Police Officer Age Limit – Am I Too Old to be a Cop?

Many people think you need to be fresh out of school to get hired as a police officer, but this isn’t the case. If you’re considering a second career as an officer than you might just be in luck. 

If you chat with police officers about their employment history, chances are the majority didn’t start out in law enforcement. You will find that many officers come from backgrounds in other industries and in various professions. All types of people take up careers in law enforcement and they do so at varying ages. The stereotype that’s been created is not always true, so you are likely to still be able to take up your dream career in law enforcement. 

While some law enforcement sectors do have certain rules around your age, many will accept applications from you even if you’re older. 

No Two Officers Are Alike

There is no “one size fits all” description for what a cop should look or be like. As officers deal with so many different types of people it only makes sense that the force should also be made up of different types of people. Each police force should, in some way, mirror the people they are assigned to keep safe. Communities of different races, social and financial standings etc. should be handled by appropriate and experienced types of officers. 

One cop cannot do it all alone. Communities are best served by a police force that can function together as a team with each officer bringing something unique to the table. This creates a well-rounded force that can protect their jurisdiction most effectively. Including many officers of different ages and experiences will benefit the police force as a whole. 

Age Has Less Relevance Than You Think

When you apply to be part of the police force, most departments will look at other factors first, before your age. How physically capable you are is much more important as they want to make sure you can adequately perform the tasks required. If you have good fitness and can prove that you’re capable of physically exerting yourself than age will likely be overlooked. Part of being in law enforcement means you need to be in great shape so you can keep up with anything that gets thrown at you while on duty. 

Firstly, it’s a good idea to have a look at the areas/jurisdictions you’d like to be employed in. Do a bit of research to ensure they don’t have a maximum age limit prior to making an application. A few of the larger police forces, like the NYSP (New York State Police) have some restrictions on age and so does the federal government. But the US has a ton of police forces across the country and you will definitely be able to locate one near you that will employ officers regardless of age. As long as you fit the rest of the specifications than you shouldn’t have too many issues getting accepted. 

What is the Maximum Age You Can Become an Officer?

As a guideline, we will use the requirements of the New York State Police to give you a rough idea of age specifications. For them specifically, you have to be less than 30 when you submit your application. Once submitted, you must be less than 36 when you are officially appointed. The make exceptions for those who have served in the military, allowing an extra 6 years to apply. For military vets, they may be up to 42 years old when they actually become a cop.

Federal government police have similar requirements. They allow you to be appointed up to the age of 37. Just like the NYSP, they give exceptions to any military vets and also special arrangements for anyone already employed by the federal government.

That all being said, this does not apply everywhere. In fact, you are quite likely to find a police force that is not so strict to these guidelines. 

The Power of Life Experience 

Within any industry, general life experience is worth a lot. Young cops starting out come with little to no life experience and let’s be realistic, you definitely benefit from it when working in law enforcement. Throughout the majority of the US you must be between 19 and 21 to become certified as a police officer. At this age, most rookies are unaware of the problems happening in the area on a daily basis, let alone know how to deal with them. 

With age comes life experience. This will hugely benefit you in your role as an officer and law enforcement agencies know this. 

Things to Consider

Before applying to be a police officer and taking a step towards your new career there are a few factors to consider. 

In order to be employed as an officer you must first train at the police academy. This training in some states are unpaid and will take months to complete. It’s important to make sure you will be financially secure during your time at the academy as you will be unable to work during this time.

It’s even more important if you are supporting a family and they rely on you to pay the bills. Essentially, it’s like returning to college or university again. 

Something else to remember is that once you’re fully employed as an officer you will be a rookie and have no seniority, regardless of age. It can be hard to deal with as your seniors will likely be younger than you. You may not be used to taking orders from someone else, especially someone younger, but if you can swallow your pride than you will get on just fine. 

One last consideration is that because your will be starting at a later age, you may not work in the position long enough to build up a solid pension. Many agencies have forced retirement at a certain age so it’s a good idea to plan ahead for your retirement with additional savings. 

You Can Do It

If you’ve been contemplating switching careers and getting into law enforcement than there’s no time like the present. Regardless of age, if you’re passionate about it, have a good employment history and are physically fit than you’re likely to be able to pursue this career.