How old is too old to get into LE?

I grew up wanting to follow my dad's footsteps and be a Ranger. Spinal fusion and a few other metal bits in my body closed that door before I was old enough to even open it. Now I'm here, 29 years old and looking to go down a new path. Would someone my age even be considered a viable candidate? Especially coming in with no relevant experience. What are some things I could do over the next 6-12 months that could help my chances of getting hired?
I got into the game in my mid-20's. No regrets there except for feeling a little long in the tooth if/when I want to pop smoke and do something else at this point.

Even though our minimum is 21, and our success rate with 22ish year olds fresh out of college/military isn't good. What sucks is some agencies have age caps for applicants that aren't laterals. The talent pool here is dry and we're all fighting for scraps...and generational differences aren't helping. Our last few viable hires have been in their 30's and they are a breath of fresh, competent air.

What do you consider "relevant experience"? I'd rather work with somebody with common sense that's just survived life for 5-10 more years than anybody with a criminal justice associates and an internship under their belt but still live at mom and dad's.

Some can do the job; some can't...regardless of age. Just know what you're getting into and the personality of the agencies you're looking at applying to. If you're still serious, knock out a few interviews at places lower on your list. You don't want your dream job to be your first interview. Staying in fair shape, but one killer for older applicants is heavy debt. Bad credit is a deal-breaker so get that in order if applicable.

There's another thread here about tips on getting into the game that's well worth your time to find and read.
I started at 41 so I don’t think that 29 is too old. Do I wish I would’ve started earlier? Hell yeah, I could retire earlier then. Lol
I actually think your age is a bit of a benefit, you likely have more life experience than a 21 year old.

Having trained some younger guys, I’d prefer someone with some life experience.
29 years old isn't old. And I'd say in 29 years you've gained lots of relevant experience, whether you realize it or not. Don't sell yourself short. In your post up there, you just described personal setbacks, perseverance, overcoming those setbacks, etc. That's called useful life experience from my perspective, and I'm sure you've got lots of it compared to the avg 21 year old wanna be (not saying 21 yr olds don't bring anything to the table, just that you've got nearly a decade of experience on them).

Can you effectively communicate? Any experience in sales, customer service, problem solving? If you've got any of that and common sense, chances are that you do have relative experience and lots of it. I assure you that relative experience doesn't equate to number of combat deployments, draw times, etc if you were thinking along those lines. And I assure you that a criminal justice degree doesn't matter either - unless required by the dept you're trying to get hired by.

The age thing does matter at some agencies more than others I guess. From what I've seen, a lot of agencies, mine included, require 20 years of service to be fully vested in the retirement system (unless medically retired), but you can't draw from your pension until you hit age 50.

Generally speaking, last I checked, barring certain exceptions for qualified veterans and .mil types, federal LE applicants have to be 35 (by date of hire or application - can't remember). Most state and local agencies, again, in my experience, seem to have 40yo cut offs. Some don't have any age limitations except for state codified age limits on LE certification (eg, mandatory badge hang up within the state at age 65).

There's a major hiring crisis in LE right now, nationwide - just like military recruiters are experiencing, for some of the same reasons. Some different. When I took the written exam for the dept I'm at now, almost fifteen years ago I believe, there were almost 400 applicants elbow to elbow in suits and ties. I'm told the last written exam they gave a month or so ago had 13 applicants. Thirteen. Crazy compared to almost 400.

So, if you're asking about whether or not you can get hired, or whether or not you should start the career, those are two different answers for two different questions. I think I've posted elsewhere on here that I'd tell my kids not to do it, but, I heard the same thing when I went through the hiring process and didn't listen. So far so good I guess.

If you've done your homework and you think you're able mentally, physically, emotionally, etc and you wanna try for twenty...heck no 29 isn't too old. Not even close.

As for what would help your chances, stay in shape, study for the exam, try and make connections within the dept (ridealongs etc), and try and ace every test you're given through the hiring process. Lots of info on that elsewhere on here too if you poke around a bit. Oh, and sit down and type up a resume/CV - if only for yourself - and put on paper how your life experience will translate to police work. I almost guarantee you that at age 29 you've got what you need. That knowledge and how to convey/articulate it in front of a hiring board will really help you out and pay off. Best of luck to you.
I had a 44 year old in my rookie school that completed the PGPD academy with us. My current department we have a guy I lovingly call "Old Man Graves" . I think he is in his 60's now. He started in his early fifties. This is a second career for him. He wanted to work with his son's. One is a deputy sheriff the other is a sergeant on my department. He completed a full six month academy in Prince George's County because they hired him first. He lateraled over to my department shortly after graduation and completed another 7 week academy. He has been on almost five or six years now. Yes is still works on a busy patrol shift. Age isn't a deterrent. Physical capability and health usually are. The profession isn't great on the back and hips. You have to stay in shape to fight off the injuries. I don't know the current condition of your back but that doesn't sound good. But no 29 is a great age. I started at 24 then moved to a new agency at 29.


