There are three routes into policing. Find out which one would work for you in this blog post.

5 min read

Dr John Fox is course leader for our degree in Policing and Investigation (Distance Learning) and Dr Richard John is course leader for our Professional Policing degree. They are both experts from the University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

In this blog, they explain:

  • The different routes into policing

  • How to upskill if you’re already a serving police officer 

  • What to study if you’re interested in the criminal justice system

In 2020, the government announced plans to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers in England and Wales with new rules that require candidates to have a degree or study for one on the job.

This means how you become a police constable has changed. You don’t need a degree to apply to become a police officer, but you’ll need to be willing to study for one.

Completing my degree has developed me in so many ways, I have gained more confidence in my ability to make decisions, enhanced the standards of investigations as well as the response and management of victims, suspects and various crimes, such as domestics and stalking.

Before completing the course I considered myself a competent and knowledgeable police officer, but the course made me realise that there is only a limited amount of learning that you can gain ‘on the job’. I thought I knew how  to do most things, but the course taught me that I couldn’t always get the how right without truly understanding the why.

Paula Sacree, BSc (Hons) Policing and Investigation (Distance Learning)

How do I become a police officer if I don’t have a degree?

You can complete a ‘pre-join’ degree in Professional Policing, where you’ll learn the knowledge and skills to become an effective police officer and you’ll be taught how to deal with the exciting challenges of modern policing.

This option is for you if you’d like to study full-time at degree level and you’re aiming to join the police force on completion of your degree. 

You’ll explore crime scenes and situations using virtual reality environments and you’ll gain insight from teachers who have worked in the police force. You’ll also get experience with local forces - we have strong connections with Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire constabularies.

You’ll graduate with the practical knowledge and theoretical skills required of a probationary police constable, which will give you an entry route into policing in England and Wales, the foundations to pursue other careers in law enforcement and criminal justice or to continue your studies at postgraduate level.

Please keep in mind that although this course is ideal preparation for a career as a police officer, you still need to apply for police constable roles within five years of graduating. 

If you'd rather earn while you learn, you can apply to your chosen police force under the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship route and work towards a degree while you’re employed as a police officer. This three-year course combines practical ‘on the job’ training with academic learning.

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Hydra Immersive Learning Suite

Engage in simulated scenarios that replicate operational policing challenges, developing your problem solving, decision making and critical thinking skills.

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Crime scene simulation spaces

Put your forensic skills into practice with simulated crime scenes.

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Collaboration of Forensic Interviewing

CoFI researches interviewing techniques and the issues that affect how information is gathered in a forensic context. Depending on the modules you study, you'll have access to CoFI's interviewing simulation activities.

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What if I already have a degree? 

If you already have a degree (in any subject), you can complete either the work-based Degree Holder or the Detective Degree Holder entry programme, which allow you to work full time as a police officer whilst working towards a graduate diploma in Professional Policing Practice. 

What if I’m already a police officer?

If you’re already a serving police officer and you’d like to enhance your contribution to your organisation or increase your potential to level up in a new role, you could study for a distance learning degree in Policing and Investigation

The course is distance learning and part-time so you can study it around your other commitments, anywhere that suits you. You’ll also have the chance to use on-the-job experience as proof of relevant prior learning, which means you could complete the course quicker. 

You’ll be taught by leading experts whose research areas include forensic interviewing and science, economic crime and cybercrime. And achieving this degree will help your career ambitions if you’re looking to take on a senior or specialised role.

I don’t have a degree and would like to join the police but cannot commit to a full time campus based degree course

Our distance learning BSc (Hons) Policing and Investigation degree is an ideal offering for those wishing to join through the Degree Holder Entry programme. Whereas in theory any undergraduate degree would suffice under the Degree Holder route, it is advantageous for applicants to a police force to demonstrate to the recruiting team that they have a proven aptitude and interest to study subjects within the arena of policing and investigation.

I think that policing has changed so much in recent years and new training reflects the complexities of the job. Having police officers with professional qualifications means the public will see highly skilled officers who have had rigorous training on the practical and theoretical elements of policing.

Dr John Fox, Senior Lecturer and BSc (Hons) Policing and Investigation (Distance Learning) Course Leader

I’m not a police officer, I’m not looking to join but I’d like to learn about policing. Is there a course for me? 

If you have a general interest in policing, you can apply for either our distance learning degree in Policing and Investigation or our degree in Professional Policing, depending on which mode of study you prefer. You don’t have to have any prior experience or qualifications - just a passion for the criminal justice system.

You’ll learn about areas critical to policing and investigation - criminal justice, the legal system and public protection. You can also learn about cybercrime, terrorism, forensic psychology and rehabilitation. 

And you can choose a final year project in an area that you’re interested in. Former students have focused on topics such as human trafficking, domestic abuse and county lines drug trafficking. 

Why has the entry route into policing changed? 

From January 2020, you need to have a Level 6 qualification in Professional Policing or Professional Policing Practice to be appointed as a police officer or you’ll need to work towards one as part of your probationary period. This is due to the Policing Education Qualifications Framework (PEQF), a new, professional framework for the training of police officers and staff.

The College of Policing - the professional body of the police service - has developed the three entry routes. 

The government’s commitment to recruit 20,000 extra police officers by 2023 is the biggest police recruitment drive in decades. It’s a really positive move for a stretched workforce and giving people a series of new entry routes will allow recruitment from a wide range of backgrounds. 

Being a police officer is a challenging, but immensely rewarding job. There are great opportunities within the force for personal and professional development, and career progression. 

This blog post was written by:

  • Dr John Fox is a Senior Lecturer in Police Studies. He is a former senior police detective and associate tutor at the College of Policing. His specialist areas include homicide investigation, child death investigation and surveillance. 
  • Dr Richard John is a lecturer in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. He is an expert in the safeguarding of adults and children, and has worked on a number of complex multi-agency investigations and projects.