How to Become a Police Commander

by Clayton Browne
A police commander is often in charge of a division or department of a police force.

A police commander is often in charge of a division or department of a police force.

If you have your sights set on becoming a police commander, you will have to pay your dues. The police commander is the second-in-command of a police force, and commanders typically have at least eight to 10 years experience in law enforcement. Most larger cities will have several commanders or assistant police chiefs, often in charge of a particular division. Police commanders have usually earned one or more law-enforcement management-related certifications, and typically have a bachelor's degree or even a master's degree.

Earn a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, public administration or a related field. Although a degree is not required to become a police officer, police commander positions nearly always require an undergraduate degree.

Apply to your local police force, complete your police academy training and work as a police officer for several years to gain experience and seniority. After you get a couple of years experience under your belt, you can apply to become a detective or sergeant, and in another five to seven years work your way up to captain or inspector.

Earn at least one law enforcement management-related certification when you meet the experience requirements for admission to the program. The FBI Law Enforcement Command College is one highly regarded program, and most states also offer police management certification programs.

Apply for a police commander position when you have at least five years of experience at the level of sergeant or above. If you work on a major metropolitan police force, there might be as many as six to eight police commander positions, but smaller communities will typically only have one or two assistant police chiefs. You might have to relocate to get the position you want unless you are willing to wait several years for a position to open up.


  • Contribute to the community outside of your job. Volunteer to work with disadvantaged youth or serve on the board of directors of one or more nonprofit organizations. Hiring decisions for senior police officers are often made at the city council level, and can be positively influenced by factors such as community participation and a network of well-connected supporters.

About the Author

Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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