Everything a Police Officer Needs

Entry Routes into Policing in the UK: What Qualifications do I need to be a Police Officer?

  • Time to read: 8 min.

If you are thinking about becoming a police officer in the UK, you may be wondering what skills you need. What are the requirements? What do they look for in potential candidates?  Well, the good news is that becoming a police officer is not as hard as you may think if you have the right skills and attitude. From here, we will go through the different entry routes into policing in the UK and work out which is best for you.

What Qualifications do I need to be a Police Officer in the UK?

Do I need a degree to be a Police officer in the UK or can I join the police without a degree?

You can become a police officer with or without a degree, although all entrants must pass standard police initial recruitment tests (fitness, medical and educational). There are several different entry routes into policing. We will explore these entry routes into policing below.

Instead of worrying about what qualifications you need to be a police officer in the UK, let’s focus on what skills and personal qualities you will need in order to be a police officer; these are more important than any academic achievement.  

What Skills do I need to be a Police Officer in the UK?

Many people take a keen interest in a career in the Police service, but how many know what skills are required to join the Police and be successful? Although all roles within policing will require different specific skills.

The overall role of a police officer needs some key skills in order to be good at the role.

We did a pole of current, serving police officers in order to gauge what they thought the key skills they needed were in order to succeed in their role. The top skills poled have been listed below.

12 Key skills for police officers in the UK

  1. Adaptability
  2. Open-mindedness
  3. Assertiveness
  4. Able to handle pressure
  5. Able to remain calm in dangerous or complicated situations
  6. Excellent Communication Skills
  7. The ability to learn new things quickly
  8. The ability to work as a Team
  9. Ability to Take Responsibility for Situations
  10. Good Problem-solving skills
  11. The Ability to Negotiate
  12. Level of Physical Fitness

These are the top 12 skills that serving police officers felt that they needed in order to be able to complete their role.

As discussed above, specialist roles within policing, will require different specific skills sets, however, these are the core skills a police officer need.

So, do you think you have the right skills set to be a police officer?

If you answered, ‘yes’ to the above, lets move on to look at the personal qualities that you need to be a police officer in the UK.  

What Personal Qualities do I need to be a Police Officer in the UK?

The qualities needed to be a police officer vary depending on the role you want to perform, but there are traits all officers share (no matter what their role). If you are serious about working in law enforcement, then these qualities should be among the top considerations when choosing a career path.

In order to be a police officer in the UK, you will need the following personal qualities inorder to become a police officer:

  1. High Standards, including good attention to detail
  2. High Ethical Standards
  3. Integrity
  4. Honesty
  5. Understanding
  6. Maturity
  7. Resilience

Clearly, there is an overlap between the skills and the personal qualities that are needed in order to be a police officer. The standards of behaviour that are expected of a police officer were outlined in the Code of Ethics as outlined by the College of Policing in 2014.

The Code of Ethics came into being after surveying members of the public and asking them what they expected of the police.

Entry Routes into Policing in the UK

The entry routes into policing have traditionally been very ridged. However, over the last decade, there have been a number of changes to the entry routes into policing.

This was largely a result of the findings of the Windsor Report, which advocated that different entry routes were necessary, in order to break down the institutionalised thinking in policing.

Moving on from the Windsor Report came the Policing Vision 2025. This was agreed by the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and it highlighted the need for;

  • a need for consistency, accreditation and defined roles
  • that roles need specific skills and knowledge, backed by qualifications

From the understanding of the need to standardise training across all of the police forces, and the changing demands on police officers, the Policing Education Qualifications Framework (PEQF) was born.

What the PEQF aims to do

The PEQF aims are to:

  • address the long-held deficiency in recognising the level at which police officers operate
  • provide a framework within which the College can revise the learning provision for all officers and staff, starting with the initial entry routes, to ensure these meet the needs of forces and the expectation of the service as set out in Policing Vision 2025
  • standardise the learning provision across all forces, in particular, the initial learning for newly recruited officers
  • include processes and guidance to help existing officers and staff achieve their potential, for example by taking their prior experience and learning as a basis for further learning and achievement of transferable and recognised qualifications

Taken from College of Policing

Below we will take you through what the different entry routes into policing in the UK, so you can see which one is for you.

How to join the Police in the UK if you do not have a degree

You could qualify through a police constable degree apprenticeship, which takes a minimum of three years to complete and requires candidates to have two A levels (or equivalent) as well as to be competent in both written and spoken English. You could also take a degree in policing, which usually lasts for three years and after which students can apply to join the police.

