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Studying Policing and Public Safety: Expectations vs Reality

Studying Policing and Public Safety: Expectations vs Reality


Currently studying a Bachelor of Policing & Public Safety, Charlotte Penhall shares how her expectations have measured against the realities of her study journey.

Written by Charlotte Penhall

When I first started looking at the Bachelor of Policing and Public Safety at Charles Sturt, I had a lot of expectations surrounding my degree and what university would be like for me.

A lot of these expectations came from TV since I did not know many people who went to university.

1. Classes

Expectation: Everyone in my classes are going to be doing the same degree as me.

Reality: The people in my degree only make a small percentage of the numbers.

Before I stepped foot into Charles Sturt, all my information came from movies, TV shows, and my careers adviser from high school. So when I stepped into one of my first classes last year, which was ‘Criminal Justice in Society’ I thought it would only be policing and criminal justice students (because why would they not be there, it is literally the point of their entire degree).

To my shock, there were people from psychology (these guys were majoring in criminal justice) as well. 

Charlotte Penhall (right), & Charlotte (left) who is studying Psychology, majoring in criminal justice.

2. Lecturers

Expectation: Lecturers are going to be similar to my high school teachers.

Reality: I have people teaching me that have experienced first-hand what job I want to go into.

I am pretty sure Charles Sturt does tell you that they hire lecturers that are/were professionals related to the subjects they are teaching, but I did not believe them at first.

Then I got to know my lecturers. I have had a few ex-police officers (one of which was a police officer in the United Kingdom and another being my Course Director) and an ex-defence lawyer as lecturers to name a few. 

Let me tell you, it has made a difference in my study.

The examples and stories I get in class are more often than not real cases and jobs my lecturers have dealt with that relate to the topic in class that week.

It gets me excited about my future career and also gives me a heads-up on the types of things I may come across.

3. Legal Studies

Expectation: I will always be using legal studies from high school in my classes at university.

Reality: I rarely use this in any of my classes.

I wish I knew how often I would actually be using the stuff I learned in legal studies in my criminal law subjects here.

It would have saved me so much time during high school that I could have spent putting time into other subjects and activities. However, it was not all for nothing. There have been a couple of things that I have brought over from legal studies and they have made my life just that little bit easier.

Charlotte Penhall.

4. Placement

Expectation: I would have no placements because this is the background and theory side of being a police officer.

Reality: I get one placement in Session 2.

I know getting one placement is not a huge thing, especially with some degrees having multiple in their first year, but I was expecting to not have any at all. So, imagine my surprise when looking at my subject handbook to see I get to go on placement!

Another expectation that then came out of this one placement was that I was going to have to go into either a correctional facility or a courthouse.

However, I have the ability to go to a wide range of places.

They can be more legal based such as the courts and government organisations, or they can even be more community based like Stewart House or the Salvation Army.

5. Opportunities 

Expectation: I will only have my placement as an opportunity to get out in my community.

Reality: Not only do I get the chance to go overseas for my degree, but I also get job opportunities.

When I first stepped foot onto campus, I was under the impression that I would pretty much be “stuck” at university while doing my degree. I am happy to say that I was proven wrong.

There are so many overseas opportunities through the university with my degree. I actually ended up going to Liverpool’s John Moores University in the United Kingdom at the end of June for one such opportunity!

However, I could have also applied to go to Wales, Sri Lanka, Canada, and South Korea. I never could have predicted being able to go to so many countries for my policing degree.

I recommend applying if you get the chance, just be mindful of limited spots. 

I have also been offered jobs relating to my degree as well while I have been here. They do not come through often but the last one that came through was going to help remove deceased people from their homes. It was a little random, but I never thought I would have that as a possible opportunity.

Continuing on from this, Charles Sturt has actually had police recruiters come to campus and give us tips on how to develop a successful application. This is the type of stuff the general public does not get easily. 

A final note

Well, there are just some of the expectations and realities I have experienced as a policing student. I am always learning new things about my degree and have not regretted anything about it. I am excited to finish my degree and join the NSW Police Force.

Good luck studying policing students! I hope to see you as a police officer in the future!

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