Choosing a new career (especially when you’re new to the country), can be an overwhelming process. Opportunities are endless in a country like Canada. It’s not easy figuring out which direction to take in the first place.
Canadian Business helps you narrow down your options with a list of “The Top 25 Jobs in Canada”. And we’re here to help you break down #14 on that list: police officer.
Being a police officer comes with great responsibility, authority, and trust. Therefore strict standards are upheld in the selection process to ensure only the right candidates are hired. This process typically includes:
- A written exam
- Physical exams
- A psychological exam
- Medical exams
- A polygraph exam
- A background investigation
The good news: Canadian Business reports the projected demand for police officers in 2022, according to the Employment and Social Development Canada, to be one of “balanced opportunity”. In other words, there will likely be just as many jobs available as there are job seekers.
If you’re interested in becoming a police officer, this article will help you map out your career path.
- Minimum Requirements
- Potential Disqualifiers
- Myths About Police Career Requirements
- Application Process
- How Long Does It Take To Become A Police Officer?
- Canadian Police Officer Salary & Benefits
- From Security Guard To Police Officer
Minimum Requirements For Police Officer Applicants
Prior to the application process, potential candidates need to meet the minimum requirements. The following list of application requirements applies to most police agencies in Canada:
- Be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada.
- Be proficient in the English and/or French languages
- Have a Canadian high school diploma or equivalent
- Be in good health
- Meet the vision standards
- Meet the hearing standards
- Meet the necessary level of physical abilities
- Have good character
- Have no criminal convictions and no criminal charges pending
In addition to the above list, each police force adds its own list of requirements.
Those applying for the RCMP need to meet the following additional requirements:
- Permanent resident applicants need to have resided in Canada for the last 10 years.
- Be at least 19 years old
- Possess a valid, unrestricted driver's licence
- Be able to spend 26 weeks at the RCMP Academy in Regina, Saskatchewan
- Be willing to relocate anywhere within Canada
- Not have any tattoos that “depict or incite hate, harassment, or discrimination against individuals on the basis of the grounds listed in Canadian Human Rights Act, section 3.”
- Not wear any personal effects on the body that may interfere with the personal protective equipment.
The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) asks that their applicants meet the following additional requirements:
- Have a valid BC Class 5 driver’s licence without any restrictions
- Have a good driving record
- Have a valid current standard first aid / CPR “C” certification
- Have an additional 30 academic post-secondary credits, at minimum
The VPD also mentions that they prefer candidates who:
- Have a degree or diploma in any field of study
- Are proficient in a second language
- Have volunteer experience in the community
The Calgary Police Service asks that their applicants meet the following additional requirements:
- If you’re not a Canadian citizen, have either landed immigrant status or permanent resident status (while having lived in Canada or the United States for three years).
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have a Class 5 Driver’s license with a maximum of five demerit points
- Have been discharged from a bankruptcy for at least a year
- Have current certification in standard first aid and CPR
The Toronto Police Service has the following additional requirements:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have a valid driver’s licence with full driving privileges and a maximum of six demerit points.
- Have current certification in CPR and first aid
To further increase your chances of qualifying, read on to see our list of potential disqualifiers that could stand in the way of your policing career.
Potential Disqualifiers for A Policing Career in Canada
When preparing yourself for a policing career, you need to be aware of what will disqualify you from the police application process. As far as the written, physical, and medical exams, the requirements are fairly consistent across all agencies.
Language Disqualifier: You need to be fluent in either English or French including being able to speak, read, and understand one of these languages.
Physical Disqualifier: You cannot be in poor physical condition. Failure to successfully complete the physical examination in the minimum time frame is an automatic disqualification.
Test particulars can vary from one police agency to the next. However, all tests simulate critical incidents that police officers are exposed to. For example. the Physical Abilities Requirement Evaluation (PARE), used by the RCMP, consists of three sections:
- Running 6 laps around a 350-meter obstacle course where you are required to climb stairs and jump over hurdles
- Pushing and pulling a 70lb weight
- Carrying 80lbs over a 15-meter distance.
Psychological Disqualifiers: A candidate can be disqualified if they do not meet the minimum psychological examination requirements.
Work Environment Disqualifiers: Police departments require you to work shift work which includes nights, evenings, weekends, and holidays as policing takes place 24 hours per day. If you are unwilling to accommodate this type of work schedule, you will be disqualified from the process.
Medical Disqualifiers: If a medical examination shows the presence of a condition, treatment, limitation, or disease (such as colour blindness), this will interfere with the applicants ability to perform the job functions of a police officer. It will also increase risk to the applicants health or safety, or even expose the public or coworkers to risk. Therefore, the applicant will be disqualified.
What Do Police Look For in a Background Check?
The background exam is a very thorough investigation of the applicant’s past. It is common for the hiring parties to speak to colleagues, family members, neighbours, landlords, as well as present and past employers. This helps to determine whether you have a track record of high ethical standards in all areas of your life. You will be required to provide your criminal record, driving record, credit history, and history of alcohol and drug use. Additionally, you will need to pass a polygraph exam that shows whether you have been dishonest or deceitful in answering any of the questions throughout the application process.
When applying to police agencies, you will be disqualified if*:
- You have matters pending at a criminal court
- You participated in any indictable offenses. These offenses are the most serious of criminal activities, which include murder, sexual assault, and terrorist activities.
- You have a criminal conviction that has not been pardone.
- You participated in less serious criminal behaviour or activity within one year of applying. These activities are referred to as “summary conviction offenses” under the Criminal Code. They include illicit drug use, theft, and impaired driving.
- You have been dishonourably discharged or dismissed from any other law enforcement organization
- You have a pending or current personal bankruptcy
*Make sure you check with the requirements of law enforcement agency that you wish to apply to, so you can ensure there has not been any changes in policies.
While the list of disqualifiers is long for the policing profession, there are also a few untruths about things that are not actually considered in the selection process.
7 Myths About Police Career Requirements
Policing standards are high, but some people are under the impression it is not a viable career path for themselves based on a few common misconceptions. People often believe they will not be considered due to the following myths:
Myth #1: “I need to be fluent in French”.
French and English are both Canada’s national languages. You simply need to be fluent in one or the other.
Myth #2: “I’m not tall enough”.
In some countries, police candidates have to be a certain height in order to be considered. However, in Canada, height doesn’t matter as long as it does not impede performance on your physical exam.
Myth #3: “I need to have an athletic build”.
Applicants do not need to have any particular body type. All shapes and sizes are hired. Passing the physical exam is what is required of you.
Myth #4: “I’m too old”.
There is no maximum age to becoming a police officer. The minimum age is 18 or 19 years old depending on the province and policing agency.
Myth #5: “I need to have a degree in Criminology”.
While it works in your favour, the education requirements are the successful completion of high school and, in some cases, a minimum of 30 credits at a post-secondary institution .
Myth #6: “I need to be a Canadian citizen”.
You can qualify if you are a Permanent Resident of Canada.
Myth #7: “I don’t qualify because I did drugs in my youth”.
Most police agencies allow for some youth experimentation. Experimentation is evaluated on an individual basis and does not necessarily mean you will be disqualified. What will lead to disqualification, however, is denying that you ever had a past with drugs.
The Application Process For Police Officer Candidates
It isn’t easy becoming a police officer. Potential candidates need to go through a stringent application process designed to weed out those who don’t have what it takes to become outstanding police officers.
Police officers help maintain peace and order and ensure that members of the community stay safe. This job comes with immense responsibility. The application process itself is not for everyone.
Canadian police agencies generally follow the same process which involves a series of tests, checks and interviews, including:
- A written exam
- Physical exams
- A psychological exam
- Medical exams
- A polygraph exam
- A background investigation
Some of these tests require detailed paperwork but minimal preparation. For some tests, like the physical tests, you would be best prepared if you did a fitness training program, prior to, depending on your fitness level. Other tests, like the polygraph exam, require no preparation at all.
Applicants can be declined at any point in the stages listed above and even if a candidate passes every stage, an offer of employment is not guaranteed.
Once you have completed all assessments, your entire application package is reviewed and measured against other applicants to determine the most suitable candidates for the role as a police officer.
If you are recruited, you can expect a conditional offer of employment that allows you to advance to the final step before you become a police officer: cadet training.
