How to Prepare for the Police Academy

Updated on April 22, 2018
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Kate holds a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree from Sonoma State University. She has worked as a Police Officer in California's Bay Area.

As a recent graduate of a certified police academy, I often get asked by people interested in attending the academy what it is like and how best to prepare. Well, going through the police academy is an intense, stressful, eye opening, and rewarding experience. Trust me, by the time you are done you will be a different person. I mean this in the best possible way of course.

Since the academy I have noticed that I am more driven, dedicated, and able to accomplish difficult tasks in my life. Making sure you are prepared for this experience will not only ensure success with your time at the academy but it will greatly reduce the level of stress you experience. If you follow the tips in this article I can just about guarantee you will sail through the academy.

Be proud that you have decided to take this route in life; the career of a police officer is a very rewarding one and the first step to those rewards is successful completion of the police academy.

A graduation ceremony for Police Cadets.
A graduation ceremony for Police Cadets.

Tip 1: Become Addicted to Working Out

Now I know “addicted” is a strong word to use here, but I mean just that. Get used to working out often. The academy has a physically intense workout program and being used to working out before showing up the first day will make a world of difference.

I suggest starting a few months before the academy begins (if not earlier) and get used to working out five days a week. Concentrate on cardio as this seems to be what the academy concentrated on the most. Start waking up an hour earlier each day and going on a run, then come home and eat breakfast afterwards. Power through the first two weeks of this schedule and it will become your morning routine.

It honestly becomes like a cup of coffee in the morning, it’s what gets your day started. Before you know it, you’ll be seeing improvements in your time, speed, and effort you need to put forth to finish your run. Start with a one mile run, then add a half mile or so every 3 running days. Consistency here is key, no excuses on why you can’t run today. That will not fly at the academy, so don’t train the way prior to the academy.

At the academy we got up to about a six mile run near the end. This is very doable; don’t underestimate how your body can adapt. The human body is amazingly flexible and adaptable to whatever demands are put on it. It’s just up to you to consistently put the demands on it and you will see improvements. Your body is a tool, use it and make your time in the academy physical training program a breeze.

The SWAT Workout: The Elite Exercise Plan Inspired by the Officers of Special Weapons and Tactics Teams
The SWAT Workout: The Elite Exercise Plan Inspired by the Officers of Special Weapons and Tactics Teams

I used this book to help me physically prepare for the police academy at the recommendation of a friend of mine who had already graduated from the academy. The great thing about this book is that it will guide you through a workout program that will make sure you can pass the physical testing.

Each workout in the book has three intensity levels to train at: "Police Academy", "SWAT Candidate", or "Active Duty SWAT Officer." Each one a little harder than the last. If you can get through this book at Police Academy level then you know you should be fine. To be safe, I trained at "Swat Candidate" level at home and by the time I got to the academy, the physical tests were a breeze. At a minimum this will give you the full picture of what to expect.

 

Tip 2: Teamwork

Teamwork is what will get you through when all else fails. Most academy classes will have an orientation day or something similar where you go and learn about what to expect. Make as many friends as you can and swap phone numbers even before the first day of the academy. Trust me, you will be calling each other to figure out how to get through various difficult tasks at the academy during the whole course of your time there.

Often times, the items you need to gather prior to the first day can be a little complicated so having a friend to call and remind you is invaluable. Once the academy begins, make sure your class develops a sense of teamwork right away. If you do, far fewer people will drop out before the end.

Tip 3: Shoot a Gun

I say this because the academy I attended trained us for about one day on the shotgun and then we had two days of testing. Tests at police academies are typically the single biggest reason why people leave the program. This is because if you don’t pass the first time you have one chance to try again (at most academies) and if you fail a second time you are removed from the academy.

This testing has a lot of weight in your overall success, and the small amount of training you receive for the weapons doesn’t cover the amount of testing you will be put through. Our class lost two very good recruits just because of the shooting tests.

You don’t have to shoot so much that you are an expert shot, just enough to where you are comfortable with the general operation of the firearm. Practice both the shotgun and handgun. Most academies train with the Remington 870 (12 gauge) shotgun and the Glock 17 (9mm) or Glock 22 (.40 cal) handgun.

Tip 4: Get a Daily Planner

Throughout the police academy, and especially the first few weeks, you are given a lot of paperwork to have done and a lot of different due dates for this paperwork. If you forget about one of these required items it can result in removal from the academy.

I strongly suggest you show up to orientation with a daily planner and pencil always close by. Use it daily, always check the planner when you get home each day and see what needs to be done before the following day. This has saved me on many occasions.

Tip 5: Network with Online Resources/People

Find some news groups and interest groups of people who also have experience with the police academy. My academy was a California P.O.S.T. basic police academy and so I was a part of a yahoo group dedicated to this topic: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CABasicPolice/.

