When it comes to deciding whether you want to be a police officer or a soldier you may find yourself making a pros and cons list of which career best suits you. While both careers are amazing and bring a great deal of respect, it is still important that you evaluate each field to see which one is a better fit for you and your family.
Both jobs are difficult and come down to what your preference and lifestyle are. A soldier will be much more limited in what they do, and a police officer has a bit more freedom to do as they wish but their hours are more hectic.
So if you are on the fence about which career best fits your needs there’s no need to worry. This article will carefully weigh out each field to see which one is going to be a better fit for you.
Doing Your Research
One of the most important things you can do when determining what career you want is to do your research before you start your application process. The last thing you ever want is to be in the middle of the hiring process and midway you decide that this is not the career for you, or even worse you’re two years on the job and you hate it.
When you do your research the best thing for you to do is take a look at what people have to say about being a soldier or cop, you can even ask close friends who also happen to be soldiers or cop what their experience may be. By asking these things you’ll get personal accounts and honest answers of what their experience is like, however it is important to note that their experience may not be like yours so keep an open mind.
Another great thing you can do is read up on articles, and check out different forums online, and even watch Youtube videos of what it’s like to be a soldier. You’re already off to a good start by reading this article!
Becoming a Police Officer
Understanding the requirements of becoming a police officer will give you a leg up in the process because it will mentally prepare you for the long process that awaits you. The wait time for becoming a police officer can range from 6 months to 3 years depending on which department you are considering joining. Here are just a few basic requirements.
College Credits or Military Service: One of the basic requirements for becoming a police officer in some states is having at least 60 college credits. If you have no college education but instead have military service then you can sign up to become a police officer if you have served at least two years on active duty.
- Take the Exam: Another important step in the entire hiring process is that you’ll need to take and pass the entrance exam. These exams however are not always available, and in some departments, they are only administered once every few months. Therefore take the time to look up when the next exam is, and if it is far out then take that time to study so that you can pass the exam on the first try.
- Pass the Evaluations: When you apply to become a police officer, you will need to pass a series of evaluations to make sure that you are both physically and mentally prepared to become a police officer. Some of these evaluations will include a fitness test, a psychological evaluation, and also a medical screening. Another important evaluation is the extensive background check that the investigators conduct, this is to check for any criminal history not only for yourself but other members of your family. In some departments, if you fail one of the evaluations you may have the opportunity of being able to retake it, however in more competitive departments you may be rejected.
- Graduate the Academy: The final step is graduating from the academy which in some departments takes about 6 months. While you are in the academy you will be learning everything there is to know about being a police officer, such as shooting practice, various penal codes, basic defense training, and other tactics that will be useful on the job. Once you have completed the academy you can officially call yourself a police officer, and you will be given your patrol details.
As you can see becoming a police officer is quite the process, and can be both times consuming and mentally draining. During the hiring process some people may drop out because of the hassle, but this is a great tactic that is used to fish out the best candidates for the job. So if you are considering becoming a police officer, feel free to look up the requirements for your department and start preparing yourself ahead of time.
Becoming a Soldier
If you plan on becoming a soldier then you have several options to choose from, you can either enlist in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, or Coast Guard. While some branches are more competitive than others the entry requirements are almost the same except for the ASVAB scores. Here is what you need to become a Soldier.
- Meet The Minimum Requirements: To become a soldier you need to be at least 18 years of age but no older than 32 years old and have a High School Diploma or equivalent. Also, you will need proof of U.S. Citizenship or permanent residency.
- Pass The ASVAB Exam: The ASVAB exam is always taken at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). The ASVAB tests applicants in ten different areas including:
- General Science: This portion of the exam will test you on your knowledge of sciences such as physical and biological science.
Arithmetic Reasoning: For this portion of the test you will be tested on your mathematical word problem-solving.
- Word Knowledge: This section of the exam will test you on your vocabulary skills and ability to use word context.
- Paragraph Comprehension: This section will test your reading skills and your ability to take information from the paragraphs provided, and apply it properly.
- Mathematics Knowledge: This will consist of High School level math problems.
- Electronics Information: Your knowledge of electricity and electronics will be tested in this section.
- Auto Information: Automobile technology knowledge will be tested in this section.
- Shop Information: Knowledge of tools and shop terms will be tested in this section of the exam.
- Mechanical Comprehension: Principles of mechanics will be put to the test.
Assembling Objects: Your ability to determine the assembly of an object will be tested in this section.
