I am a rising sophomore at a small liberal arts college, and I've recently come to the realization that, before I move on to graduate school or some office job, I first want to work in some sector of law enforcement or the military. I have a strong desire for excitement and adventure that neither extensive travel nor high level athletic competition seem to fulfill. This lack of satisfaction seems to stem from my not particularly socially acceptable attraction to work of a more combative and dangerous nature. By this I simply mean to convey that the Peace Corps or some similar organization, while certainly exciting and worthwhile, won't really leave me satisfied.

I have a decent amount of time to figure out my path, but the fact that, though I do plan to fully commit myself for a number of years, I don't want to make whatever I choose my lifelong career complicates things.

Ideally I'd like this post-college job to be both physically and intellectually demanding. Unfortunately, what I've gleaned from the little research I've done is that the positions that seem to best fulfill both aspects have age and/or experience requirements. Now, I am certainly willing to pay my dues, but I'd like to minimize the time required to reach my desired position, so I don't begin whatever second line of work I choose too late to achieve much significant success in it.

With such a vast number of options available to me, each with its own specific set of requirements, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed and lost. Since I absolutely will not return home upon graduation, I need to have work lined up before school is over. So, I respectfully request your help:

What positions should I look into, and, if I'll have to work my way up to them, where should I start?

I would like to again thank everybody who has shared their insight as I try to figure out what I want to do with my life.
At this point, I think I am most likely to pursue work in civilian law enforcement. I am still, however, a long way from figuring out what, exactly, I want to do and how best to go about it. I would like to do something more "interesting" (read: I don't want to be giving out tickets), but I don't know what organization would best allow me to do this. Am I better off pursing work in the FBI, NSA, a particular police precinct, or something else entirely? The matter is further complicated by the restrictions (e.g., age and experience) that many law enforcement agencies seem to have. Bearing in mind that I would ideally like to begin working immediately out of college (I would rather not have to work some other job for a couple of years beforehand), what should I look into?

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Thanks for the response. I welcome all input, so that I can make an informed decision.

I am currently in the US Coast Guard, & I love my job. I am a Marine Science Technician (MST). Currently this is the 3rd largest job in the Coast Guard. I do a lot of law enforcement, only I don't necessarily deal with criminals. A MST deals with maritime safety, we inspect facilities for safety & security, inspect foreign vessels, and investigate pollution events. I am currently in out pollution response department. I respond & investigate all types of pollution incidents. Here in New Orleans, this is the busiest place in the world for my job. This job is setting me up for what I will do after the military. I can read the US Code and Code of Federal Regulations, and even understand & interpret those laws. I do a lot of education with industry, making sure that they are aware of their responsibilities where the law is concerned. I get to see nearly every square inch of my AOR (area of responsibility), and am constantly learning new things, making new contacts with industry and contractors.

In conclusion, every branch of military has it's upsides, for me I haven't found a downside of any job in the Coast Guard.

Good luck, and learn as much as you can before you commit to the military. It's not for everyone, much like being a policeman isn't for everyone.
Trey, thank you for the story, advice, and support. It is not only immensely helpful to hear such things, but also very encouraging – something I very much appreciate, as I know that my parents, despite being otherwise supportive, will be quite upset if I enter law enforcement and beside themselves if I join the military.
Let me give you some advice from experience. I am a former military police officer and former police officer. I didn't listen to my father who is a retired Marine. I was full of adventure and family tradition. I enjoyed being a Marine and a police officer. But if I would have listened to my father I would have had a much better career. You may not have your retirement in mind right now but now is the time to make decisions that will affect the rest of your life. One stupid decision can keep you out of law enforcement. Stay out of debt, keep your driving record clean, and don't get divorced. The hiring process for law enforcement is not as simple as other jobs. Many departments around the country require you to put yourself through P.O.S.T. You'll have to be certified before they'll hire you. there are departments that will put you through but they are getting sparse. The hiring process is:

1. Written Test
2. Physical Test
3. Oral Boards
4. B-PAD Test
5. Background Check
6. Polygraph Exam
7. Psychological Evaluation

There are usually weeks in between phases. That's not including P.O.S.T. training. It's not exactly a spur of the moment job.

