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Career Opportunities Frequently Asked Questions

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Requirements, Application, Testing

What are the minimum requirements for police recruits?
For Police Recruit, the entry-level position for the San Diego Police Department; applicants must be at least 20 years old the day of the written test. Applicants must possess at least a high school diploma from a U.S.  high school or a G.E.D. In accordance with Government Code Section 1031, effective January 1, 2023, peace officers must be legally authorized to work in the United States under federal law. There are no specific citizenship requirements.

Where do I obtain an application?
You can submit an application for a Police Recruit position by visiting the Open Job Opportunities page on the City web site and following the links for the position of Police Recruit.

When and where do I take the written test? How often is the written test given?
At least once a month and as often as 2-3 times a month. Once you submit an application, it takes the City of San Diego testing center approximately 7-10 days to process the application. Once the application is processed, you will be contacted via email with available dates to take the written exam. The City of San Diego testing center determines the location and the times of the written exam.

What types of questions are on the written test?
The 100-question multiple-choice written test covers reading and writing skills at a high school level. Other sections include decision making, reading comprehension and checking ability.

When do I find out if I was successful in passing the test?
The City of San Diego testing center administrators will inform you when and how you will be notified on the day of the written exam. The test is strictly pass/fail, and applicants are not rated according to test scores. If an applicant passes this test, the results are good only for the City of San Diego for two years; and the City does not accept other agencies passing test scores.

How long does the hiring process take?
The process can take approximately 3 to 4 months. There are no alternatives to expedite this process.

Will the hiring process be shorter for applicants with previous law enforcement or military experience?
Generally no. Previous experience may help an applicant be more competitive in the process, but it will not shorten the process.

What are possible disqualifiers for Police Officers/Recruits?
Each case will be reviewed on an individual basis. View the list of possible disqualifiers. (PDF)

What will disqualify an applicant during a background investigation?
Any felony convictions as a juvenile or an adult, and any misdemeanor domestic violence convictions will automatically disqualify an applicant. More about the background investigation.

What if my juvenile records are sealed?
Even if a juvenile record has been sealed, any felony convictions are still disqualifying. Applicants must list all arrests and/ or convictions.

What about drug use, traffic citations or arrest records?
The following items: use of marijuana or any illicit drugs recently, several hazardous traffic violations, or any serious criminal offenses will be concerns when evaluating your viability. Applicants are expected to be 100% honest in these areas. All offenses will be evaluated by the Background Investigations Unit.

If I have a background investigation done with another agency, or have a top secret clearance in the military, will SDPD still do a background check?
Yes. The SDPD Backgrounds Unit will conduct their own thorough background investigation on every applicant who submits a personal history packet.

Are there any height or weight requirements?
There are no height or weight requirements. Every applicant who is processed will be required to pass a rigorous 475 yard obstacle course which simulates a suspect chase. They must pass the obstacle course in 3 minutes 15 seconds or less.

Benefits, Salary, Retirement

What is the salary range for new Officers?
Starting salary for new officers starts at approximately $3,863 a month while in the academy and will reach the top step of approximately $6,077 after their fourth year. Pay scales for ranks above patrol officer are higher depending on rank achieved. These figures are subject to change due to new contract negotiations.

What medical benefits are available?
The City of San Diego offers a "cafeteria-style" benefits plan. Each employee is allotted a set amount of dollars each year for individual and family health care plans, with the employee choosing a plan to best suits their needs.

What about vacation and sick time benefits?
Officers receive 17 to 21 days for annual leave each year depending on the length of service. Annual leave is used for both sick leave and vacation time. The number of hours accumulates each year.

Can my time with the military be carried over for retirement?
No. San Diego Police Officers are covered under the City Employees Retirement System. Call 1-800-774-4977 for more information.

Will I be paid more money if I have a four year degree?
Not initially. Two to four years after academy graduation, Officers with a degree will see an increase in pay according to the educational incentive pay program.


How long is the Police Academy training program?
The police academy is a six-month college course. Two-thirds of the Academy is academics, and one-third of the Academy is physical training.

Is the academy a live-in, high stress environment?
Academy hours are 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, with recruits going home at the end of each day. It is not structured as a high-stress academy. Teamwork is highly encouraged.

What kind of workouts can I expect?
At the start of the academy, recruits will be required to run at least 3 miles, at a 10 minute mile pace, and circuit training twice a week. By the end of academy training, recruits will be running up to 6 miles a day several times a week.

What happens when I graduate from the academy?
Upon graduation, Police Recruits are promoted to Police Officers and will be scheduled for an additional four-month training program with a Field Training Officer. Once training is complete, new officers will be assigned to one of nine area commands. The location and work schedule will be determined according to the needs of the Department.

Will I be paid while attending the academy?
San Diego Police Department Recruits will be paid while attending the academy and are considered City of San Diego employees

Lateral Program, Out of State

I'm an officer from out of state. Can I apply as a lateral officer?
Yes. However, California P.O.S.T. requires out-of-state lateral officers to obtain a California P.O.S.T. Certificate. Officers who do not have a California P.O.S.T. Certificate will be required to attend the San Diego Regional Police Academy. Please visit the California P.O.S.T website at for additional information on P.O.S.T certification.

Is there a faster process for out of state applicants?
No. Background investigations may be completed in as little as two months and can take up to four months. Special scheduling arrangements may be made to accommodate individuals traveling from destinations of 150 miles and beyond.

How do I apply as an out of state applicant?
The hiring process is the same for all applicants. The process will consist of a written and physical ability test, completing a preliminary investigative questionnaire and submitting a personal history statement packet. Once you have successfully completed the listed steps and are deemed to be a viable candidate, you will be contacted and instructed to complete a series of interviews, a polygraph and psychological evaluation and medical screening.

On the Job, Assignment, Promotion

Will a four year degree allow me to start as a detective?
All new Officers will begin their careers in the patrol division. Four years after Academy graduation, Officers are eligible to apply for an investigative position. A college degree could help obtain that position.

Do I have to work the jail system prior to working the streets?
No. San Diego Police Officers do not staff any of the jail facilities.

How long will it be before I can work a specialized assignment?
After two to three years in a patrol assignment, officers are eligible to apply for other specialized assignments. Examples of these assignments include; SWAT, Canine Handler and Motor Officer.

What area does San Diego Police Department patrol?
The city limits of San Diego. That is approximately 331 square miles.

Is there a minimum time commitment once I am hired?
Currently, there are no "service" contracts to sign if an applicant is hired by the San Diego Police Department.

If you have additional questions about San Diego Police Department Recruiting, see the Frequently Asked Questions, call 619-531-COPS (2677) or email

If you have an emergency, dial 9-1-1.

To access 9-1-1 from a cell phone or outside San Diego, dial 619-531-2065.

For 24-hour non-emergencies, dial 619-531-2000 or 858-484-3154.