If you’re considering a career as a police officer, you may be wondering what kind of experience and qualifications will best serve you in your application. Potential police officers in Canada have a lot of different routes available to them, and since lots of different people are needed for the police, there are options for everyone. Policing has changed a lot over the years, and while it used to be the case that you’d do some basic training then learn on the job, nowadays, it’s preferable for trainee police officers to have a degree before they join their local force. Here are some of the reasons why it’s worth going back to college if you want a policing career.
- Getting a degree is more accessible than ever
In the past, getting a degree was difficult for non-traditional students who weren’t fresh out of high school. Those with childcare responsibilities or an existing career would find it extremely difficult to take time out and go to lessons, and it could take many years to graduate. However, getting a degree is now more accessible for everyone, with around a third of students in Canada take online courses, with many of them getting entire degrees from home. There are several degrees you can do at home, from criminology to policing studies, allowing you to kick-start your career in the police.
- Graduates learn crime prevention skills
Modern policing isn’t just about catching and punishing criminals; it’s also about crime prevention and finding ways to stop people reoffending. There are several ways that Canada could reduce crime, which you can find out more about in this article, and one thing that could help is having more qualified officers who have knowledge of the more complex social issues behind them.
Police officers who do a degree will often study criminology, which means they’ll analyze different crime prevention theories, which they can then put into practice when they are working in the police force.
- There are more opportunities for promotion
While you can join most police forces in Canada at the age of 18 or 19, you may find that a lack of a degree could put you at a disadvantage when it comes to promotions. If you want to move up the police service ranks, you are likely to do so faster if you are a graduate. When you go for a promotion, for example, to a rank of sergeant, you have to take a written exam. If you’ve studied for a degree, then you’re likely to have a lot of the knowledge needed, while those who haven’t taken an exam for a while may struggle.
- You could choose a more specialist career path
If you have a degree under your belt when you join the police, you’re likely to be able to pursue more interesting, specialist career paths. This might include:
- Police detective
- Canine team officers
- Community relations officers
- Patrol officers
- Forensic specialists
- Crime prevention officers
Joining the police doesn’t mean you’ll be an officer for your entire career. It could go in all kinds of directions, and if you have a degree, there are lots more options.
- Policing is becoming more complex
If your image of police officers is that they simply drive around giving people tickets and going on car chases, then you’re wrong. Policing is very complicated in the 21st century, covering everything from the prevention of cybercrime to detecting and stopping terrorism, which means the skills needed by police forces are more complex too. While you’ll learn a lot in police training, it’s hard for them to cover more specialist topics in such a short space of time, so those with a degree will be at an advantage.
- You can start your career feeling more confident
Police training will prepare you for a lot of different situations, but there’s no denying that on your first shift, you’ll be incredibly nervous. While taking a degree can’t prepare you for every potential situation, studying for three or four years does mean that you’ll have more in-depth knowledge than those who go into policing fresh from high school, so you may feel more confident when you finally hit the streets.
- A degree teaches you soft skills too
College is a good life experience to go through, and when you study a policing-related degree, you pick up a lot of useful skills that are going to help you throughout your life. There are lots of skills needed to be a police officer that you can learn through the college experience, from public speaking when giving presentations to teamwork when you have to do projects with others. When you go for interviews in the police force, you’ll be asked to provide examples of when you’ve used your soft skills, and someone who has been to college may find it easier to prove they have what is needed.
- There’s no rush to join the police
If you’re an older, non-traditional candidate, you may worry you don’t have time to do a degree before joining the police, perhaps thinking you may get too old while you’re studying. However, most forces don’t have an upper age limit, as long as you meet the requirements for the role, so don’t feel like you have to rush in. If you want to do a degree, take some time, and complete it.
- A degree gives you the edge when you go for competitive jobs
If you’re an ambitious individual and are going for the more competitive police force jobs, then a degree could give you a significant advantage. It shows that you’re willing to study and improve your skills and that you have a depth of knowledge that other new recruits won’t have. While there may be a police officer shortage, police forces are still picky about who they recruit, and there are rigorous requirements, so you may want to get a degree to give you the edge.