It used to be that you didn't need any college. Nowadays, many departments require at least an Associates degree. Sometimes they will waive that if you have military experience. Sometimes they will take you if you have some college with no degree, and give you time to finish your schooling after you are hired. BUT, if you don't get it done, they will fire you. It's possible to find a department that doesn't require college, but, they will probably pay less. These tend to be the rural police/sheriff positions.
The nice thing about law enforcement is many agencies offer tuition assistance. That helps a lot. Many also offer certification pay and/or degree pay. The more training and education you have, the more you get paid.
Law Enforcement is a constantly evolving profession. You will be required to complete additional training hours every year after graduating from the academy. With the laws constantly changing, it's important to keep up!
You should look at the websites for various departments in your area to see what the requirements are. You will see that they are all different. You should also look at the website for the state licensing agency, which establishes minimum standards that all agencies in the state must follow.
Wow! I just looked at Des Moines PD, and they don't require anything beyond HS and age 21. But, the best thing to do is talk to a recruiter.
Des Moines also has reserve police officers and a citizens police academy. Programs like that will give you exposure to the world of law enforcement, and you will get to know some of the officers.
Good luck to you!
Back to my initial response though, as a law enforcement officer you will continue to go to schools and will continue to learn every day of your career. You'll never know it all and this is a good thing because the job is always changing. Being the best you can be isn't about knowing all of the answers. It's about knowing how to find the answers when you need them.
If you have any further questions feel free to ask. Don't hesitate to research the departments locally or federally that you're interested in going to work for so that you can make your plans based on their requirements or preferences. It's good to get in touch with them early. See if they have any sort of volunteer programs that you can help with as this will help you make contacts and you will also be able to show your attitude and work ethic long before you're hoping for a full time position as an officer. And keep in mind that NOW is the time that you need to be maintaining good moral character and making good choices as you'll be answering for your choices in a background check if you apply to be an officer.
Best wishes and thanks for your interest in serving your community!!!
Stephen A. Brunner-Murphy
Hamilton Montana Police Department
Stephen recommends the following next steps: