Campus Police – A True Profession (Part 2)

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In our last post, we talked about how the security and safety on university and college campuses has evolved into a true law enforcement profession.

Today we’ll share some of the common qualifications and training required to become a campus law enforcement officer, and the potential for worthy career advancement.


Basic qualifications vary by state and employer, but some general requirements for becoming a campus police officer include:

  • High School or GED Diploma
  • Minimum Age Requirement
  • In some cases: Two or more years of relevant college/university education is preferred or required (or a combination of education and relevant experience.)
  • A valid driver’s license.
  • Completion of police academy training. Note that employers may hire individuals before they have completed the training and arrange for or require that recruits complete the training (at the same academy attended by municipal, county and state law enforcement trainees).
  • Licensing/Certification through the appropriate state body, such as the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) or Law Enforcement Standards Commission.
  • Criminal Background Check, Psychological Evaluation, Physical Test…

Regarding previous work experience and post secondary education, author Susan Echaore-McDavid (in her book Career Opportunities in Law Enforcement, Security and Protective Services) stated: “Many employers prefer to hire individuals with previous law enforcement or security experience. Experience in an educational setting is desirable. Many employers allow candidates to substitute a college degree in law enforcement or criminal justice, or another related field for one or more years of experience.”

Echaore-McDavid adds that you can gain such experience through “joining the student security patrol on your campus” (while attending college/university) or initially working in a security position (as a non-commissioned officer) for a campus police department.

Career Path

While some individuals use working as a campus police officer as a means to kick-start their law enforcement career, there are also opportunities for advancement within a university or college police department. Just like in municipal and state law enforcement agencies, campus police officers can rise up the ranks to positions such as detective, sergeant…all the way up to chief.

Additionally serving for a university or college law enforcement department is not a “step backwards” compared to working for city, county or state agencies. The successful career of John L. Pickens, the Arizona State University (ASU) Chief of Police, is an excellent case in point.

Chief Pickens started his law enforcement career in 1974 with the St. Louis City Police Department. Four years later he joined the Pine Lawn Police Department and by 1981 he became Chief of Police there. Before becoming Chief of Police Safety at ASU’s Tempe campus in 2000, he was the University of Missouri-St.Louis’ Director of Police and Northern Illinois University’s Director of Public Safety.

Today, Chief Pickens directs safety, security and law enforcement operations for all four ASU campuses.