Joining as a new PC

The main ways you can join as a new police constable (PC) whether you have a degree already or not. 

First published
Written by College of Policing

Entry routes for police constables

There are currently three main routes into the service if you wish to join as a new PC. These are:

  • the police constable degree apprenticeship (PCDA)
  • a degree in professional policing

  • the degree-holder entry programme (DHEP)

Some forces also still offer the traditional entry route.

Which route you follow will depend on what your chosen force offers and whether you already have a degree. 

The three main entry routes are founded on effective work performance with academic achievement. They cover areas that are critical to effective policing in the 21st century, such as evidence-based policing, supporting vulnerable people, dealing with cybercrime and crime prevention.

Forces may offer the different routes at different times of the year, so you should check with your chosen force as to which entry routes they have available.

Forces will also have details of specific eligibility requirements. In general you need to:

  • be over 18 (you can apply at 17 and start work when you turn 18) – there is no upper age limit
  • be a British citizen, an EC/EEA national or a Commonwealth citizen or foreign national with no restrictions on your stay in the United Kingdom
  • be in good health, including fitness and eyesight
  • have no criminal record, although some offences may be considered by individual forces when you apply

A degree while you work – the police constable degree apprenticeship (PCDA)

A mixture of dynamic practical training underpinned by key knowledge and learning.

This route into policing enables you to receive practical on-the-job learning alongside academic theory and knowledge while earning a wage. You will be a police officer from your first day on the job. It normally takes three years and you are likely to need a level 3 qualification to join (which is two A-levels or equivalent).

You will be awarded a degree in professional policing practice on successful completion of your apprenticeship.

Assessment of academic and operational competence takes place throughout the programme. The assessment is carried out in a collaborative partnership between a force and one or more learning providers, most likely a university.

An equivalent apprenticeship framework has been developed for Wales. 

How to apply

Apply directly through your chosen force. Find your local force.

Hear from PCDA officers

Three police constable degree apprenticeship officers at Nottinghamshire Police – one of the first forces to run this entry route – tell us how the PCDA helped them to further their education while working in force and gaining a range of experience.

Before you start working – a degree in professional policing before you apply

The degree in professional policing is a professional academic knowledge-based degree, based on the national curriculum for the police constable role. You need to complete the degree before applying to join the police. 

It is an academic knowledge-based degree, based upon the national curriculum for the police constable role. It will provide you with an entry route into policing if you wish to study before you apply to join a police force.

The application of education received during the degree is put into practice and assessed during probation. If you wish to use the degree in professional policing as your entry route to the police service, you must apply to join a police force within five years of your graduation.

Some universities are working with local forces to offer complementary special constable opportunities, enabling students to gain practical experience alongside their degree. This makes it much more likely that they will also gain a probationary police constable place at the end of the degree.

The degree in professional policing may also be of interest or benefit to those considering a career in other roles within policing, for those seeking to understand how society is policed, for those who have an interest in law enforcement or for those who want to enter the wider justice sector.

Successful achievement of the degree does not guarantee recruitment as a probationary police constable. Each police force sets out its own entry requirements, recruitment process and selection policy. 

Once you have successfully joined a force as a probationer, you will need to:

  • undertake further practice-based learning and assessment in your force
  • demonstrate competence in the police constable role
  • complete the two-year probationary period, in line with police regulations

How to apply

Once you have graduated with a degree in professional policing, you will need to apply to join your chosen police force as a probationary police constable. To do this, you must:

  • apply within five years of your graduation date
  • meet all of the recruitment criteria for the particular force

Universities offering this degree

The new degree in professional policing can only be offered by universities that are licensed and validated by the College of Policing. We maintain a list of universities that can offer the degree in professional policing. 

Universities who want to offer this degree

If you are a university or higher education provider that wants to become licensed to offer the degree  in professional policing you can find out more from our guidance for universities that want to offer a degree in professional policing.

If you already have a degree – degree-holder entry programme

If you already have an undergraduate degree in any subject, you can join and follow a work-based programme, supported by off-the-job learning. This route normally takes two years, and the learning you have undergone is recognised in a graduate diploma in professional policing practice when you complete your probation.

The length of time on probation is reduced on this programme because you do not need to complete another degree.

How to apply

You can apply directly through your local force. Find your local force.

Traditional entry – the initial police learning and development programme (IPLDP)

This is the original route into the service which is gradually being replaced with the three new entry routes but is still offered by some forces. You join a force and undertake a two-year programme after which if you successfully complete probation, you become a confirmed police constable ready for duties.

How to apply

Apply directly with your chosen force. Find your local force.

Joining the police – online assessment

After you have applied to join a force, the next step you will undertake is an online assessment. You can find out more about the online assessment process and read the candidate guidance.

Was this page useful?

Do not provide personal information such as your name or email address in the feedback form. Read our privacy policy for more information on how we use this data

What is the reason for your answer?
I couldn't find what I was looking for
The information wasn't relevant to me
The information is too complicated