Are you interested in studying policing but have questions about starting on the right path and the various careers it can lead to? Well fear not, Jennifer Schmidt-Petersen, Programme and Student Lead of our Policing Programmes is here to help.
By Cara Fielder. Published 6 March 2023. Updated 17 October 2023.
What is an average day like as a police constable?
I worked as a police constable on emergency response and safer neighbourhood teams in north London. In terms of what an average day looked like, there really isn’t such a thing for policing. Your posting and your position within policing will play a role and, for most new constables, their first posting is usually in emergency response or safer neighbourhoods. One of the things I personally really liked about emergency response was the variety of the job. In fact, a huge number of people who join the police stay in the role of constable and on emergency response for a very long time because they enjoy it so much. You will respond to calls from the public as well as other emergency services if they call for your assistance. You might get tasked with something that’s been handed over from the previous shift and you will be responding to and attending the calls that are coming in that day. For example, you could be called to deal with a neighbour dispute, domestic incident, theft, burglary, stabbing, or a whole range of other serious crimes. You might have to investigate a missing persons case, take a witness statement, or investigate a sudden death. As you can imagine, there are several practical and interpersonal skills involved in that and if you study policing with us at The University of Law you will be expertly prepared.
What careers can a degree in professional policing lead to?
While the BSc Hons in Professional Policing is aimed at students considering a career in policing, it is also of interest to people who want to know more about the police and who are looking for a different career in the criminal justice system or wider criminal justice sector. Our Degree in Professional Policing (DPP) is part of the new entry routes into policing, which means it can be your first step towards becoming a police constable. What you get with this degree is a rich blend of vocational and academic knowledge and the course includes virtual reality scenarios as well as the use of our crime scene suite and policing role plays. There are also assessments which focus on your report writing and research skills. You will get a really good in-depth understanding of policing but also related areas such as criminal law, criminology (see our BA (Hons) Criminology and Policing Degree too), sociology, psychology and investigation. That means the degree can be used to apply to the police and it can also serve as a foundation for master’s study in a related area. There are several careers in the criminal justice and wider justice and security sector, and an undergraduate degree is the first qualification you get that you can then build on to specialise. Some of the institutions and sectors that may also be of interest are the border force, national crime agency, intelligence and security sector, the NGO and charity sector, prison service, probation, working with young offenders, victim support, offender rehabilitation, the armed forces and HMRC investigations. There’s a wide range of possible employers out there, and many of them run graduate schemes. So, you can see how the Degree in Professional Policing provides you with a really good package if you know you are interested in criminal justice
Here are some of the roles and areas you can go on to:
- Police Constable
- Police Community Support Officer
- Scene of Crime Officer
- Prison Service Officer
- Detective Constable
- Probation Officer
- Prison Officer
- Youth Offender Officer
- Victim support charities/Offender rehabilitation charities
- Intelligence services
- Commercial/business fields.
This degree will also be of interest to those wanting to work in the following areas:
- - Specialist police support roles
- - Border Force
- - National Crime Agency
- - Intelligence & security sector
- - NGO & charity sector
- - UK Visas & Immigration
- - Prison Service
- - Probation Service
- - Working with young offenders
- - The Civil Service
- - Victim Support
- - HMRC Investigations
- - Offender rehabilitation
- - Armed forces (especially Royal Military Police)
Is it difficult to climb the ranks in the criminal justice system after completing a degree?
Several things determine how quickly you rise through the ranks. Interestingly though not everyone wants to progress through the ranks; as mentioned previously, it is not unheard of for people, who maybe thought they want to become a detective, to stay on emergency response because they enjoy that role so much. The Degree in Professional Policing (DPP) is part of the new entry routes into policing and choosing this route means you will have studied in-depth for two (accelerated DPP) or three years before you join the police. That means you will start with both, a range and depth of knowledge that, prior to the launch of this entry route, had not been seen before in policing. If you know that you want to join the police, we also recommend that you get some operational experience, for example by joining the Special Constabulary in the second year of your degree. This is optional, and you do not have to become a special constable to study or successfully complete the DPP but we highly recommend it to students who know they want to join the police and who want to work towards gaining independent patrol status (IPS). We think that working towards joining the Special Constabulary at the end of year one of your DPP is the perfect time because at that point you will have a good knowledge foundation when it comes to police powers. Gaining independent patrol status (IPS) before you join the police and graduating with a good DPP also means that you can make yourself a very attractive candidate to a recruiting police service in a very competitive market.
