Are You Too Old to Become a Police Officer?

You're only as old as you feel

Older male police officer standing by patrol car
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You might be surprised by the answers you get if you ask different law enforcement officers about their backgrounds and what they did before they became police officers. Different people with different backgrounds join the force, and you'll learn that they found their way to this profession at different stages of life...some of them later than others.

Not all police departments have maximum age requirements.

It Takes All Kinds

Cops encounter people from all walks of life, of varying economic statuses, race, social standing, and experience. It only makes senses that the makeup of a police force should reflect the community they protect, at least to some degree.

There's no single type of person who makes the perfect police officer. Instead, it takes all kinds of people working together on a police force to offer different ideas and perspectives and to find the best ways to serve their communities. A typical police force includes officers from different backgrounds and age groups.

Age Might Be Just a Number

Your age at the time of application is far less important for a majority of departments than whether you can physically perform the job. You're ahead of the game regardless of your age if you're in good shape and can demonstrate that you can handle the physical rigors that a police officer is likely to encounter on the job.

Check with departments you'd like to work for to make sure there aren't any age restrictions. Some, such as the New York State Police (NYSP) and the federal government do have maximum age limits. But you can likely find a department near you that will hire you at any age if you meet the other qualifications because there are so many law enforcement agencies within the U.S.

How Old Is Too Old to Become a Cop?

You must be under 30 years old at the time you apply to the NYSP, and under 36 years old at the time you're appointed. The NYSP allows an additional six years for military veterans, both for the application age and the appointment age, so it's possible for you to be as old as 42 when you're hired.

Most federal law enforcement agencies have a maximum age of 37 at appointment, but they, too, waive the age limit for qualified military veterans and members already working within the federal system.

Experience Is Valued

There's a lot to be said for life experience, and younger officers often have little. The minimum age to be certified is 19, 20, or 21 in most states, and many of these new police officers don't have an accurate awareness of the difficulties that many members of their communities are facing daily.

With age comes experience, and the experience is often very helpful in your daily interactions on the job.

Other Considerations

Becoming a police officer invariably involves attending the police academy, and you don't get paid for your attendance. You'll want to make sure that you're in a financial position to devote months of your life to effectively going back to school, especially if you're of an age where you have a family who depends on your income.

You'll be starting at the bottom of the seniority ladder. This can be a little tough on the ego, especially if you're top dog at your current job and if your new supervisor is 10 to 15 years younger than you are.

You won't have time to put together a significant pension if the agency you choose to work for has a mandatory retirement age, so having other retirement savings in place can be important.

It's Not Too Late to Live Your Dream

There's probably a good chance that you can enjoy a second career as a police officer if you can pass a physical abilities test or a fitness evaluation, and if your background and work history are suitable for a law enforcement job. Now is the time for you to complete that application and take the first step toward a rewarding second career if you've always wanted to work in law enforcement.