It was great to be able to ask questions and receive help from people who had far more experience than I did. Also, if you are attending a California police academy I strongly suggest you take a look at that group’s file archive. They have a ton of resources that will help you on just about every step throughout the academy including study guides, check lists, cheat sheets, and more.

Police recruits learning the importance of team work.
Police recruits learning the importance of team work.

Tip 6: Reduce or Eliminate All Outside Stress Factors

This is probably the most important tip I can give you. Get your personal life in order before you attend the academy. Any police academy will take a lot out of you mentally and you really shouldn’t have anything else in your life to worry about.

Take care of any family issues, wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend issues, and financial issues before attending at police academy. Make sure everything in your life is as predicable and stable as possible.

This sounds like a small thing but trust me, it will make the biggest difference in your success at the academy. You will need to absorb yourself in penal codes, case law, defensive tactics, firearms, policies and procedures. There just won’t be any time for distractions.

Conclusion

Finally, just remember to apply yourself. From what I have seen, the recruits who really applied themselves and became absorbed in the police academy did fantastic. The recruits who went out partying at night after class struggled the whole way through, if not dropped out completely.

Oh, and expect some hazing when you first start. Just think of it as a game. They try to stress you out as much as possible by doing anything possible including hazing in the beginning. There is a method to this madness though, they want to make sure that even in the most stressful of situations, you will continue working through the problem at hand and that you wont give up.

Just remember to play their game the way they want you to. You’ll be done and out of the academy with a great career in your hands before you know it, and they’ll still be there. You’ll win. Good luck.

Don't forget! To make your training officers happy, you better learn to polish your boots!

What is the hardest part about preparing for the police academy?

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Questions & Answers

  • Will I get some kind of salary while attending the police academy?

    If you are hired by a department prior to attending the police academy then you are generally considered a "sponsored" cadet. Sponsored cadets usually have their tuition, uniform expenses, and equipment expenses paid for by the department who hired them. They also get a salary while they attend the police academy, although it is typically at a reduced rate while in training.

    Another option is to pay out of pocket and put yourself through the academy prior to applying for a job. This will obviously cost more and you will not receive a salary while you attend, but the benefit is that you will be a much more desirable candidate once you have completed the academy.

    Most candidates find it much easier to get hired on by a police or sheriff's department once they already have a certificate in their hand certifying that they have already paid for and completed a reputable police academy. This option will make you a much more desirable candidate.

  • Do these tips apply to any police academy or only police academies in California?

    Although I really only have experience with California police academies, I would say that almost all of what is written here will apply to any academy. For example, the issues dealing with mindset and preparing yourself mentally are sure to be extremely helpful with any academy.

    Ensuring that you reduce or eliminate as many outside stress factors as possible will greatly help you to focus on the task at hand. Becoming a police officer anywhere requires a significant amount of work and focus. Making sure that your personal life is in order is, in my mind, is the most important factor in ensuring success and I'm certain this applies to any academy.

    Surely working out, networking, and utilizing teamwork will also be extremely important anywhere you go. These things are all vitally important in police work, so they are bound to be important at any academy that properly prepares its cadets for the job.

    Good luck! Work hard and enjoy the experience!

© 2009 Kate Daily

Comments

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    • profile image

      annaswhit 

      4 years ago

      what books did you use in your academy ?

    • profile image

      Julie 

      5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this, I'm seventeen and planning on becoming a police officer. I volunteer for my local agency as a police explorer. I'm really nervous for the academy in the future but I'll do my best. I really appreciate this article.

    • profile image

      Albo 

      5 years ago

      I am going through academy right now. i work midnights 11 to 5 am and start academy 6:30 am to 4:30 pm everyday. Staying awake is the hardest part. Pt is my favorite time cant wait for it. Just study and take it serious think about that badge in the end and all is worth it. If i can do it while i work midnights as a deputy sheriff anyone can especially if you are not working I don't wanna hear any bi.... ing. NO PAINNNNN

    • profile image

      SATISH 

      6 years ago

      NICE JOB

    • profile image

      VIP 

      6 years ago

      Does the San Antonio police academy require swimming during training?. I hope not. I'd rather do running or weightlifting. Please let me know. Thanks in advance!

    • profile image

      Kelli 

      6 years ago

      What a great article! Thank you so much for taking the time to write this.

    • profile image

      Andrew 

      6 years ago

      I'm 22, thinking of attending the academy this fall in Texas. My ADHD keeps me from eating a lot of healthy foods (salads and whatnot). I am also asthmatic. Any suggestions? The good news is I have quit smoking and started working out. Any info will help thanks.

