next. The larger police agencies tend to provide a greater number of opportunities for such advancements in comparison to small agencies, which have fewer positions overall.

After completing academy training, the first stage of your police officer career path is the patrol officer position. As a patrol officer, your duties would include enforcing local, state, and federal laws within the community, as well as protecting the public from crime and promoting positive relationships between the community and the police department.

After spending a few years as a patrol officer, the next stage might be to become a detective. To qualify for this position, most departments require you to be a patrol officer for two to five years. Due to the competitiveness of the detective position, it’s necessary that you have an excellent performance record to earn this promotion, and many departments also prefer to see a degree in criminal justice. The next step beyond a detective will likely be a detective supervisor, a position responsible for managing the other detectives, assigning cases, and ensuring that the department is running smoothly.

After serving as a supervisor, the next opportunity for career advancement would likely be the position of police sergeant. A police sergeant directs, supervises, and assigns the work of law enforcement staff involved in traffic and field patrol, investigations, crime prevention, community relations, and various other tasks associated with the department. The police sergeant both leads and represents the department’s officers.

If you have an exemplary record of performance you may eventually advance through the positions of lieutenant, captain, commander, deputy chief, chief of police and commissioner.

Why Pursue Advancement?

Professional advancement in the police officer field helps facilitate organizational continuity and rewards officers that demonstrate excellence at work. If you’re thinking about professional advancement as a police officer, consider these benefits that could come to both you and your department:

  • Learn and develop new skills
  • Achieve personal goals
  • Open doors to additional career opportunities
  • Take on leadership roles
  • Expand roles within the organization
  • Increased sense of commitment to the job
  • Prevent boredom in the work place

Qualifying for Advancement:

Many departments now require detectives to have some type of academic degree before they can apply for the position. Earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice can help you achieve the police officer career path of your dreams, by making you a qualified candidate, a big-picture thinker and a distinguished individual. Other parts of the promotion process that may exist within your department include a written test, practical exercise, in-basket exercise, an oral interview board and a review of your performance evaluations.

Whether you’re looking to achieve a personal goal in your career, or if you’re simply looking for a change of pace in duties and responsibilities, the police officer career path provides plenty of opportunities for advancement.

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Norwich University Online
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This post was written by Allison Crowson, MJA

Allison Crowson is the program manager for the Norwich Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Master of Science in Criminal Justice programs. An adjunct faculty member and academic advisor in Norwich’s criminal justice department since 2006, she teaches courses on criminology, victimology, introduction to the criminal justice system and the police. She earned a master’s degree in justice administration from Norwich University and a BA in transpersonal psychology from Burlington College.