The training programs are strenuous, both physically and mentally. It’s a good idea to start preparing for police academy training as far in advance as possible.
These programs are meant to prepare you to begin your career in policing by providing you with the necessary skills and tools that you need on the job. Trainees need to meet a set standard to graduate from training and complete this final step in the process.
How Long Does It Take To Become A Police Officer?
The process of becoming a police officer requires a significant investment of your time. The duration varies and depends on how quickly and accurately an individual completes the forms and assessments. This also depends on the police agency you apply at.
The CPS states that their process takes between 3-6 months to complete. The RCMP doesn’t provide a set duration for the entire process; their cadet training takes 26 weeks. At the VPD, the recruit training alone takes up to 44 weeks in total.
Generally, you can expect to set aside 6 months for your application process. We recommend that you contact the police agency that you’re interested in to find out how long their process takes from start to finish.
Canadian Police Officer Salary & Benefits
Assessing wages is an essential step in determining whether a career is the right fit for you and your family. If you’re wondering how much a police officer makes in Canada, the median salary in Canada for a police officer was $87,859 in 2019 with a 17% projected 5-year wage growth.
Federal Police Force Salary & Benefits
If you’re interested in the federal police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) offers new hires $53,144/year with an incremental increase to $86,110 within 3 years of employment. Benefits include paid vacation days, an RCMP pension plan, medical, dental and family health plans and group life insurance. The RCMP also offers generous maternity and parental allowances as well as financial support for continuing education and professional development opportunities.
Municipal Police Force Salaries & Benefits
In comparison to the federal police force, the municipal police agencies offer slightly higher salaries.
The Calgary Police Service (CPS) offers a starting salary of approximately $66,000/year.
The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) offers new hires $70,154/year with an incremental increase to $90,198 after 3 years. Benefits include paid vacation, medical and dental benefits and a BC Municipal Pension Plan membership.
The Toronto Police Service (TPS) has a starting salary of $63,564.98 for their cadets. After year 3, police officers receive an annual salary of $90,836. Benefits include paid vacation, family medical and dental benefits, life insurance, pension plan, parental/maternity leave and more.
Considering that the median income for individual Canadians was $36,400 in 2018, according to Statistics Canada, the starting salary for a Canadian police officer is an attractive one.
When deciding between the federal or municipal level, keep in mind that while the RCMP might have a lower salary, the role involves police duties at the international, federal, provincial and municipal levels with a much wider variety in operational and administrative opportunities.
Some specializations that are unique to the RCMP are: Integrated Border Enforcement Team, National Security, Marine Services, International Peace Operations and many, many more.
This decision should be based on your personal career goals and values. If career growth, variety and adventure are of high value to you, you might want to consider joining the RCMP despite the lower salary.
From Security Guard To Police Officer
While there are a fair number of employment opportunities, as you have seen in the information presented in this article, policy agencies hire only the most suitable candidates. So you need to do what you can to ensure that your application stands out from the rest.
Police agency recruiters advise applicants to significantly improve their chances of being selected through:
- Private Security Jobs: Security jobs provide a work experience that prepares you for your role as a police officer. The skills you learn, the duties involved, the situations you encounter as well as the opportunities to work alongside law enforcement officers, all provide well-rounded preparation for your future role as a police officer.
- Awards: Awards that recognize your ability to be a top performer (ie. scholarships, employee awards...etc.) are a strong indicator of work ethic.
- Volunteer Experience & Community Involvement: Contributing your time to an organization that does meaningful work demonstrates good character. Be an active member of your community to show that participating and serving your community is important to you.
- Training & Education: While a degree in criminology would help, you don’t necessarily need post-secondary education. Relevant training and education can include training that you receive on the job as a security officer. And unlike the time and financial investment involved in post-secondary education, you can get paid while you learn with a job as a security guard.
Across Canada, over 20% of former Paladin Security Officers move on to pursue careers with local law enforcement and police agencies. Their job at Paladin Security equipped them to stand out from the applicant pool and land their dream jobs thanks to Paladin’s opportunities for performance-based awards, relevant training and work experience.
If you are thinking about a career change, we invite you to consider applying at Paladin Security—Canada’s Employer of Choice.