Podcast Episode 07 – Criminology Degree or Work at McDonalds?

Audio Version


In this episode of ‘Let’s talk police applications’ the main points of discussion are:

  1. Should you get a criminology degree to help you with your police application
  2. What is the cost versus benefit of having a degree
  3. What does the police force value from applicants
  4. Is getting a degree right for you


Good day, everyone. Russell here from Prime Motion Training. Thank you for joining me again for this episode of Let’s Talk Police Applications. We’re up to episode number seven. And today I wanted to talk about a question that I get from applicants. And sometimes this question will come before the person even applies to become a police officer or starts the application process. And then other times it will come up if an applicant’s been unsuccessful with their attempt at becoming a police officer. And the question is, will having a criminology degree improve my chances of becoming a police officer? So let’s discuss that in this episode.

Alright, so having a criminology degree, it’s a question that comes up quite a bit. And if someone’s applying to join the police force, they may have this understanding or belief that by having a criminology degree, they’ll be a more attractive applicant to the police force. Now, is having a criminology degree going to help your chances of a successful police application? Well, the answer is, well, yes, but no. Yes and no, I guess is the answer. But let’s go into some of the pros and cons of having a degree to assist you with your police application.

Well, the first thing is that if you have not applied to become a police officer yet and you’re thinking that a degree would be helpful, there’s quite a few things that you would need to consider. And I guess it’s really weighing up the value or the benefit of having that degree compared with the cost or the time and effort and money that it would take to get that degree in the first place. So there’s a lot to think about and we’ll dig into some of these considerations as we get going.

Now, the other quite common time is, I’ve had this plenty of times over the years where applicants have reached out after an unsuccessful police application. I’m not really sure what I did wrong. Maybe they were uncompetitive, which means they passed everything but they just didn’t get a good enough score. And so they’re looking for ways to try to boost their score next time around, thinking that having a degree in criminology would help them do that, and it’s not always necessarily the point or the case rather. But look, sometimes it will give an applicant a bonus point. So as they’re assessing your application, your work history, and all of the various things that they assess, if you’ve got some type of degree, then certainly that might be considered a bonus point. Now, the question then is, well, what’s the bonus point worth? Well, not a lot, to be honest, and I’ll explain why shortly.

The other thing is that if you do have a degree and criminology is one that for most states and territories will qualify, you may be eligible to skip the entrance exam or the entrance assessment. So that’s a state by state arrangement. So you need to check with the state that you’re applying for, but if you have a degree, you may be eligible to skip the entrance exam. Now, that brings up a whole other question about how a criminology degree and passing an entrance exam is equivalent. That’s a whole other can of worms that we won’t go into in this episode.

But something that’s certainly worth considering, if you’re thinking about doing a degree in criminology to help you with your police application, you’re looking at a three-year course that could cost you anything from 15 to 16 plus thousand dollars. Just do a quick Google search on criminology degree and you’ll see that it’s one hell of a commitment and it’s time-consuming. It’s a lot of work and it’s a lot of money. And if you’re doing it simply to try to improve your chances of becoming a police officer, then to be honest, I think you’re probably wasting your time, your effort and your money. However, if it’s something that you’re completely interested in, you want to do that first as a bit of a grounding before going into policing, then fine, but understand that whilst it might help you to get through the academy training as a recruit, it won’t help you in terms of your police application. Certainly not in my opinion when you’re way up the time, the effort and the cost with the bonus point or the benefit that you would get from having that degree.

Now, having said that, I’ve had one applicant in the last 12 months or so who had multiple attempts at the entrance exam and simply was not able to pass it. So of course, each time that happened, her application was cancelled. Now, she decided that she so desperately wanted to be a police officer so that she was prepared to put in the time and effort to go away and do a degree and come back and waive that degree in front of the recruiting people who subsequently allowed her to skip the exam and move on with the application. Now, that was 12 months ago. Her original applications were some four years prior to that. So she was certainly committed to the cause and was prepared to do whatever it takes. So in that case, hey, it was worth it in this applicant’s mind because she’s now graduated from the police academy. So in that scenario, it may be worth the investment and the time and effort in the cost and so on, but for most people, I think it’s probably not going to be the case.

Now, another quick example I want to share with you, I had a 40-year-old person who was running their own business prior to running their own business. This 40-year-old had completed a degree. It wasn’t in criminology, it was something else to do with business, but that person’s application was deemed uncompetitive. Again, this gentleman was passing most of the assessments but got towards the end and the scores that he was accumulating along the way were not sufficiently competitive when compared to other applicants. And so his application was cancelled. Now, he became quite aware that plenty of other applicants in their early 20s, with no degree in his words, “All they’ve ever done is worked at McDonald’s, got a position ahead me. I mean, the system stuffed,” were his words.

Is my degree worth more than working at McDonalds?

And what he didn’t really appreciate or understand is that the value of his degree wasn’t worth as much as he thought it was. And so it brings up the question, well, what is valued by the police organisation that you’re applying for? And it’s certainly not a piece of paper to be quite frank. What they’re looking for is applicants with people skills. And in the end, that really just means your ability to talk to people and interact with people from a wide range of different backgrounds and ethnicities and all sorts of other areas, I suppose. It’s the ability to talk to people.

And why would that be valuable? Well, of course that’s what policing is about. You spend probably 80% of your time just out there interacting with the public and talking to people. And you can get those skills from things like working in retail or working in a hospitality environment where you’re doing exactly that. You’re talking to people, you’re dealing with customers, you are in hospitality, you’ve had to deal with some really lovely people, and then some absolute drongo as well. And it’s that ability to deal with people that’s valued far more than a piece of paper.

So I’d really question whether it’s worth it to go through the time, the effort, and the monetary investment to get a degree if you think it’s going to help you with your police application because over the last nearly 18 years now, just about six, in fact almost 7,000 police applicants now that I’ve worked with, I would certainly say that only in a very small number, maybe two or three cases, it was worth the effort for that person to have a degree or to get a degree to help them with their lifelong goal of becoming a police officer. And for everybody else, to be quite frank, I don’t think it’s worth the effort to get yourself a degree if it’s only to help you with your police application.

Let’s wrap it up

Alright, so that’ll do us, I think, for episode number seven. Just a quick one now, but I hope if you are applying to become a police officer and you were thinking about this question of whether or not a degree is going to help you with your police application, I hope that’s answered it for you. In the meantime, if you have any questions, you’re always welcome to reach out and try and contact me. Otherwise, I’ll catch you again in episode number eight.

Have a great day. Talk to you then. Cheers.

In the meantime, keep your foot on the gas!


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