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Paul Clinton

Paul Clinton

As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.

William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.

Academies: Pay Your Way or Wait?

Weigh the pros and cons of attending the academy on your own dime.

January 13, 2009  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

I get this question nearly every week regarding the academy: Should I wait to get hired or should I pay my way? There are some states that will allow a candidate to attend the academy without being hired by an agency. You are deemed as "pre-service" and you pay your own way.

There are some pros and cons to each path. Let's explore this further.


If you live in a state that allows this pre-service career option, fully investigate it before enrolling. The big question is, Will this improve your chances of getting hired?

Perform your own mental "background check" of yourself first. If you have previously applied to an agency and not been hired, ask: Why? If you have baggage that is removing you from their employment consideration, address your baggage first. For instance, if you have bad credit, a poor job history, or do not meet some other requirements, address these flaws first. Most states will require some waivers, a background investigation, driver's history, and other requirements (physical and psychological screenings) before acceptance to an academy, and these can be very expensive.

Now, paying your own way to the academy is a double edged sword. First consider the tuition costs which can be very expensive. If you can find a scholarship or assistance, great; just remember you could have a loan to repay.

Secondly, most every academy has a caveat that while attending the academy there can be no secondary employment. So, how are you going to live these few months? If you are living with your parents or are independently wealthy then this is fine, but otherwise this can be very expensive. Some states experimented with part-time academy training, nights and weekends. This is dreadfully long and I am unsure if this is available any longer.

Another major question is to determine just by being pre-certified without police experience, is this that advantageous to your being hired? Agencies throughout the nation will seek out experienced officers but inexperienced is still the wild card. Read the fine print, for pre-certification can have a shelf life. Some states will label you as "certifiable," for you cannot be sworn without an agency. Often, you will have to attend annual update training or become working or sworn within a time period. This warrants some serious consideration.

Agency Sponsored  

You could find it advantageous to wait for employment and have the hiring agency pay your way. Many of the unseen expenses are covered by the agency. Medical, background checks, travel expenses, and equipment are on their budget, not yours.

If you have a job, are in college, are transitioning from the military, or have financial obligations and a family, usually I will tell you to wait. That way, if you are injured in an academy performance exercise, you will have the protection of insurance or workman's comp offered by the agency. This can be a more favorable position for your family and your economic future.

Think and weigh your options wisely.

Research your future and occupation; it will pay dividends.

Tags: Training Academies

Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

skascooter007 @ 1/20/2009 1:51 PM

Great info, I have looked into either paying my way or waiting to get hired and after looking at all the options I will wait this way I know if I have any disqualifying factors. Yes they still offer part time options for the POST course offered at SBVCC.

harmb33 @ 2/4/2009 6:42 PM

I'm currently attending an out of pocket academy. I live in St. Louis and there are many places hiring, for the obvious reason. Many of the training officers that have come in to train us went through this specific academy. I'm sure that it's very different in many places, but at this academy we go 6 months 5 days a week 8 hours a day and we'll finish with a class A license at 1000 hours. Many people who have left have found jobs and the tuition isn't super expensive. I like the flexibility of choosing where to work when im done, because the department academies, such as St. Louis City, don't give you the full 1000 hours maximum and your obligated to work for them. Also there seems to be only a few department specific academies and you can still be sponsored at the academy i'm attending. The downside of this is i'm not guaranteed a job. It's a double edged sword, just like Mr. Harvey said, so weigh your options.

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