- Medical Screening: In most cases when you take the exam at MEPS you will be sent to conduct your physical exam that same day. The physical exam will test your medical capabilities such as hearing, sight, and weight. You will be asked to do small exercises to test your flexibility, strength, and stamina. If you are a female recruit you will be asked to do a pregnancy test.
- Choose Your Job: If your evaluations go well you will be able to choose your military job. The job you qualify for will depend on your scores from your exams.
- Finalize Your Enlistment: You will meet with a member of the military and read over your military contract and job duties, once you have read everything you will sign the contract and take your oath. After the oath, you will officially call yourself a recruit and prepare yourself for basic training.
- Graduate Basic Training: You will spend three months in basic training, completely isolated from technology, mentally and physically preparing yourself for the military. Basic training is used to test and weed out the weakest candidates, many tactics that are used in basic training are used to make recruits mentally stronger. At the end of your basic training, you will be sent to your base where your career in the military will officially begin.
Becoming a soldier is a quick and easy process if you can pass all of your evaluations as well as the ASVAB then you will have the opportunity to enlist that same day, and schedule your basic training departure.
Choosing between being a cop or a firefighter? Let us help you HERE!
So Which is Harder?
You may still be wondering to yourself which career is harder, and which one will bring you long term benefits. The truth is it all depends, it depends on what type of lifestyle you see yourself living in the next few years, whether or not you have a family, and most importantly financial stability which is always the main concern. So to make your decision a little less complicated here are some pros and cons for each job.
- You’ll have a competitive salary. Depending on which police department you work for you’ll have a pretty good base salary with many ranging at about $40,000 a year, this does not include the numerous amount of overtime pay that you are likely to work.
- You can get promoted in your first few years. The great thing about being a police officer is that you can be promoted within a few years, if you meet the requirements to take a sergeant’s exam, and you pass it then you will be promoted. This is a great way to move up and make the most out of your career.
- You can retire by the age of 45. Once you have 20 years on the job then you’ll be eligible for retirement, so if you go into the job in your early 20s then by the time you reach your 40s you can begin planning for retirement.
- It’s a thankless job. As much as people respect police officers, the truth is that during this time there is a hostile climate between police and civilians. This can lead to officers questioning if the job is worth it when there is so much tension.
- The job can be dangerous. While most officers have a full career without any conflict there are still some that experience unfortunate events, and unfortunately in some cases end fatally. Remember police officers are first responders and they are the first to be called when a dangerous situation arises.
- Prepare to feel stressed, and have no free time. With the constant over time and constant stress that comes with the job, officers will find themselves feeling more stressed. They will also find themselves being home much less since they are always at work.
- You’ll be able to go to college for free. Thanks to the GI Bill military members will be eligible to go to college for free.
- The discounts will be endless. Many places such as chain stores and even airlines offer discounted rates for members of the military.
- The ability to travel. As an active service member, you may find yourself traveling more especially overseas since there are many military bases all around the world.
- If you don’t like it then you can’t quit. Unfortunately, if you want to quit the military you won’t be able to do it until your contract is up.
- Rank is taken seriously. Do not even think about talking back to someone of higher rank than you otherwise you will be facing serious disciplinary action.
- You’ll need to ask permission for everything. If you want to consider getting married while in the military you’ll need to ask permission. If you want a vacation then ask permission, once you are under contract with the military then you can kiss adulthood goodbye.
As you can see the pros and cons between both careers will vary, and it’s a matter of lifestyle and what your current circumstances are.
Let’s face it both jobs are difficult to have, and it all comes down to a matter of preference, and how far you want to go in your career. The great thing is that they both coincide with one another and if you do ever decide to become a soldier you can easily transition into becoming a police officer. At the end of the day, both jobs are honorable, respected, and handled with the utmost dignity.
Which job has tougher evaluations during the hiring process?
Police officers are vetted much more rigorously and undergo multiple investigations during the hiring process. These evaluations determine the applicant’s readiness to become a police officer.
Are soldiers always in combat zones?
No, unless there’s full-blown war, the chances of you being seen in a combat zone are minimal, and will likely result in you spending a lot of time on a base.
To learn how to best prepare and study for your police exam click here.
To learn more on how to pass the ASVAB exam click here!
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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun and I’m so grateful that you’re here.
Civil servants are some of the hardest working, most generous people I know. I have been passionate about all types of civil service career paths for years now and enjoy sharing everything I continue to learn about them.
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