Career Requirements Degree Level At least a high school diploma or its equivalent; many positions require a postsecondary degree Degree Field Criminal justice, law enforcement or a closely related field Experience Several years of experience as a law enforcement officer Key Skills Excellent communication skills, empathy, strong critical thinking and problem-solving abilities Additional Requirements Physical fitness Salary (2015) $64,000 per year (median salary)
Step 1: Earn a Degree A college degree may be strongly preferred or required in some jurisdictions to become a law enforcement officer. In areas where it is not required, a degree can still be beneficial for candidates who wish to advance to the position of SWAT officer. Associate or bachelor's degree programs in criminal justice will offer courses in court systems, criminal law, crime scene investigation and other aspects of the justice system. Step 2: Secure a Job as a Law Enforcement Officer SWAT officers generally begin as law enforcement or patrol officers. The minimum standards to become an officer vary by agency, but U.S. citizens who are at least 21 years old and have a high school diploma and a clean criminal background can usually apply. Law enforcement officers must demonstrate their mental and physical competency by completing tests that measure strength, stamina, agility, endurance, vision, hearing and psychological health. Once hired, law enforcement officers receive classroom instruction, physical training and simulation experience at a police academy. Topics covered at the academy include firearms, driving, arrest tactics, investigation techniques, communications, report writing, cultural sensitivity and legal issues. Success Tip: Start a fitness regimen before entering the academy. Physical training at the police academy can be strenuous, so candidates are encouraged to begin an intensive fitness program before attending. Step 3: Advance to the SWAT Team Promotion to the SWAT team requires an officer to have a good record on the job, be a respected member of the force and show his or her ability to handle the physical and mental demands of the position. Candidates must complete an exam to ensure that they are equipped with the skills and knowledge to handle SWAT duties. Once accepted to the team, officers receive special operation training that prepares them for job-specific situations.
Salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of police officers (including SWAT officers) was $56,130 as of May 2013, with 80 percent earning between $32,670 and $90,700
Once you're selected to participate in the SWAT training process, you'll go through multiple phases of SWAT training, from basic to specialized to advanced. Training areas include crowd control, high-risk arrests, detainment, room clearing, sniping, small arms usage, hostage negotiation and recovery, obstacle courses, rappelling, and defensive driving. Most departments require continuous mandatory training as long as you're a member of the SWAT team.