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3 new ways to join the police force

Undergraduate policing degree… 3-year degree apprenticeship.. or a conversion course.

3 new ways to join the police force

Police forces in the UK are always looking for new recruits.  

In fact, anyone can join the police as a volunteer special recruit. Whether you're a taxi driver or a teacher, people from all walks of life can train to be a special and make a difference in their community.  

But if you want to start a career in the force, there are a few rules to follow.  

  • You must be over 18 
  • You must be a British or Commonwealth citizen, an EC/EEA national or have no restrictions to work in the UK 
  • You must be physically fit  
  • You must not have any criminal convictions or offensive tattoos  
  • You must not be a member of far-right political organisations 

If you meet these criteria and pass the PIRT (police initial recruitment test), you can join the force as a beat cop and work your way up. Or if you're looking for a more senior role, you can apply for direct entry as an inspector or superintendent.  

Policing is getting more complex, so from 2020 you'll also need a degree to become a police officer in England and Wales. There are 3 new entry routes:  

  • A 3-year police constable degree apprenticeship paid for by the force 
  • An undergraduate policing degree 
  • A 6-month post-graduate conversion course paid for by the police 

We think these new entry routes are great. They reflect the demands of modern policing and make sure new officers are highly trained. The new police constable degree apprenticeship (PCDA) is even better as the training is paid for by the police and apprentices earn while they learn.  

How does the PCDA work? 

Like all degree apprenticeships, the PCDA qualification combines on-the-job training with academic theory. Police apprentices are on the beat from day 1 and gain all the experience they need to work as a constable. The course takes around 3 years to complete when apprentices are awarded a bachelor's degree in policing practice.  

The PCDA is basically the same qualification as an undergraduate policing degree, BUT you'll gain real-life experience as a front-line police officer. Your training costs are covered by the police and you'll be paid a wage throughout your training. So instead of graduating with a ton of student debt and no experience, you'll qualify with money in your pocket and a full-time job with the UK police.  

How can I apply? 

The PDCA is still pretty new, so different forces are recruiting in different ways. The best thing to do is head to your local force's website to see what positions are available. The PCDA was only launched in April 2018 and more places are opening up in September, so now's the time to apply.  

Ready to get started?  

Download our top tips for applying for a police apprenticeship. We cover everything you need to know about the application – from eligibility criteria to interview advice.  

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This article includes research and opinion sourced by OneFile at the time of publication. Things may have changed since then,
so this research is to be used at the reader's discretion. OneFile is not liable for any action taken based on this research.