The UK police force employs over 150,000+ people (2020) and can be a great career option for graduates, with a focus on continuous professional development, clear progression routes and opportunities across the UK. No two days will be the same and you can build a career around your strengths and interests making a real contribution to your community and society.
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If you have questions about your plans, talk to a member of our team.
What does a police officer do?
As a police officer you’ll be able to make a real difference in your community, making people safer by tackling anti-social behaviour, terrorism threats and organised crime. You will work closely with community organisations and the criminal justice system to maintain law and order.
Police officers generally work a 40 hour week in eight hour shifts. Depending on your role you could spend most of your time office based, on-foot, on a bicycle or in a car. Pay is set by rank, you can find out more from The Police Federation.
Take the quiz to find out if policing is right for you.
What are the career pathways?
There are five main pathways for your police career with local police:
- Response policing – Responds to calls from members of the public.
- Neighbourhood policing – Supporting policing in the local community and targeting local issues i.e. youth violence; county lines drug dealing.
- Roads policing – Policing the road network and upholding road traffic legislation.
- Intelligence – Supporting local and national crime investigations by collating and processing evidence.
- Investigation – Carrying out serious and complex investigations.
There are also three separate special forces:
What roles could I be doing?
There is a very clearly defined rank structure within the police with opportunities to progress based on demonstrating competency as well as sitting examinations for more senior roles.
- Police constable
- Chief inspector
- Chief superintendent
- Assistant chief constable
- Deputy chief constable
- Chief constable.
The National Police Promotion Framework sets out the steps to progress to sergeant or inspector.
What are the entry routes?
For people that already hold a degree there are two entry routes into the police:
Police Now recruit graduates with at least a 2:2 undergraduate degree and leadership potential to join the police and has two streams:
- Graduate Leadership Programme: Focused on community policing. You’ll undertake a six week academy course and two years further training leading to a Graduate Diploma in Professional Policing Practice.
- National Detective Programme: Focused on investigation. You’ll do a 12 week detective academy and three, nine month job postings leading to a Graduate Diploma in Professional Policing Practice and also a Professionalising Investigation Programme Stage 2 (PIP2) accreditation.
You can also apply directly to your local force for the Degree Holder Programme:
- For people that already hold a degree in any subject.
- Takes two years to gain Graduate Diploma in Professional Policing Practice.
- Work-based programme, supported by off-the-job training.
Find out which forces are recruiting currently and sign up for updates from your preferred Police Force.
Where can I find work experience?
Gaining experience of working with the public for example volunteering with individuals or groups in the community i.e. sports coaching or youth groups, is a skill highly valued by the police and you can do this in many different ways.
- Check out our work experience pages.
- Sport for Good Nottingham - Sport for Good Nottingham is a programme that uses the power of sport to drive real social change in the local community
- Find local volunteering opportunities through the Nottingham Community and Voluntary Service.
- Get involved in the Police Cadets
- Volunteer as a Special Constable or Police Support Volunteer, apply through your local force.
- Join a relevant SU society
- Get involved with your local Forces Independent Advisory Group, or consultations on specific issues, where community representatives meet with their local force to provide a community perspective.
- Citizens in Policing have volunteering roles for the public to support their local Force
Where can I find vacancies?
Find out which forces are recruiting currently here: Who’s recruiting? and sign up for updates from your preferred police force.
Other relevant job boards include:
Is there anything I need to know for recruitment?
Before you apply there are some specific eligibility criteria to be aware of:
• Aged 18+
• Be a British citizen, or a foreign national with indefinite leave to remain in the UK, without restrictions. Resident for at least the last three years.
• Be in good health: medical, eyesight and fitness tests are compulsory.
• Certain criminal convictions/debt problems can exclude you.
All recruitment into the police is based around their Competency and Values Framework so becoming familiar with this and working on developing these things is really important. You can find out more from the College of Policing.
The recruitment process usually involves some kind of online assessment and assessment centre, including a written assessment, situational judgement tests and competency based questions. You can gain practice of different types of recruitment processes through the events advertised on MyCareer or by accessing Graduates First and ECareersGrad.
What are the hot topics in this sector?
Understanding the current issues and challenges facing the police is important if this is a career you want to pursue, so:
- Follow relevant national bodies on social media for example, UK Home Office; Police Now Graduates
- Follow your local force on social media to understand it’s structures and key challenges.
- Network with people doing the job – you never know what it will lead to, but it will certainly increase your understanding of the realities of the role.
Where can I find out more?
- Police.uk - National website for policing in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
- Police Now - Find out more about their graduate programme.
- Prospects - Law enforcement and security sector.
- Prospects Police officer job profile
- Police Federation - The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) is the staff association for police constables, sergeants and inspectors
- Ministry of Defence - Protect sites, people and assets essential to Defence and national infrastructure
- College of Policing - Policing Professional Body. Check out the latest sector research and careers advice.
- Police Information - One-stop shop and information centre for Police, Security and Criminal Justice sector workers