Within the police, climbing the ranks depends on what you want to do, and there may be different opportunities within different police services. If you have your heart set on a specific role, I always recommend checking the website of that particular police service. It’s also worth bearing in mind that sometimes it’s easier to get into some specialist units in the smaller forces. Also, the eligibility criteria for some forces might be different.
As a graduate of the Professional Policing degree, you will be in an excellent position to apply to one of the many forces accepting the degree as a key part of their recruitment process.
Our excellent Employability Service can also support you in passing the assessment centre process for special constable and constable. Due to our relationships with police forces, we will also be able to make you aware of some employment opportunities early on.
Obviously, I cannot predict the future, but my personal hypothesis is that in a few years, we will see more and more DPP graduates in the higher ranks due to the sheer amount of training and knowledge that they have been able to build in a sustainable way at University.
What topics does the BSC (Hons) in Professional Policing cover?
The BSC (Hons) in Professional Policing covers everything you need to know for an overall grounding in entry-level policing.
Topics included in the course are:
- Understanding the role of police constable
- Community policing
- Response policing and investigations
- Operational and evidence-based policing
- Introduction to criminology and key psychological concepts
- Roads policing
- Police Investigations
- Diversity and Inclusion
- Resilience and wellbeing in policing
During your studies, you’ll also have the opportunity to choose between some optional modules. This is so you can tailor your learning experience to what areas interest you the most and support your future career goals.
Optional modules include:
- Forensic and criminal psychology
- Youth crime
- Zemiology (social harms)
What is the relevance of having a degree in professional policing in the current climate?
Policing is undergoing a transformation and professionalisation. There has also been an acknowledgement that we need to use the resources more effectively and that this means that the individual officer needs to do more with less and needs to therefore be trained to a higher level. We also, finally, have an increased understanding that we have diverse and complex communities and that different groups may have different needs. That makes policing a very diverse and complex role. It is vital that we have a sophisticated and informed approach to the problems of the 21st century. When the idea of professional policing was taken up by Sir Robert Peel in 1822, we lived in a very different world. Nowadays we need different specialisms and informed discourses about issues such as terrorism, cybercrime, transnational organised crime and human trafficking. We need a competent, professional, and representative workforce and people who can make autonomous decisions in complex and, sometimes, very ambiguous situations, while being accountable to the public. That comes with challenges, changes and demands but it is also inherently rewarding. As a police officer, the overriding aim is always to preserve life. You also need to reduce and prevent crime and respond to calls from the public and you do all this in an increasingly complex and fast-evolving world.
What can I do now to make my personal statement and CV stand out in the future?
Think about the skills that a good police officer needs. You will build and develop those skills during the course, but if you already have any experience that you can link to those transferable skills, then that will be really useful and worth highlighting. For example, I speak to a lot of potential students who say they’ve worked in customer service, and that can provide some great transferable skills for policing. Anything where you can demonstrate community focus, effective communication skills, a sense of personal responsibility, resilience or integrity and of course anything that relates to problem-solving skills will be highly relevant to policing and can help you stand out. It will also be good for you to demonstrate that you can deal with people in highly emotional states in a calm and confident manner and that you have really good team working skills and good judgement when it comes to confidentiality. Think about the skills you already have and how they may be relevant to policing because it is highly likely that there will be skills you already possess that will be directly relevant to policing. Once you realise what you already have, you can build it into your application.
How does the BSc (Hons) in Professional Policing address current policing issues?
We want policing to be accessible for people from all backgrounds and demographics and we want our students to be part of the change and transformation that is happening in policing.
We believe that the new generation of police officers has a huge role to play when it comes to making policing more representative and bringing it into the 21st century
Therefore, our policing degree not only provides students with the relevant legal knowledge but also introduces them to key psychological concepts related to human behaviour and decision making.
This will allow students to understand and analyse psychological mechanisms that can lead to bias, stereotyping, discrimination and abuses of power. Students will be able to apply those skills to examine their own decision-making process which will enhance their reflective ability and facilitate a professional approach.
You will learn in a safe and supported environment and you will be provided with a blend of learning activities and practical tasks. What is more, you will be supported by tutors who understand the needs of learners, who are experts in the areas they teach and who have relevant practical experience.
If you have questions about studying policing, sign up for our next Explore Policing event on Wednesday 8 March 2023.