South Carolina Police Academy Requirements and Qualifications to Be a Cop

The South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy (SCCJA) is the government body that’s responsible for overseeing criminal justice training. The SCCJA says that its goal is to help the police properly uphold the laws in the State of South Carolina. Basic training for new hires is currently twelve weeks long. When a person finishes this training successfully, they are a Class 1 law enforcement officer in South Carolina.

It’s the Applicant’s Job to Prove They’re Qualified

Not just anyone can take law enforcement officer training in South Carolina. You have to meet certain requirements. And it’s up to you to prove that you meet the requirements. In other words, it’s not the SCCJA’s job to prove that you haven’t met the requirements; rather the burden is on you to show that you have met all of the requirements. In fact, the burden of proof in the law is something that you study during the legal component of your police academy training.

Age and Medical Fitness

To even think about applying for police work in the State of South Carolina, you have to be at least twenty-one years of age. There are no exceptions. You must also present a valid birth certificate in order to prove your age.

You also have to prove your medical fitness. To do this, you have to complete a detailed medical history. In addition, there are a number of criminal convictions that automatically make you ineligible if you have them. Examples of disqualifying criminal convictions are drunk driving, major drug offenses, reckless homicide and fleeing from the scene of an accident.

Since being a law enforcement officer usually requires driving a patrol vehicle, at least sometimes, you have to show that you have a valid driver’s license. In addition, you either have to have finished high school or you have to have gotten a GED.

Physical Abilities Test

Like many other law enforcement training programs in the United States, South Carolina requires applicants to its police academy to pass a series of physical tests. They call this the Physical Ability Test (PAT). There are a number of tests that make up the PAT and they’re meant to demonstrate your strength, stamina and agility. The tests include jumping, running up stairs, crawling, jumps, running, climbing a fence and dragging a weight. You might also have to show you can climb through a window, since this is a common occurrence in police work.

After You Submit an Application

A panel reviews submitted applications, and they ask you for follow up information if they have any questions. For applicants who make it through the registration process, new police academy sessions begin between fifteen to twenty times each year. While applicants that fail police academy have pathways to retest, it’s important to try to pass the first time through basic training.

Standards Vary By Agency

While there are basic standards that apply throughout the state, each local police department also has the option to impose additional requirements. Because police work varies greatly in small and large populations, and also varies because of the type of specific work, each police agency can choose to impose additional qualifications or minimums in addition to the minimums imposed by the state.

The Columbia Police Department imposes an ethics requirement that states that applicants must uphold what they call core values, which are to act with compassion, accountability and professional conduct. They also impose extra basic training. In the Charleston Police Department, you have to go to a pre-police academy session that is six weeks long. In other places in the state, you have to have some college credits in order to apply. Yet other places check your credit history.

Start Preparing

New recruits who enter South Carolina’s police academy often report that they wished they spent more time preparing. Police academy training is stressful, even for the most qualified applicants. Recruits often wish they had a way to prepare ahead of time so that they can feel more confident and have more time to learn the material.

Fortunately, the best law enforcement experts have come together to try to help. The book Prepare For The Police Academy is a helpful primer that includes everything that you need to know in order to get off to a great start in your law enforcement career. It covers the criminal law you need to start learning, how to prepare for the physical tests you’re about to undergo and how to interact with the public you serve.

This book is available at Use the guide to read about the most common reasons that people don’t make it through training. Study defensive tactics and firearm safety so that these things are second nature when you have to demonstrate your knowledge during critical academy training.

Local Police & County Sheriff Agencies in SC


Aiken Department of Public Safety




Cayce Department of Public Safety

Central SC







Horry CountyIrmo


Marlboro County Sheriff Office

Mount Pleasant

Myrtle Beach

North Augusta Department of Public Safety

North Charleston

North Charleston

North Myrtle Beach DPS – Police Bureau



Richland County Sheriff DepartmentRock Hill


Spartanburg Public Safety Department

Summerville Police Cadets




Florence County SC

Goose Creek SC