How to Become a Police Officer in Georgia

A college degree, while not necessary to become a police officer in Georgia, helps you to develop general skills that can improve performance in your career as a Georgia police officer. Though the fundamentals of police work are taught in academy settings, a college education can round out the skills you learn there by improving your written communication, verbal communication, and interpersonal skills. You can also develop superior logical reasoning skills, helping you during criminal investigations. This list of top online colleges can help you find the right college to supplement your police academy training.

Georgia has one of the fastest growing higher education enrollments in the country, with more than 77% growth in the number of students pursuing degrees between 1999 and 2009. A degree can supplement police work through familiarity of fields like psychology, criminal justice, and forensics. Studying psychology can improve your ability to interview suspects, track leads, and get into the minds of criminals. A bachelors in criminal justice will teach you about police procedures, legal concepts, and police hierarchies. A four-year degree in forensics, meanwhile, can prepare you for specialized technical careers within a police hierarchy, performing tests on evidence.

Basic Information on Police Officers in Georgia

The state of Georgia employed 2,773 federal police officers during 2009, above average for a U.S. state. The growth rate of the Georgia police force is fairly high, with more than 700 openings expected each year until at least 2018, making becoming a cop in Georgia a viable career path. Those who want to become a police officer in Georgia must meet the standards set by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Council. These standards represent only the minimums for police officers in Georgia, however, and police agencies are encouraged to set higher standards for training, physical ability, maturity, and educational attainment, including college education in criminal justice at an accredited institution.

Training is often completed after being hired by a police agency, and some agencies, such as the Atlanta Police Department, have their own basic police training programs. As a result, the hiring process and the stage of the process at which training occurs can vary from agency to agency. Eventually, however, all recruits must attend one of the 14 POST basic training academies in Georgia before they become a police officer at any of the state, county, or local agencies in the state.

Becoming a police officer in Augusta has different requirements from those required to become an Atlanta or Columbus police officer. The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, the primary police agency in Augusta, requires applicants to complete at least one of the required college entrance exams, unless they have already been certified as a Georgia peace officer. Other police agencies can institute other requirements as they see fit. If you would like to learn more about the unique requirements of an agency, contact a recruiter from that organization for more information.

What Are the POST Minimum Standards to Become a Cop in Georgia?

  • You must be at least 18 years of age at the time of employment as a peace officer.
  • You must be a citizen of the United States.
  • You must have a high school diploma or equivalent education recognized by the state of Georgia.
  • You must have a criminal record that includes no crimes for which imprisonment can be assigned as a punishment, and which does not indicate a disregard for the law.
  • You must submit to a fingerprint examination by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  • You must possess good moral character, as determined by a background check.
  • You must submit to an examination by a licensed physician or surgeon for conditions that might adversely affect police performance.
  • You must complete an entrance examination for a police academy.

What Could Disqualify Me from Becoming a Georgia Cop?

The primary disqualification criteria used by Georgia police departments regard the criminal record of the applicant. Felonies and domestic violence charges lead to automatic disqualification, but are not the only reason for which you can be disqualified. If you have a criminal record that indicates a disregard for the law, such as frequent moving violations, you can also be disqualified from serving as a police officer. If you are worried about your record, contact a recruiter and discuss your situation.

Police Training Academies in Georgia

The standards for becoming a cop in Georgia are handled by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council and set in the Peace Officer Standards and Training Act. The Council, funded by the state of Georgia, was created to ensure that police officers receive effective training and to document who has received this police training. Eleven police agencies currently have seats on the Council, with more serving on the advisory board. While all agencies are required to comply with these police hiring requirements in Georgia, they can set additional requirements beyond these as they see fit.

Agencies that hire police officers can set higher requirements regarding testing for applicants, academy training, and the status of a military discharge. The Atlanta Police Department requires peace officers to have received an honorable or uncharacterized discharge from a military branch if they have previously served in the military. They are also required to complete a more rigorous police training academy course offered by the Atlanta Police Academy. The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, meanwhile, requires those applying for patrol officer jobs to have completed an approved college entrance test before applying for a job as a peace officer.

Basic training is usually provided after being hired by a police agency, and costs at police training academies are usually covered by the hiring agency, but some academies can cost more than $3,000 to attend. After completing training, you become a Georgia certified police officer and are legally allowed to pursue police careers in Georgia. Some academies also require you to provide certain materials for police training courses in Georgia, such as athletic wear and running shoes. These materials can be essential for some of the training courses at these institutions, which include physical training, situational training, and equipment familiarity courses.

The police academy curriculum in Georgia primarily covers the use of equipment and tactics in police careers, as well as some academic exams. The curriculum totals 408 hours of study. Some of the topics include:

  • Emergency vehicle operations
  • Defensive tactics
  • Firearms training
  • Criminal law
  • Community relations

Law Enforcement Jobs and Salary in Georgia

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that there were 19,530 people employed in Georgia law enforcement jobs in 2011, which is almost twice as many as Alabama employed in the same year. The average police officer salary in Georgia is $39,760, very close to the salary offered for a peace officer by Alabama police agencies, and the standards of living in these states are comparable. The states also have very similar crime rates, separated by less than 10%.

Georgia peace officers have many opportunities to advance through the ranks, but these can vary from agency to agency. The Atlanta Police Department, for example, employs nine ranks of personnel, including, in order of rank from highest to lowest:

  • Chief of Police – Chiefs of police manage all elements of the department, and all department sections and offices report to the chief of police. They handle long-term goal setting for the police department, administrative work, and some ceremonial functions.
  • Assistant Chief – Assistant chiefs of police also serve in an administrative and leadership capacity within the department. They are responsible for a diverse range of duties, such as oversight of other management members of the police agency.
  • Deputy Chief – Deputy chiefs manage specialized services within the department, such as administrative services and support services. They coordinate the activities of members of these areas of the department.
  • Major – Majors command services such as police training and corporate services or geographic zones. They make sure all operations undertaken by these units go smoothly, and are the lowest rank in the agency to be appointed by the chief of police rather than by taking an exam.
  • Captain – Captains serve as assistant zone commanders, providing administrative and leadership aid to majors in charge of geographical zones.
  • Lieutenant – Lieutenants coordinate specific tasks within geographical zones or service areas, such as evening watch and supplies.
  • Sergeant – Sergeants lead police in the field and perform some additional leadership duties. They also perform some administrative tasks, such as archival and advocacy, within certain offices in the department.
  • Investigators and Senior Patrol Officers – Investigators and senior patrol officers provide direct command on patrol and investigate crimes. These ranks are considered to have the same authority.
  • Officers – Officers perform patrol and investigative duties, and make up the majority of the police force. They often include personnel who have fairly recently completed POST certified training academy in Georgia.