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Police officer

Maintain law and order, investigate crimes, make arrests, give evidence in court and work on projects to prevent crime.

Also known as: policewoman, policeman, police constable

About skillsGetting in

About the job


Source: National Careers Service



Entry level





Entry level





Entry level




people are currently employed

Low growth

900 fewer jobs in 5 years

These figures refer to this job and similar ones with comparable skills and qualifications. They only apply to Scotland. Source: Oxford Economics

A day in the life — police officer

What it's like

You would maintain law and order, investigate crimes, make arrests, give evidence in court and work on projects to prevent crime.

The work is very important in helping the members of your local community feel safe and secure.

You'd be employed by Police Scotland. You can see details of the training on the Police Scotland website.

After initial training you would work as a uniformed officer, either in a response or a community-based role, patrolling your area (or 'beat') on foot or in a patrol car. There would also be paperwork and other tasks to be completed in a police station. 

Depending on your role, you would:

  • Respond to calls for help from the public

  • Investigate crimes and make arrests

  • Interview witnesses and suspects, prepare crime reports and take statements

  • Search for missing people

  • Give evidence in court

  • Go out to accidents and fires

  • Carry out administrative tasks around custody

  • Work at the station reception desk dealing with the public

  • Contact officers on the beat from the communications room

  • Police large public events, concerts and demonstrations

  • Visit schools to give talks

You would need to complete a trial period as an officer. This is called probation and lasts two years.

After that you may be able to specialise in a specific branch such as the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), the drug squad or the traffic police. You'd need to complete a Diploma in Police Service, Leadership and Management to be eligible for promotion.

You’d need solid knowledge of the law and good literacy skills.


You would normally work 40 hours a week on a shift system, which may include nights, weekends and public holidays. Overtime is often available. You can also apply to work part-time.


You would spend much of your time outdoors on foot or in a patrol car. You would have some duties indoors, for example at the police station, the courts, or when attending incidents at private or business locations.


You would spend much of each day moving around the community. This could be by foot or in a patrol car.

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    Top skills

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    It's useful to learn which ones are important in a job so you know the areas you need to brush up on. It can also help you work out if you're suited to a career.

    Here are some of the skills you'll need to do this job:

    • making decisions
    • ethical
    • attention to detail
    • empathising
    • problem solving
    • verbal communication
    • mediating
    • cooperating
    • resilience

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    Getting in

    Explore the sections shown for more information about getting into this career.

    You might have qualifications which are not shown here but will allow you access to a course. You can compare your qualifications by looking at their SCQF Level. For more information about this, check out the SCQF website.

    Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.

    Colleges and universities will list subjects you'll need for entry to a course. Some useful subjects include:

    • Modern Studies

    • People and Society

    • PE (Physical education)

    • Skills for Work: Uniformed and Emergency Services

    There are no formal qualifications required to enter this role but if your application is accepted you will need to pass the Standard Entrance Test which consists of papers on:

    • Language

    • Numeracy

    • Information-handling

    You also need to pass a multi-stage fitness test (commonly known as the 'bleep test'). The bleep test is also carried out once more at the end of the recruitment process. 

    Practice papers for the Standard Entrance Test and pass marks for the fitness test are available on the Police Scotland website.

    If you are successful at the initial interview, you will be invited to an assessment centre for teamwork exercises and another interview. Interviews are competency-based, and the competencies are published on the Police Scotland website.

    Thorough background checks and a medical are also undertaken.

    If you're aged 13-17 and considering being a police officer you could become a Police Scotland Youth Volunteer (PSYV).  You'd attend community and national events across Scotland alongside adult volunteers and serving officers.

    Being a volunteer could help you understand how policing works in Scotland by participating in your local community.

    The programme is open to all young people aged 13-17. Find out more about being a PSYV and how to apply on the Police Scotland site.

    • To be at least 18 years old, but you can apply when you are 17½ years old

    • To be a British, European Union or Commonwealth citizen; or have permission to stay in the UK indefinitely and have lived in the UK for at least three years before your application

    • To be physically fit

    • To have good eyesight

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