Entering the Police under Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA)

Entry Routes into Policing

If you do not have a degree and want to join the police. Joining under the PCDA scheme may be the option for you.

What qualifications de I need to join the Police under PCDA

In order to join the police under the PCDA route you will need;

  • two A levels, or an equivalent level 3 qualification
  • Competence in written and spoken English
So, what does joining the police under an apprenticeship involve

If you join the police under the police apprenticeship programme (PCDA), you can earn and learn on the job, a bit like an apprenticeship in any other trade. Your time will be split between the classroom and on the job learning. A minimum of 20% of your time will be spent on classroom learning.  

This programme will take three years as opposed to the traditional entry route into policing (IPLDP, discussed below) which takes two years.

You will receive a degree in Professional Policing Practice at the end of the programme. Many forces have moved onto this way of recruitment now in order to professionalise policing. Your degree is paid for by the force.

PCDA Summary
  • 3 Years
  • Need 2 A-levels of level 3 equivalent
  • Classroom and on the job learning
  • Full pay from day 1

Entering the Police under the Degree Holder Entry Programe (DHEP)

In some forces, you can still apply via the traditional entry route. This is following the Initial Police Learning and Development Programme (IPLDP). However, this is slowly being replaced with the PCDA and DHEP. If you already have a degree, you will be eligible to join the police on the Degree Holder Entry Programme or DHEP. This involves a period of around 3 months of classroom-based learning followed by a two-year probation period.

Your probationary period will be spent in the work place, undertaking the role of a police officer.

Or if you want to get a degree before you join, some universities offer a specific pre-joining degree in policing.

DHEP Summary
  • Degree in Policing completed prior to joining the service
  • 2 year probationary period
  • Initial classroom learning, followed by operational experience.
  • Full pay from day 1

How to join the Police in the UK if you have a degree or degree equivalent: Police Now

For those who already have a degree, in any subject, there are degree-holder programmes that lead to a graduate diploma in Professional Policing.

One of these is the Police Now Leadership Programme. This programme is aimed at those with a minimum of a 2.1 degree in any discipline.

Officer has a 2-year probationary period at which point they can choose whether they want to continue their service with the police.

Degree Entry Summary
  • Degree completed prior to joining the service – minimum 2.1
  • 2-year probationary period
  • Initial classroom learning, followed by operational experience.
  • Full pay from day 1

Joining the Police on the Direct Entry Inspector Scheme

The Direct Entry Inspector Scheme is an entry point for those who have the necessary skills and experience to join the police as an inspector. If you’re already undertaking a middle-management role in the corporate world or another public sector role, this may be for you.

What does the Direct Entry Inspector Role Involve?

The Direct Entry Inspector Scheme involves a period of classroom learning, similar to that of the IPLDP programme, officers will then go out on patrol and have a period of learning as a Police Constable, followed by the Role of the Police Sergeant and finally the Role of the Police Inspector.

Work-based assessments will be completed along the process as well as a Masters in Policing and the National Police Inspectors Exam will have to be passed.

At the end of the programme the candidates will be confirmed in rank as a Police Inspector.

Direct Entry Inspector Summary
  • Degree or relevant professional experience
  • 2-year probationary period
  • Initial classroom learning, followed by operational experience.
  • Full pay from day 1

Joining the Police on the Direct Entry Superintendent Scheme

The Direct Entry Inspector Superintendent involves a period of classroom learning, similar to that of the IPLDP programme. Officers will then go out on patrol and have a period of learning as a Police Constable, followed by the Role of the Police Sergeant and finally the Role of the Police Inspector. Finally, officers will undertake the role of a Police Superintendent.  

Work based assessments will be completed along the process as well as a Masters in Policing.

At the end of the programme the candidates will be confirmed in rank as a Police Superintendent.

 Direct Entry Superintendent Summary
  • Degree or relevant professional experience
  • 2-year probationary period
  • Initial classroom learning, followed by operational experience.
  • Full pay from day 1

Returning to the Police after resigning

A lot of people elect to resign from the police for a number of different reasons, personal or professional.

Those that have resigned from the police can apply to back to any force to be an officer at the same rank that they resigned at. It may be that they can apply to re-enter the police at a higher rank if their work experience during the period that they have been resigned would warrant the additional rank.

Final Thoughts

There are a number of different entry routes into Policing in the UK, this makes policing more accessible than ever, regardless of your educational background. It also provides you with the opportunity to get a degree paid for.

Do you think you have what it takes to be a police officer? If so, which entry route to policing is best for you?

Why not check out our article covering a day in the life of a serving police officer?

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