I was late in life to police work. I think I benefitted from that because I actually had life experience to bring to the table. Being older you also tend to be more stable, level headed, and able to prioritize things better. The only thing I would caution you about your pre-existing medical stuff, especially the fusions. Back injuries are very common in LE, and starting off with a fusion could lead to trouble.

That's not saying it can't be done though. I work with at least two guys with spinal fusions of some type, one of them works swat with me.


Regular Member
Academy at 35..41 now, 5 yrs on patrol. Coworker is a 59yr old female who started at 45. Executive director at a company, retired,got in the academy. Husband was a LODD... she gets it.


Regular Member
I turned 29 at the academy, 33 now. My concern for you is the spinal fusion, depending where it is and how it limits your mobility is something to keep in mind. I had back surgery at 23, but no fusions. We had a guy in his mid-40s as my class president after a full USN officer career. It can absolutely be done. Go do some ride alongs and take the test. If you never take that first step, you will never know if it can be done.
We had a dude in my academy class back in '05 that was 72 years old. My academy was a paramilitary style academy; ie we ran daily, pt'd daily, did ground fighting daily, etc... This man was hard as wood pecker lips. He could do more sit ups, push ups, pull ups, you name it than any of the 20+ year olds in class. The only thing he couldn't do the fastest was run. Even then he was still middle of the pack.

He was a former Army Ranger and Special Forces dude. He said he always wanted to be a cop and now that he had retired he had some spare time.

Age has a lot to do with it but not everything.

Oak City Tactics

Yeah you have no idea how old we consider too old. Also remember a ton of guys from up north, where the 20 year option is popular, retire and head south for a second pension on the last 10 years. A lot. Likely that there is not a patrol squad on the local PD that doesn’t have at least one NYPD guy and one guy from somewhere else random. Some have more than that.
29 isnt too old at all, in fact you will be at an advantage over most of the younger 20 somethings. As stated before your back may be an issue, just take it slow and be in the best physical condition possible going in. Good luck and welcome to the best job on Earth.


Regular Member
if you gotta ask then you’re too old... I started at 28 almost 29 myself. I’ve been in going on 5 years now. Like most have stated getting in sooner would have been great especially on the retirement side but unless a dept has an age cap any age where you can safely meet the requirements of your duty station is a good age. I had a guy in my academy who had already been a state trooper for 20 years in a different state, took 5 years off couldn’t handle sitting at home so when he moved to Oklahoma he got back into LE. Only reason he had to go back and finish with another class was because he had a major family crisis that took him outta classes longer than he could be to successfully meet requirements, and while in DT he pulled something in his back. This man was HARD... and in his mid to late 60’s
I was 26 when I went in the academy, graduated just shy of 27 and started as a patrolman a few months later at 27. Granted you've got the health issues I didn't have. But we get plenty of people in their late 30s and 40s who do 20 in the military and then hire on. It's mindset versus number in a lot of cases.

In my department, it's usually younger guys(below 25) who get in the most trouble and the most frequently. A lot just do not have the maturity and life experience to handle LE and probably a slew of other jobs to be honest with you. In short, I was glad I was older. I feel it made me a better and more level headed cop in my younger less experienced years.
I graduated at 30. My best advise, Get in or maintain shape (dont shoot for passing, shoot for maxing)and have your references in order for when you apply. Do some ride alongs and truly understand the job as it isnt TV. You might learn that you want to work at one place or one level of LE but not another. Ask alot of questions and ask what they expect of new officers/deputies/troopers/agents etc. Make sure you are getting into it for you. Its not something to do to experience what someone else did or to make someone else proud. If you have a family make sure they are supportive of the decision and if not have HONEST real conversations about it.
Our local dept cutoff is 46 to enter the academy. Several start this as a second career after military etc. My uncle became a reserve deputy in his early 40's, and has gone on to become the dept's lead sniper and tac team leader. He also was the 2014 NRA LEO of the year, so yeah, I wouldn't say its too late at all.