    • profile image

      Mike 

      6 years ago

      Sandra, I've been posting info as u can see to try to help answer questions because i am going through this process now. I am just about to graduate now with less then 4 weeks to go. So what I tell u is fresh from memory and I'm not going to sugar coat it. It's going to be rough for u Sandra especially being a single mom with two kids. I have a son and it's been tough on me because the academy is very time consuming. U can do it though. I am in one of the best academy's and it's known to be one of the toughest but I will say this, physical fitness is very important. I saw 5 ppl drop the first week because they couldn't handle it. Now Ur saying that u were married and have 2 kids? If u don't mind me asking, how old are u? These will also determine how u do. A lot of people go through the academy at a young age but theres a few ppl in my class that are older such as 30, but pt will tale a toll on u. U will have to study hard and take good notes to and just be a good listener. Don't let what i say discourage u, because if u want it as bad as I did u won't let anything stop u. U can do it, just make sure it's what u really want because this is a career where Ur putting Ur life on the line day in and day out.

    • profile image

      Sandra 

      6 years ago

      Hello all! So this line of work is what I have been wanting o do for many a years. My ex husband would not allow or support it at all. Now that I am single(with two girls) what chances do you guys think I may have at passing if I work prat time and do the extended academy that lasts lost a year to complete? Or, should I do the intensive and do it in 6 months and get in some serious debt...?

    • profile image

      Mike 

      6 years ago

      Matt u can do it. U just have to take it seriously. Stay motivated! 3 miles is good, because they will start at about a mile and move up from there. U will reach a little passed six miles by the end of the academy. Make sure you keep your head up and listen to everything they say because day 1 will be a wake up call! I don't want to say too much but put your heart in it and never quit

    • profile image

      Matthew henney 

      6 years ago

      I'm Matt I'm eighteen I'm six foot tall. 215lbs flat. I can jog about three miles or so. My hope is to successfully complete the academy and become a policeman when time comes. anything I can do to prep myself??

    • profile image

      Mike 

      6 years ago

      Its kind of funny I bumped into this post. I am currently in the academy and I am almost done with only two more months to go. Everything said here is very accurate. Team work is key, without it, your alone swimming with the sharks. One thing I would add to this is to always keep your head up in PT no matter how tired you are, never show weakness because they will feed off of it and you will pay for it. They arent there to break your balls, they want you to succeed. If you want to make it through the academy, quit the gym. It will not help you at all. Running is key, you will do it every day. Pushups, squat thrusts, mountain climbers, sit ups, etc. Get on a healthy diet and eat foods with lots of fibers and make sure you take multi vitamins every day. The academy is only hard if you make it that way, just think of it it as a program because that's what it is. study hard. I have a 10 month old son and a fiancé and I work yet I passed all my tests and I do great in PT. As long as they see you trying, they will not get on you much. If you do slack and you get picked out of the group, your going to have a rough ride. I promise you that. Good Luck!

    • profile image

      bigrob 

      6 years ago

      thanks for the info

    • profile image

      April Nicole 

      6 years ago

      Rvhs Student...

      It really ant that hard i done took the course two times for the hell of it i love to get the work out and do what is best for my future so know i am working in a csi miami lab in ny and it is cool..

    • profile image

      jermaine 

      6 years ago

      thank you i start Academy tomarw and im just so nervous bout running i haven't been running like i should im scared there going to drop me for it

    • profile image

      Aldo 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for your information, very helpful!

    • profile image

      cam 

      7 years ago

      thanks! I'm interested in becoming a police officer.... I'm still in grade school, but having this as a goal really motivates me in everything that I do

    • profile image

      Rickie 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your experience! I'm debating about applying but it's come down to something I must conquer but I'm a horrible runner. I'm trying to workout now to increase my endurance. Thank you again!

    • profile image

      Kate 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for posting this! I'm in the last stage of being accepted to a local department's police academy and while I'm a fairly good shot and pretty organized, this has given me extra incentive to increase my gym time!

    • profile image

      Logan  

      7 years ago

      I am getting ready to submit my application i have served in the US army for 4 years and have successfully completed a tour to Iraq My question being from a 1_10 rate 10 being the worst how comparable is the stress level and haseing

    • profile image

      KT 

      7 years ago

      Dennis you can do anything! you're body will adapt to the physical demands as long as you continue to go to the gym and work, work, work! you don't need to run to lose fat if that is what you are trying to do in the gym you only need to raise your heart-rate between 120 and 140 to burn fat then lift weights to build and define your muscles. You have plenty of time to prepare yourself. if you want ways to stay motivated www.runnersworld.com and www.bodybuild.com have helped me and given me lots of information on how to get the results I want. God bless.

    • profile image

      Dennis 

      7 years ago

      Hi my name is Dennis I'm 14 I'm 6 2,286lbs and I'm going to the gym and I walk 30 minutes a day and I run 4 to 5 minutes sometimes do you think I could make it through the academy

    • profile image

      Breann 

      7 years ago

      Great read. I'm in the last step of the process, and this article was not only reassuring but very informative. Thank you!

    • profile image

      fear 

      8 years ago

      cool

    • profile image

      David Turner 

      8 years ago

      Thank you, this was a great article and very accurate/informative!

    • one2recognize2 profile image

      one2recognize2 

      8 years ago from New York

      This is a fantastic hub, thanks for sharing.

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