How To Become a Police Officer in Illinois (With Steps)

Updated September 30, 2022

Many people who are interested in a job in public service in Illinois pursue a career as a law enforcement officer. There are many types of law enforcement officers, and police officers are a popular career choice because they allow professionals to protect their communities and serve people in need. The application and hiring process for a police officer can be long, but learning how to become one allows you to determine if you qualify and what you can do to get started.

In this article, we explain how to become a police officer in Illinois, explore other important elements of the role, including what they do, the requirements for the job and their average salary and answer frequently asked questions about being a police officer.

What does a police officer do?

A police officer is a government employee who maintains safety in communities and protects citizens by enforcing the law. Police officers may work at city, county, state or federal departments, and the laws they enforce depend on their jurisdiction. Some primary duties of a police officer include:

  • Patrolling a designated area to watch for unlawful activity

  • Responding to emergencies such as vehicle accidents and criminal activity

  • Issuing citations for minor offenses such as traffic violations

  • Apprehending and arresting people accused of committing a crime

  • Investigating accidents and criminal cases

  • Executing arrest and search warrants

  • Transporting suspects to correctional institutions and court proceedings

  • Responding to requests for help from citizens and other officers

Related: 21 Jobs in Law Enforcement

Illinois police officer requirements

Here are the basic requirements to meet if you want to become a police officer in Illinois:

Personal requirements

The state requires all law enforcement officer candidates to meet certain qualifications before they can apply to a police department. Here are the minimum personal requirements to be eligible to become a police officer in Illinois:

  • At least 21 years of age

  • No felony convictions

  • United States citizen

  • Valid driver's license

Related: How To Write a Summary of Qualifications for Your Resume (With Examples)

Education requirements

Some police departments in Illinois also have education requirements for becoming a police officer. For example, the Chicago Police department requires candidates to have an associate degree or equivalent coursework, 30 semester hours of college credit and one year of military service, or three years of military service. The Illinois State Police agency also requires candidates to have education, experience in the field or a combination of both. Many city and county departments require only a high school diploma or GED. Remember to check with the department where you want to work to verify educational requirements before applying.

Related: 10 Types of Criminal Justice Majors and Related Jobs

How to become a police officer in Illinois

Once you meet the basic requirements for becoming a police officer, you can take the following steps to pursue your career:

1. Apply for a job as a police officer

Start by looking for job openings in the department or departments where you have an interest in working. Police departments typically list openings for police officer positions on their website or on official city or county government websites. They may also advertise them on different media platforms, such as social media or local radio and TV stations. Look for police officer jobs and related titles, such as deputy or sheriff's deputy, as they may vary by department.

Police departments often allow people to apply for several weeks or even months, so they may have a large pool of candidates. This means there may be an extended time between when you apply and when or if a recruiter contacts you for an interview. You can follow up and request more information about the current phase of the hiring process by calling the department. Alternatively, some departments have online portals you can use to check the status of your application.

Related: Interview Question: "Why Do You Want To Be a Police Officer?"

2. Pass required exams and assessments

Once you're hired for a job as a police officer in Illinois, the next step is to pass the required tests to make you eligible for training. The state requires all police officers to pass a drug test, a background screening and the Peace Officer Wellness Evaluation Report (POWER) test when hired. The POWER test includes four exercises designed to assess your physical endurance. Tests you may take to evaluate your mental and emotional preparedness for a job as a police officer include:

  • Psychological evaluation

  • Cognitive test

  • Polygraph

  • Behavioral assessment

Related: 7 Types of Assessment Tests for Jobs and What To Expect

3. Attend a Basic Law Enforcement course

After you've passed the initial exam requirements for the role, you're ready to start a Basic Law Enforcement (BLE) course. BLE courses, commonly called police academies, are 14-week training programs that meet Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board (ILETSB) requirements. These programs include classroom and practical learning opportunities on topics like the legal and effective use of resources, community policing, de-escalation techniques and social issues relevant to the field, such as cultural awareness.

Related: FAQ: What Do You Do In the Police Academy?

4. Complete field training

Once you've finished a BLE course successfully, you can start training with another officer. This is called field training, and it involves working as a police officer in the community under the guidance of a field training officer (FTO). An FTO is an experienced police officer qualified to introduce you to working in the field and ensure you have the knowledge, skills and confidence to work independently. The length of this process varies by department, but it typically takes at least a few months and may last for up to a year.

Related: How To Set Training Goals: Steps, Tips and Examples

Police officer salary and job outlook in Illinois

The salary you may earn as a police officer in Illinois depends on many factors, including the type and location of the police department, whether you have related experience, such as in the military or corrections, and your level of education. The average salary for a police officer in Illinois is $56,068 per year. According to Illinois workNet Center, the demand for police officers might grow at a rate that's slower than average, but annual job openings for this role remain very high. The regions of Illinois expected to experience the highest growth rates are Decatur and the Kankakee-Morris-Pontiac area.

For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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