While you may be ready and raring to go, embarking on a career in law enforcement means having a clean background, being in good shape, as well as undertaking some training and schooling. There are many law enforcement agencies across the United States who are finding it difficult to recruit and retain good officers, however, there are still tons of people who see the advantages of becoming a police officer. If you have decided that this is the right career for you, then consider these five crucial things you need to know before getting started on the career path as a police officer.

Sort Things Out

Before you apply for a career in law enforcement, it’s important that you meet the basic and minimal requirements expected. Law enforcement agencies won’t accept you if you are not a citizen of the United States. Also, it’s beneficial to have a clean driving license in place. While there are some departments who will accept candidates as young as 18, there are others that won’t accept you until you’ve reached your 21st birthday.

Be Ready for Background Checks

Before applying to become a police officer, you will need to evaluate your past associations and behaviors. The last thing you want is for any skeletons in your closet to come out and hinder your chances of being hired. Background checks are mandatory for all police officers, and they’re known to be thorough and grueling, so as long as you have nothing to hide and you’re willing to comply, you should pass with flying colors.

Get Physically Fit

As a police officer, your main role will be to patrol the streets and keep citizens safe, so if you’re not in the best of health, this could ruin your chances of being hired. It’s important that you look after both your physical and mental health. As police departments will test your physical abilities, the best way to prepare is to incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine. If you aren’t sure where to begin, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor, who will advise you on how to get into shape. You may also benefit from signing up to your local gym and enlisting the help of a personal trainer.

Consider Life Insurance

Going into law enforcement isn’t for the faint-hearted. With your life on the line every day, it’s important that you keep your loved ones financially stable and secure should something happen to you, therefore, taking out life insurance can put your mind at ease. You can get additional life insurance for police officers, which will mean your family is taken care of should you become fatally injured when at work.

It’s not About the Money

Many people go into a career in law enforcement to help their community and fight crime, rather than thinking about how much money they’ll make. While the average salary of a police officer is decent, the higher you rise in your career the more money you can make.

Different Shift Patterns

For those who feel more comfortable in a Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 role, embarking on a career in law enforcement may not be the right option for you. Many police officers are expected to work all sorts of hours, whether it be night shifts, weekends or throughout the holidays. If you can handle different shift patterns, becoming a police officer may work best for you.

While a career in law enforcement can bring tons of benefits, there are some drawbacks that you need to be aware of. It’s best to go into the application process with your eyes open, rather than falling at the first hurdle, therefore, being aware of background checks and being in good health are what will go in your favor when it comes to becoming a police officer.