HOW TO BECOME A SWAT OFFICER: Skills and Requirements

how to become a SWAT officer
Image Credit: TheNewYorker

Granted, police save lives, but when it comes to high-risk situations such as a terrorist threat or a hostage situation, you wouldn’t see the regular cop guys. In such situations, the SWAT officers are sent. They are super smart and carry out their responsibilities in grand style, just like military troops. The SWAT team isn’t seen within the police unit alone. They are found in most big security enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, county sheriff, and so on. If you want a career in the force, then being part of the SWAT unit should be your goal. Check out the skills and requirements needed to become a SWAT officer in Texas, California, Los Angeles, or any part of the state.

What is a SWAT officer about?

SWAT is an acronym for Special Weapons and Tactics. We also call them the Tactical Response Team (TRT). A SWAT officer is first a police officer who specializes in special weaponry and tactics. Whenever there’s a situation that threatens people’s lives or safety in the environment, the SWAT team is called to deal with such issues. A SWAT officer uses military-grade equipment and strategy to defend himself and the public. Well, you can simply call this team a “paramilitant group.” This is because they receive paramilitary training. 

A SWAT officer begins his career as a regular patrol cop before being elevated to these special squads. SWAT teams are used by federal agencies such as the FBI, border patrol, secret service, coast guard, and National Park Service. SWAT units are within federal forces such as the Secret Service, Coast Guard, FBI, Border Patrol, and so on. They are also seen in the large police forces and county sheriff’s departments.

SWAT Officer Operations

A SWAT officer begins his career as a regular cop and then receives special training that equips them to tactically deal with situations that are beyond the competence of local police and also threaten the safety of the public. Well, the truth is, they are trained for such situations. They really aren’t your regular cop guys and are highly intelligent and always prepared to respond to unexpected emergencies. Aside from protecting public lives, SWAT officers are also trained to perform the following: sniper, large vehicle operator, negotiator, medic, an expert in tactical barricade situations, and so on.

What are some of the situations that SWAT officers handle?

The following are some of the situations that the SWAT team Handles;

  • Riots or crowds
  • Intervention for Suicide
  • Situations involving hostages or barricades
  • Counter-terrorism operations and undercover operations
  • Warrants for high-risk searches and seizures
  • Situations with remote emergency or dangerous materials

How to Become a SWAT Officer

If you want to be a SWAT officer in Texas, Los Angeles, or California, the process is simple and the same. All you have to do is to join a force team, build experience, acquire relevant skills and requirements, take extra courses if the need arises, join the SWAT team of your force unit, or join another division with a SWAT unit.  

Proven Steps to Becoming a SWAT Officer in Texas, California, or Los Angeles 

The following are the easy proven steps to becoming a SWAT officer in Texas, California, or Los Angeles;

#1. Meet Entry-level Prerequisites 

The basic entry-level requirement is actually very important if you’re going to join any force team. That’s why it’s termed a “basic entry-level requirement.” Without it, you’ll not be part of any force team, and without being part of any force, how’ll you join their SWAT team or prove your experience to be recruited by the federal SWAT unit? Entry level requirements include the following;

  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • Be a U.S citizen
  • Possess a high school diploma or GED
  • Previous experience working with the public or having served in the military or another branch of law enforcement

#2. Get a College Degree

Having a college degree is an added advantage. Imagine having a criminal justice degree even as an entry-level police prospect. When it comes to becoming a SWAT officer in Los Angeles, Texas, or California, a college degree exposes you to several experiences that will make you exceptional in several ways. There are several programs that’ll give you an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. You can run any of these programs online or within the school itself, even if you are already a police officer. 

#3. Gain Military experience

A SWAT officer is paramilitant in nature and deploys military tactics every now and then. If you can,  join special operations units such as the Navy SEALs, Air Force Special Tactics, Army Night Stalkers, Army Rangers, and so on. You’ll definitely learn a great deal about tactics, negotiating methods, special equipment, weapon operations, and so on. These are all relevant to carrying out your responsibilities as a SWAT officer. If you are lucky enough to join one of the above military groups, you are one step ahead of becoming a SWAT officer in the state. 

#4. Join a Local or Federal Force

No one automatically becomes a SWAT officer without first being part of another team. Even if you are exceptional and extra intelligent to the point that the FBI needs your expertise to tackle a situation, you’ll be identified by a force team. This simply means you’ll need to be part of the local or federal force. 

#5. Complete training

If you join the police department, you’ll spend time at their academy, going through classroom study, fieldwork, and tactical training. If you work for a federal agency like the FBI, your training may be more department-specific and normally take place in a national location when compared to that of state police. The duration of the training depends on the kind of training it is and, of course, your performance and ability to acquire knowledge. 

#6. Acquire experience

Depending on the team you join, the years of experience differ, but then, it largely depends on your performance. if you are an extraordinary cop, you’ll always be excepted for the specified years of experience. If, for instance, you have an amazing record and have made extraordinary achievements as a cop, your excellent performance record will give you an edge.

#7. Find out the SWAT requirement within your team

If you are a member of the state police, federal, or county sheriff who wants to become a SWAT officer in Texas, California, or Los Angeles, find out the requirements for becoming a member of the SWAT team as soon as you settle down with your responsibilities.

#8. Meet SWAT requirements and join the team

What the state police in Los Angeles will require to become a SWAT officer may be different from what the FBI will demand. So first, find out the prerequisites and method for joining the SWAT team where you are. Meeting this demand will automatically make you a member of the SWAT team. 

#9. Train as a SWAT Officer

In terms of undergoing SWAT training, you may be required to travel to training centers or facilities. Of course, you weren’t expecting to do weapon training in the field, were you? Their training most often takes place at the regional or national center, abandoned buildings, and so on. 

What kind of training do SWAT officers receive?

