What careers can a degree in policing lead to?

Discover more about starting a career in policing

A degree in professional policing is hands-on and practical, but there’s plenty of academic rigour to get your teeth into. You will learn how to protect the most vulnerable people in our communities and gain an understanding of the root causes of crime. You will also study the psychology behind counter terrorism and the technology and effects of cybercrime. 

While many graduates are likely to find themselves working in the police force at some point, with such a broad overview of modern policing and crime, that is by no means your only option. Subjects like sociology, criminology and psychology are all interwoven into a policing degree, and students are able to pick and choose modules to tailor their experiences. 

Jennifer Schmidt-Petersen, the programme and student lead for policing programmes at The University of Law, told us more about the university's professional policing degree

“Policing can be hugely rewarding, but it can also be stressful,” she says. “The great thing with doing a policing degree is that you don’t have to balance being an operational officer with being a student. You can learn the skills to deal with specific situations without any danger. If I had to join again, that’s definitely the route I would choose.” 

There are currently three main routes into the police force – you could do a police constable degree apprenticeship, which would see you gain a degree while you work. If you already have an undergraduate degree in any subject, you could join under the degree-holder entry programme and undertake specific training on the job. Or you could opt for a degree in professional policing, which is what The University of Law offers, and enter as a probationary constable.  

“All three entry routes lead to the same outcome - an officer who is educated to a degree level,” says Jennifer.  

Police officers have to make split-second decisions in some fairly dicey situations. Among a variety of methods, students at The University of Law can prepare for those moments using virtual reality. Learning how to break up a fight or calm down a violent situation is far easier if the element of personal danger is gone. 

Jennifer, who previously served as a constable in the Metropolitan Police in north London, adds, “We want to put the students in a stressful situation with a genuine sense of realism to help them learn how to manage that situation safely. Virtual reality is great for that.” 

Police sign

The professional policing degree is offered at three of The University of Law's campuses - Birmingham, Leeds and London Bloomsbury. All have space available for role-play scenarios, such as processing a crime scene, and at the London campus there is a crime scene suite to teach students skills such as how to collect evidence and carry out forensic testing. 

From their second year, students are also encouraged to get out on the beat as Special Constables, and are guided through their applications and interview process. “We believe all of this helps students to get a full understanding of the role, and when it comes to graduating and getting a job, they will be really eligible candidates,” adds Jennifer. 

Alongside this more vocational police training, students can opt to study specialist modules covering subjects like human trafficking, female genital mutilation, and youth crime. Students can also take advantage of other The University of Law courses and choose a module from a different but complementary degree course, such as criminology. 

Jennifer adds: “We also look at the social and cultural background of crime, and learn about forensic and criminal psychology. This gives our students a really broad learning experience that could take their careers many ways.” 

So other than policing, what careers might graduates find themselves in? 

Jennifer suggests the National Crime Agency, the intelligence and security sector, or perhaps a role within an NGO or charity. The prison and probation services are also a potential stream of work, as well as specialist roles in victim support of offender rehabilitation.  

“There’s the academic route too,” says Jennifer, “You could go into a master’s degree in sociology or law, for example.” She adds: “A lot of our students want to apply to join the police, but they also know that should they change their mind about the job that they want to do in the future, the degree provides a safety net as it opens the door to a number of career opportunities.” 

After graduating, students have five years in which they can use their degree to enter the police force. This takes into account the varying recruitment cycles of different forces. The University of Law has a dedicated employability service where students can get help filling in application forms and preparing for interviews.  

“Whatever career path they chose, we can guide our students through the necessary processes,” adds Jennifer. “We want them to feel confident in their knowledge and ready to make a positive difference”.

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