The military is a great option as well. If you have your 4 year degree you can enter into officer candidacy and become an officer. The pay is higher and advancement is faster. You can even enlist with your occupational specialty guaranteed. You have to commit to a minimum of a six year enlistment. Both military and law enforcement can offer a good retirement after 20 years of service. My father joined the Marine Corps right out of high school. When he retired after 22 years he was 39 years and he had a pension.

Another option is to do both. Enlist in the officer program with a reserve military police unit. You can get some training and experience as a police officer which will give you LEO experience. That experience will help you stand up among the thousands of other qualified candidates trying to become police officers. You can retire in the military reserves and retire with a civilian department at the same time.
I have to agree with Mr. Disque, keep you nose clean now. I'm currently Air Force and in Afghanistan and sometimes i wish i had gone Marine cuz like you i have that drive for excitement and adventure. Military law enforcement would be a good place to start to get a base, but you say that you are working on a degree so yes the officer world would be a great place to go (how good are you political skills). Not only would the military way allow you to set a base but also could allow for you to pay for you Master if you choose or with the new G.I. Bill you can transfer to a family member (with a certain amount of years done). Whatever you choose i wish you the best of luck. Take Care!!
I'm going to listen in on this because I'm kind of in the same boat. Although, unlike you, I plan to work abroad (teaching English) for a few years after I graduate in 2010. I like the idea of a job as a police officer because I'm a servant at heart, very patient, slow to anger, have good judgement, follow orders, and frankly can only get passionate about things that are necessary to human well-being. In addition, I love the officer schedule; my local department has 12-hour days with four on and four off. That means I can spend more time with my inevitable family.

Oh, and did I mention you get to carry a gun?
For a good reality check. Your first few years as a police officer you WILL work every holiday. You will also most likely work the crappiest shifts. If you're looking for 9 to 5 Monday through Friday you will not find it in police work. Most departments have gone to 4/10's or 4/12s. Stress levels are high and law enforcement has the highest divorce rate in the country. The most difficult thing to do is to learn how to not take your job home with you. The norm for police officers is police officers are your social group. Usually the only people you associate with that aren't police officers, you are related to, went to high school with, or you know from church.
So all the stereotypes are true? I think I can handle that.

Would you say that there's a maximum age you should start a career as a cop? I could do so when I'm 22, but I'd rather take a few years to do some things abroad first. Would starting in your late-20s be a bad thing?
I know two cops that are retired teachers that started their LEO careers at 39 and 43. What you'll run into is younger individuals have less of a background to investigate and they are generally more physically fit than older individuals. Divorce, bad credit, and driving record all affect your hiring potential. The more experience you have the more likely you are to get in debt, get divorced, and ruin your driving record. If you avoid those things, keep your nose clean (stay out of ANY kind of legal trouble), and stay physically fit age doesn't really matter. Another factor is going to be returning military vets that have experience out the wazoo. Competition is fierce to get into law enforcement. Especially if you're a white male with no experience.
I'm generally a straight-shooter, so I should have no problem as far as my background. I suppose the only thing to worry about is competition, as my years of teaching English to poor kids in China won't really add to my law enforcement resume (unless it shows cultural sensitivity).
You need to look into Navy EOD. It is one of the best kept secrets of the military. There is quite a bit of training involved but thats half the fun. We dive, parachute (jump), work with explosives, go on secret service jobs around the world, and much more. Its worth checking out, http://www.eod.navy.mil/
Good advice, those guys have a crazy advancement rate too. When I first got to Whidbey I got to talk to a 26 year old Senior Chief at the EODMU 11 armory. By the way I'm also in the Navy and I love it. So far in my career I've worked on spy planes, been paid copious amounts of money to deploy to the Caribbean, and right now I'm working as a guard at GTMO.


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