Log in

How to Move Up in the Police Force - Tips for Advancing Your Career


Did you make the decision many years ago that a career in policing was right for you? Have you been working on the front lines as a police officer since you graduated? While policing can certainly be a very rewarding job, it also carries a fair amount of challenges and danger. Perhaps you’re looking to get off the front lines and in fact, advance your career. Just because you no longer want to be on the front lines doesn’t mean you can’t still have a very rewarding career in policing.

Here we’ll take a look at tips and advice for police officers who want to move up the ladder and move into a more senior position.

Consider What Career is Right for You

In order to move up in the force, it's a good idea to spend time investigating the possible positions that could suit your interests and skills.

Some of the more senior-level positions within the police force include:

  • Chief of police
  • Deputy chief of police
  • Detective
  • Sergeant major
  • Inspector
  • Staff sergeant
  • Staff superintendent


Each of these streams requires very unique skills and has its own list of high-level responsibilities and tasks that you will be performing.

Head Back to School

Depending on which career path you decide upon, it may also be necessary to head back to school. The Honours BA in Policing online degree, available through Wilfrid Laurier University is a great example of a program that is meant for working or retired police officers with at least one year of experience in the role of policing.

This is a Canadian program that was created in collaboration with law enforcement all across the country. The goal of the program is to produce leaders who then go out into the workforce and have a positive impact.

Some of the areas of focus in the program include:

  1. Models of policing
  2. Leadership and career development in law enforcement
  3. Ethics
  4. Corruption
  5. Police accountability
  6. Cybercrime
  7. Indigenous communities and policing

This is a great way to take what you’ve already learned and applied out in the field and then build upon it to better your understanding of policing and leadership.

Don't Turn Down Lateral Moves

While your ultimate goal is to move up the ladder into a senior position, it's important you consider lateral moves along the way. A lateral move means you are transferred to a new job that isn't higher or lower than your current one.

So why say yes to this move? Benefits of a lateral move can include:

  • Learning new skills
  • Meeting new contacts that can help you down the road
  • Exposure to various units of a police department
  • A chance to learn where you might fit in best
  • You look like a team player in your superior’s eyes; a person who is willing to take on new challenges

Next Comes Middle Management

Typically, after you have proven yourself for long enough and take enough of those lateral moves, eventually you can reach middle management. In this level of employment, you'll be taking on new responsibilities such as:

  1. Running the shifts
  2. Supervising the shifts and police officers
  3. Being in charge of operations for a precinct or district

Reaching a middle management position can come quickly or a bit slower depending on your experience, and how much initiative and promise you show.

Be Realistic with the Timeline

Of course, it's also wise to be realistic about the timeline in which you hope to move up the ranks. In general, the first year on the job as a police officer is a probationary period. After that first year, that's when you can start eyeing those lateral moves. In order to advance up the ranks, it typically takes between five to ten years to hit that next step – middle management. From there it can take another few years to advance to senior levels of management.

Let’s face it, there is a lot of pressure and responsibility on your shoulders as a senior member of the police force, so you need to be sure you’ve learned a lot and been exposed to a wide array of experiences.

A Clear Path to Success

By following these tips and advice you’ll be able to put together a clear path to success that will allow you to advance your career and make your way up the career ladder in the police force.

Jobs, Police, Police Departments


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here