Join the Police

Routes into policing

If you enjoy facing challenges, solving problems and would like to contribute to keeping your community safe whilst developing a wider range of skills, then policing could be for you.There are many different ways you can contribute to the police. The sections below provide an overview of the different entry routes into policing. To take your next step you could:

As part of the recent announcement by the Prime Minister of 20,000 new recruits over the next three years, forces have updated their websites to make it easier for you to see how to apply or express an interest in a position. As referred to above, recruitment is carried out directly by local forces so if you are keen to apply now, visit their websites for more information. If, however, you would like to understand the different routes into the service before you apply, we have included an overview below. Any questions or queries will need to be sent directly to the force(s) to which you would like to apply.

Entry routes for police constables

There are currently four main routes into the service if you wish to join as a new PC (wider routes for other roles are also outlined in the table following this section). Forces will offer the different routes at different times so it is worth checking with your chosen force as to which entry route(s) they have available.

  • Apprenticeship. Join as a constable, and follow an apprenticeship in professional policing practice - you will earn while you learn. This route normally takes three years with both on and off-the-job learning. On successfully finishing the programme, you complete your probation and achieve a degree.
  • Degree-holder entry. If you already have a degree in any subject, you can join and follow a work-based programme, supported by off-the-job learning.  This route normally takes two years, and the learning you have undergone is recognised in a graduate diploma in professional policing practice when you complete your probation.
  • Pre-join degree. If you want to study first, you can do a three year degree in professional policing at your own expense, and then apply to a force and follow a shorter on-the-job training programme. For this route, you will need to find a university to study with and apply directly to them.
  • 'Traditional' Initial Police Learning Development Programme (IPLDP). This is the original route into the service which is gradually being replaced with the three new entry routes above but is still offered by some forces. You apply directly to the force and then undertake a two year programme after which if you successfully complete probation, you become a confirmed Police Constable ready for duties.

If you have any questions around these entry routes into policing, be sure to refer to the Police Education Qualifications Framework learning to date report, which outlines the routes in greater detail. 

 More information

Routes into policing


If you have an interest in contributing to the work of your local Force but aren't able to or interested in taking a full time or paid post.

There are a number of volunteer roles available for those intetested in working within the Police Service in thier spare time.  Forces have different needs, or contact your local force for details of volunteering opportunities in your area or check the Citizens in Policing site.

Volunteer Police Cadets (VPC)  

Police cadets is a volunteer programme for young
people (aged between 13-18) where they will be taught basic knowledge in a variety of policing activity. This might include insight into how to deal with a variety of situations and the procedures used by the police. Cadets may also learn about the history of the police and will develop knowledge of modern day policing.

There are lots of Police cadet schemes around the UK.

Further information can be found here.

Special constables

Special constables are volunteer police officers. You will work alongside regular police officers and bring the skills and experiences from your day job to protect and support your local community

Information about becoming a special constable can be found here:
Special Constables

You can also look through volunteer opportunities

Police Officer Entry Level

If you're looking to become a Police Officer and work your way up the ranks or join a scheme to build specific skills.

Police Constable (PC)

PCs are front line officers who maintain law and order, protect members of the public and their property and prevent, detect and investigate crime.

Further information on becoming a police constable can be found here:

Police Constables

Police Now (and other graduate programmes)

Through a graduate programme you will learn key skills related to the police as well as wider leadership and life skills. The structure and focus of the programme will vary depending upon which you apply to.

Some forces offer graduate leadership development programmes. One example of this is Police Now (link below) but you can check individual force websites for information about any other local programmes.

Look for representatives from Police Now or your local Force at university career events.

Middle – Senior Level

If you've already gained a number of years of work experience outside of policing and believe your skills could be valuable within a policing context.

Direct Entry Inspector

A police inspector is at middle management level and responsible for supervising the ranks of constable and sergeant. Responsibilities of a police inspector include controlling, planning, organising and authorising the work of police officers and Police staff

The Direct Entry Inspector programme opens up the Police Service to people who can bring new perspectives and diverse backgrounds to support the continuous development of policing.

See also the Lead Beyond website

Direct Entry Superintendent

A police superintendent is at senior management level and responsible for the setting of strategy, standards and everyday operational policy across the Force. Key tasks might include managing and developing people, driving organisational performance and ensuring finance and other resources are used efficiently and effectively.

The Direct Entry Superintendent programme  is aimed at proven successful senior leaders from outside of policing.

See also the Lead Beyond website

Police Staff


Police Staff

There are no end of opportunities for people to join policing in a host of roles at all levels that support policing

Opportunities will vary from force to force. Please visit your local force website for further detail and to see what is available.
List of Police Force websites in the UK

Where can I find out more about the different roles within policing?

The College of Policing and Skills for Justice websites provide a good overview of the roles on offer across policing:
Additionally, you can visit individual force websites for information and for further details of roles available within your preferred area. List of Police Force websites in the UK.

If your application to become a Police Constable is successful you will then be put forward to attend the Police SEARCH Recruit Assessment Centre

If you are applying to one of the Direct Entry programmes, we recommend you take a good look through the website. You can also attend an event or open day to find out more about how to prepare for application and assessment – details of which can be found on the website.

What developmental opportunities will I have access to once I join?

Take a look through our professional development pages to find out more.