Pros and Cons of a SWAT Team Career
A Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team is elite squad of law enforcement officers of a local, state or federal police force or agency. Check out some of the details of a career as a SWAT team member at a glance:
|SWAT Team Member|
|Career Overview||SWAT team members deal tactically with emergency and life-threatening situations that call for extraordinary measures.|
|Education Requirements||High school diploma and graduation from police academy|
|Program Length||Duration varies for police training academy programs and SWAT training|
|Experience Required||Experience as a conventional officer; duration determined by the individual department|
|Job Outlook for 2012-2022||Slower than average (5%) compared to all occupations*|
|Median Annual Salary (2014)||$56,810*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
SWAT Team Member
As a member of a SWAT team, you're in the assault vanguard of a force designed to confront circumstances that threaten citizen's lives and property. As a part of a well tuned paramilitary arm of a police force or agency, you're specially trained and conditioned to handle extremely dangerous, stressful situations. SWAT team duties can vary according to training, the nature of the occurrence and departmental jurisdiction. Some SWAT members are trained in specialized tasks, such as sniping and crisis negotiation. Along with using lethal and non-lethal weapons to protect the public, these workers write up reports of incidents, testify in court and often serve other roles within the police force, such as detective or traffic patrol.
Becoming a SWAT member takes extensive experience as a police officer. To become a police officer, you'll generally need to be 21 years of age and hold a high school diploma or its equivalent. Some departments require a certain amount of postsecondary education or an associate's degree in a major like police science or law enforcement. Federal agencies require their officers to hold bachelor's degrees. Once accepted by a department or agency as a recruit, you must graduate from its police training academy and pass a background check, as well as meeting physical fitness, psychological and medical standards. After academy training, you'll likely be assigned to a unit for a probationary period, after which you'll become a full-fledged law enforcement officer.
The amount of time you'll have to serve as a police officer before qualifying for promotion to SWAT depends on the department and the availability of open SWAT positions. Additionally, throughout your career as a SWAT member, you'll be required to undergo continual, year-round training, including practicing firearms use, self-defense tactics and crowd control.
Since SWAT team members are selected from a pool of experienced police officers, employers generally don't advertise publicly for SWAT team openings. In light of that, below are examples of police officer job listings available in December 2012:
- A police department in Texas was looking for officer candidates between 20.5-45 years of age who are U.S. citizens with no more than two traffic violations in the previous 12 months. Candidates were to either hold a high school diploma or GED with an additional 12 college credit hours, all with at least a C average. After one year of patrol work, candidates could apply to the SWAT team.
- The federal army sought a civilian police officer to work at its military installation in Alaska and participate in SWAT. Candidates were to have at least one year of qualifying work experience at the federal level or nine months of specialized experience and have completed a civilian police academy program. Candidates who held a bachelor's degree in an area such as police science were also considered.
- A police department in California was seeking a candidate for police officer who was between 20.5-70 years of age and held a driver's license and high school diploma or GED and. Candidates must have completed at least 60 college credits or hold an associate's degree. Candidates must also have uncorrected 20/40 vision and not have any convictions for a felony or similar offense.
In order to increase employment mobility from local to state to federal departments or agencies, you may want to earn a bachelor's degree in police science or a related area. In addition, while accumulating required job experience on patrol, you may find it to your advantage to volunteer for extra training classes in areas that are pertinent to SWAT operations. By keeping yourself in top physical condition and honing your marksmanship skills to perfection, you can further stand out from your competition and be ready for any SWAT team openings. Becoming qualified on a number of different weapons may also serve to increase your chances for team selection.