How Police Academies Work

Life After the Police Academy

NYPD Police Academy graduation
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Congratulations! You've endured the months of exhaustive exercises and academic work at your police academy. Now, you're ready to become a police officer -- almost.

Upon graduation from police academies, recruits become certified police officers. However, they must then complete a field training program with a senior officer to transition them from the academy to real police life. It's kind of like driving around with a parent in the car while you have your driver's permit.


Each rookie officer is paired with a field training officer who acts as a one-on-one guide to law enforcement. Since the new officer's training took place within a controlled environment, the field training program adds a safety net for the first few months on the job. During this time, rookies get a firsthand taste of the ethical issues that crop up as well. For this reason, the International Association of Police Chiefs urges field training officers to receive specific training to properly handle these situations and teach their assigned officer.

After completing the probationary period, most police officers can select a specialization area. These areas at the Houston Police Department, for instance, include criminal Intelligence, bike patrol, missing persons or narcotics [source: Houston Police Department]. Also, to rise through the ranks, you will likely take additional courses to get higher police certification levels, depending on the state in which you work.

Unless there is a gap in your law enforcement work history, your certification should remain valid indefinitely. Again, since each state varies in its police certification requirements, some may request re-certifications after a certain number of years of service. To learn about these specifications in your city or state, visit their respective Web sites. For more information on the ins and outs of life in the force, read How Police Work.

To learn how police training works in other countries, go to the next page.