So you've decided you want a career in law enforcement, that's great. Working as a police officer is a great career path, but the hiring process is quite different from usual civilian jobs. Each police department is different, but these are some of the steps you should expect throughout the police officer hiring process.

Submit an application

Most police and sheriff departments across America won't even consider you for employment unless you have one of the following: Either a four year degree, or an honorable discharge from a branch of the United States military, so before you submit an application, be sure you meet one of these two criteria.

Written testing

The next step is usually to take a written test. Each department has their own test, but these usually focus on things like reading comprehension, basic math skills, and simple problem solving. Some departments, however, will present you with a possible police situation and offer a variety of multiple choice responses to that situation - these tests are usually meant to gauge your personality.

Physical testing

We've all seen overweight cops, but odds are they didn't start that way. The vast majority of police departments incorporate a physical test as part of their hiring process. During this test you can expect to do things like push-ups, sit-ups, a sprint, or a 1-2 mile run. Each department has its own standards, so be sure you are in good shape before starting.

Board interview

If you've made it to this phase of the hiring process then you're probably doing pretty well. A board interview normally consists of 3-5 police officers sitting with you and asking you a list of questions. Be sure to dress nicely, for this interview. The police officers won't just be judging your answers, they will also be judging your professional appearance.

Polygraph test

Not all departments require a polygraph test, but enough do to make it worth mentioning as a step. During the polygraph test you will be asked about things such as past drug use, past theft, and other things that may provide an insight to your moral character.

Interview with the chief

If you're asked to do an interview with the chief then you will probably be offered a job as long as you don't completely botch the interview. The chiefs time is very limited so if you are asked to sit with him for an interview then that means that you are among the very best applicants available.

Final note

Remember that each department has its own hiring process. These processes may include steps that aren't listed here, or they may not include some of the steps listed here. In either case though, it's not uncommon for the whole process to take between 6 months to a year, so don't quit your day job just yet.