SWAT officers receive diverse training, but all in all, it is to help them effectively carry out their responsibilities. The following are some of the training that SWAT officers receive in the state;

  • Assembling and disassembling explosives
  • Dealing with hazardous materials
  • Marksmanship with sniper rifles, handguns, sub-machine guns
  • Self-defense and combat fighting techniques
  • The use of specialized vehicles such as armored trucks and helicopters
  • Navigation systems that use night vision, GPS, and other orientation systems.
  • Special scenario tactics, counter-sniper techniques, barrier breaching systems, underwater operations, as well as crowd management

SWAT Officer Skills

SWAT officers possess exceptional skills, some of these are as follows;

#1. Excellent Communication Skill

Every SWAT officer possesses good communication skills. How do you expect to save lives if you struggle with communication? SWAT teams are proficient with diverse communication skills and use them as the situation demands.

#2. Teamwork

The tactical response team, otherwise known as SWAT, is credited for its ability to work closely and together. When it comes to rescuing public lives, they do so as a team, except when the situation calls for individual prowess.

#3. Critical Thinking

A SWAT officer must always reason out of the box. They have the skill of analyzing situations in minutes and coming up with solutions.

#4. Physical Fitness & Swiftness

This is a requirement as well as a skill. In terms of requirements, you’ll have to go through their physical test, which involves rigorous tasks and activities. In terms of skill, to be a SWAT officer, you’ll have to be fit. Moreover, their training will subject you to rigorous activities as their job demands, and it takes endurance and fitness to pass their test.

#5. Mental Toughness

One of the skills a SWAT officer must possess is mental toughness. You must be able to see every task as a challenge and devise means of tackling that situation in record time.

#6. Courage and dedication

Being a cop comes with a lot of responsibilities, and the SWAT unit is more demanding. However, courage and dedication is another set of skills that SWAT officers possess. Their job is challenging, and it takes courage and dedication to risk one’s life in every situation. 

#7. Use of Weapons

SWAT candidates must be superb marksmen, and officers are trained to utilize their military-grade weapons as efficiently as possible.

SWAT Officer Requirements 

Becoming a member of a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team requires you to be a police officer and have complete familiarity with the policies and procedures that govern the police force. Well, this is just the basics. You’ll go through the entry-level requirements, which include all manners of physical tests. So, being in great physical shape and having good speed is an advantage. Your vision, reasoning, and hearing will also be tested. Then your expertise in the use of guns and other weapons will also be assessed. 

Others Include

  • Psychological Evaluation
  • Detailed background check
  • Drugs test

How To Become A SWAT Officer in Texas

If you desire to become a SWAT officer in Texas, Los Angele, or Any part of the State, the following steps will help you achieve your dream.

#1. Get Education Requirements

Your educational requirements is your first step to becoming a member of the SWAT unit. Within the state, it’s one of the first requirements you’ll have to meet. Although having a postsecondary degree such as an associate’s or bachelor’s degree is an added advantage. If you are lucky enough to acquire a degree in criminal justice or any related discipline, you are one step ahead too. Generally, the least you need is a high school diploma to join any force team, and you can only become a SWAT officer within a unit.

#2. Join A Local or Federal Law Enforcement

After meeting the educational requirement, you may join a law enforcement unit. It can be the state police, county sheriffs, or even the FBI. These all have SWAT teams within their unit.

#3. Get SWAT Requirement

Once the local, state, or federal law enforcement agency you join has a SWAT unit, find out their requirements. What it takes to become a member of their team.

#4. Meet SWAT Team Requirements

Irrespective of the agency you join, the requirement to become part of the SWAT team is usually demanding. These guys are highly skilled and their job demands a lot too. As a rule, the qualification is strict and you’ll go through physical, mental, hearing, and visual tests in addition to other training. The good thing is that their requirements are merit and performance, so if you work hard enough, you’ll easily meet their demands.

#5. Build up Skill Set

The SWAT team possesses an excellent team that plays out in different situations. If the situation calls for negotiation, they turn on their negotiating spirit within seconds and persist till they win. If it also comes to open fire, they shoot as though they are at a war front. They are generally calm, possess high moral standards, and are knowledgeable in all elements of crisis resolution. 

How much do you earn at Swat?

Many SWAT team members progress to more specialized positions, act as other officers’ supervisors, or plan operations. Some change their areas of law enforcement. A SWAT team member makes an average of $60,000 a year. An annual salary of closer to $75,000 could be anticipated for those in managerial roles.

How hard is it to join SWAT?

They need to establish their capacity for carrying out law enforcement duties and accumulate a lot of practical experience. In general, before applying to become a SWAT officer, police officers must have at least three years of experience.

Is it easy to become a SWAT?

In order to join most SWAT teams, candidates must meet strict physical criteria, which include agility and strength tests. Assessments of hearing and vision are additional examinations given to SWAT applicants.

Where does SWAT make the most money?

In the US, the average Swat Team salary is $115,316. With an average total remuneration that is 50% higher than the US average, swat teams in San Francisco, California, earn the greatest money, at $173,514.

Are SWAT officers full-time?

You work full-time as a SWAT team member at your daily job within the department, which may be patrol or detective work. When there is a more dangerous circumstance that necessitates crisis assistance, you are called to action.


If you really want to become a SWAT officer, you need to put in the effort. This is because a regular cop who is exceptional at his duties will likely receive a promotion into the SWAT team. Keep developing the relevant skills and meet their requirements.

How To Become a SWAT Officer FAQs

How much does a SWAT officer make in California?

A SWAT officer in California earns $67,771 on average. According to ZipRecruiter, that’s approximately $32.58 an hour.

How many SWAT units are within the FBI?

About 56. There are about 56 field offices within the FBI and each one of them has Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) unit.

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