Liz M. -
As a hiring manager/senior executive in a federal law enforcement position I recommend that applicants have things that differentiate themselves from other candidates. Most federal agencies require a 4 year degree. The candidates that stand out have degrees in something unusual like: Farsi, Arabic, Chinese, Computer or Chemical Engineering. That is not to say that a degree in Criminal Justice (like I have) is no good, but that the other degrees make a candidate stand out even better.
Another area I recommend is that you list your volunteer work. Hiring managers will view this outside work very favorably. Have you completed a Bronze, Silver or Gold Award for the Girl Scouts? Do you volunteer walking dogs at an animal shelter or spending time with seniors at a community center? These types of activities show that you have empathy and a strong capacity to relate to other people, which is a key to any law enforcement job.
Don't forget most law enforcement positions have physical standards. Check the standards before you begin to apply. Most have a baseline distance run, agility test and basic strength test. They do this to insure you will pass their training academy. Almost all agencies will share these benchmarks with you ahead of time.
Spend some time researching the various agencies at the local, state and federal levels. You may find a job that matches your passion, for example working as criminal investigator for an agency that interdicts the smuggling of ivory would help protect endangered species or working as a state investigator with an agency that roots out program fraud could help save millions of tax dollars.
Finally, when you are in college I would encourage you to attend job fairs. Law enforcement recruiters attend college job fairs and actively recruit potential candidates.
Special Agent in Charge, DHS
Thomas recommends the following next steps:
You should check area law enforcement agencies in your area to see what their requirements are. Some agencies require a four year degree, some a two year degree. Here in Fort Worth you can get by with just a high school diploma. English while in school will be very important once you become a police officer. The many reports that you'll have to make will be read by many different people. Might be just the complainant or the suspect or their lawyers. District attorneys will read along with judges your report if it goes to court.
I would also check local agencies and see if they have an Explorer Program. Exploring is for young adults 14 - 21 years old that want to learn more about law enforcement as a career. Explorers learn first hand with real experiences the career. You can also check with the local Boy Scouts Office for the nearest explorer post in your area.
Brad recommends the following next steps: