This is an extensive subject. We will introduce the the New Jersey
process and lay out some of the different available options.
Okay, in New Jersey there are generally two tracks to becoming a full
time regular law enforcement officer:
NJ Department of Personnel Track
Chief's Agency Track0
NJ Department of Personnel Track
The New Jersey Department of Personnel, formerly known as Civil Service,
administers the entry level testing for about half of the law
enforcement agencies in New Jersey. Generally, test announcements along
with applications come out in January and must be returned shortly
thereafter. The applications are processed, and the test is usually
administered in the spring. (It is strongly recommended that you enroll
in a test preparation course before taking any law enforcement exam. The
competition is fierce, and in some cases a fraction of a point
difference in grades could mean losing the chance at a job you want) The
exams are then graded and lists are returned to the agencies ranking
applicants by score.
Chief's Agency Track
The agencies that don't utilize the NJ Department of Personnel have come
to be known as Chief's Agencies. These departments administer the entry
level testing themselves. A downside to this track is the fact that with
most of the Chief's Agencies the testing is sporadic. They test when
they are hiring, and you have to watch the newspapers and Internet for
Following are the different law enforcement positions available in
Municipal Police Officer
County Sheriff's Officer
County Corrections Officer
County Prosecutor's Office Detective
State Corrections Officer
State Juvenile Corrections Officer
Campus Police Officer
Housing Police Officer
Park Police Officer
Police Officer, Health Care Facility
Police Officer, Palisades Interstate Park
State Ranger Trainee
Division of Criminal Justice Detective
In New Jersey there is no such thing is joining the police academy.
You are required to first get hired by a law enforcement agency which
will send you to the police or corrections academy.
Alternate Route Program
However, in the 1990's the State created a program known as the
Alternate Route Program. As of this writing, there are nine police
academies throughout the state that participate in the Alternate Route
Program. Click here to see the list. Simply, an applicant may apply
directly to the police academy. If accepted, he or she is permitted to
attend that academy at his or her own expense. If completed, the
applicant will have all of the necessary certifications to become a
police officer in New Jersey, but there is no promise of employment with
this option. When you graduate, you are unemployed until you find a job.
This is a very good option since being academy trained makes you a much
more desirable applicant to an agency that is hiring.
In New Jersey there is a recognized position known as the Special
Officer. Special Officers are often utilized in beach communities as
seasonal police officers. They have less training than regular officers
but do possess certain police powers. The position can actually be
broken down into two sub-parts. First, there is the Special Officer
Class I. The Class I Special Officer goes through several weeks of
training (depending on the structure of the training schedule) and is
trained in motor vehicle laws, first aid, criminal law, use of force and
other basic areas. He or she will generally be utilized for parking and
traffic enforcement or to supplement a police presence in a certain
area. Class I Special Officers do not carry firearms and have limited
law enforcement powers.
There is also the Special Officer Class II. The Class II Special
Officer goes through several months of training, usually at night, and
is given all of the training listed above plus much of the training
given to a regular police officer including firearms training. The
Special Officer Class II has full police powers but only while on
If you are interested in becoming a Special Police Officer you should
contact your local police department and inquire about positions. If
they do not utilize Special Officers, contact other surrounding
departments. As indicated above, shore towns hire a tremendous amount of
Special Officers. There is no "pay your way" option for the police
academy for Special Police Officer positions. You must be sponsored by a
Auxiliary Police Officer
In New Jersey there is also a recognized volunteer police officer
position known as Auxiliary Police Officer. Generally, the agencies that
do have such a program hold an in-house training school, and attendees
are subject to a variety of training. In the field Auxiliary Police
Officers are used for special events, traffic control, and to supplement
the police presence of the department.
Not every agency has an auxiliary program, and the powers possessed
by the officers in these programs range widely. Some actually carry
weapons and go out on patrol while others are used strictly on a limited
basis. It is a good way, however, to get some experience, but, more
importantly, it allows prospective police officers to network with the
law enforcement community and develop contacts which can be of great
benefit in the future.
Strategy for Becoming a
Law Enforcement Officer in New Jersey
If you have made the decision to enter law enforcement, you need to
put together a strategy for a massive effort.
First, you must identify your goals. Where are you willing to work?
For what types of agencies are you willing to work? In asking yourself
these questions, ask yourself another question. If a municipal police
department located three counties away were to offer me a job, would I
take it? If the answer is yes, then it should be on your list. If the
county jail were to hire me tomorrow, would I take the job? Again, if
the answer is yes, this agency should be added to your list.
Once you have answered the above questions you must begin
familiarizing yourself with the agencies within your geographic area of
interest and those within your agency type area of interest. On a map
draw circles if you must. You must then learn the hiring procedures for
each of these agencies. Do they utilize the NJ Department of Personnel?
Do they run their own exams? If so, how do they advertise when an exam
is being given? Many departments today have websites, and most include a
page on their hiring procedures. For the Chief's agencies, we strongly
recommend saturation mailings of your resume.
Once you have finished the research, you have to look at yourself.
Look at your skills, your knowledge and your strengths. What do you have
to offer them? If you were to apply to our agency, we would ask you what
you have done to prepare for the job. What have you done to make
yourself a more desirable candidate? If you don't have an answer with
substance, you would get passed. There are enough people looking for law
enforcement jobs these days to allow agencies to be very selective.