It’s always nice to give something back to the community. Whether you’re weeding your neighbour's garden or picking up litter, there are plenty of ways to help.
If you’d like to be paid for helping your community, it’s time to put down the gardening tools and consider a public sector career as a community support officer.
So, what will I actually be doing?
Community support officers act as much-needed support for the police force. Often referred to as PCSOs, it’s a challenging job that will see you protecting the streets, helping to reduce crime and, best of all, wearing a police uniform so you’ll feel like you’re on The Bill.
Far from playing second fiddle to 'real' police officers, you'll be playing a very important role within today's society.
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The finer details...
A helping hand to The Force, you’ll be expected to help police officers on the front line. Be prepared for your feet to ache for the first few shifts as it’s a busy job. On any day you could be doing the following…
- Dealing with minor offences
- Offering intervention and advice to prevent crimes (like stop leaving your door open you donut)
- Street patrolling
- House-to-house enquiries
- Gathering criminal intelligence (proper CSI stuff, that!)
- Guarding crime scenes
- Supporting local community beat officers, action teams and local groups
- Detaining individuals while you await the arrival of an officer
Money, money, money
Your salary will vary depending on which force you work for, but you can usually expect to earn around £16,000 a year (unless you live in London, when it can be slightly higher to accommodate higher living costs). This amount will gradually rise as you remain in the job and gain more experience.
In addition to your salary you can also expect work benefits including flexible hours, paid over-time and sick leave and at least 21 days off.
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The good points...
There are a variety of forces that you can join, especially within the Metropolitan Police. You can work in a range of areas from road policing and British transport to counter terrorism, so there’s more than enough to choose from.
PCSOs don’t have ranks, so you’re all pretty much equal in terms of your role. However, it can lead to a permanent position within the police force further down the line, and that has a huge scope for promotion as well as the opportunity to earn a salary while you train.
...and the bad
If you have ideas of running after a mugger and arresting them, we have to break your bubble. While you are a vital member of the team, you don’t have the same powers as the police so you won’t be able to arrest people.
But this doesn’t mean you can’t stop the criminals. You can still carry out a citizen’s arrest, use reasonable force to detain a suspect, and make common law arrests to stop a breach of the peace.
Is there study involved?
If at school you were the class clown and left with Fs in every subject, don’t worry. You don’t need any formal qualifications to become a community support officer. You’ll need to knuckle down and do some studying now though, as you have to pass a recruitment test and two written tests as well as medical, security and reference checks. These tests can be difficult, so study hard.
Once you’ve passed, you’ll undertake further training to ensure your communication, literacy and numeracy skills are up to scratch, as well as being physically fit enough. The training can last between 3 and 12 weeks and is mostly classroom based, so pay attention and no doodling notes at the back of the class.
Once this is done, you’ll do some on the job training to get you familiar with the local area and police force so you can proudly call yourself a PCSO. Now onto the question you’ve been desperate to ask…
Need additional qualifications? Find a course at our Learning Zone
OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?
Every force is different. A community support officer working for the Transport Police will encounter very different day-to-day situations to those specialising in updating victims on police investigations. However, your main task will involve dealing with the general public, so if you hate people you might want to consider a different career path.