Recruits can take up paid degree apprenticeship, six-month graduate course, or join after university.
All new police officers in England and Wales will need a degree-level qualification, under plans to get policing fit for the demands of the 21st century.
Recruits will have the option of taking up a training post with one of the 43 forces and studying for a degree part-time while working.
They will be paid £21,000 to £23,000 during the apprenticeship and will have three years to complete the degree, spending around a fifth of their time in the classroom.
Alternatively, would-be officers can pursue a self-funded policing degree at a university, or join a police-funded six-month graduate programme.
Alex Marshall, chief executive of the College of Policing, said he was in discussions with 12 universities about the new system.
“Policing is more complex and difficult than it used to be and police need better training and education than they have had up until now,” he said, “If you compare it to medicine or the military [where] there is massive investment in training and development, in policing there is a tiny investment.”
The money for the apprenticeships is expected to come from an apprenticeship levy due to come into force in April. This will require employers with an annual salary bill of more than £3m to spend the equivalent of 0.5% of it on apprenticeships.
The changes are being driven by two factors. The first is a longstanding view in government and the upper echelons of policing that rank and file policing has to professionalise and that pay should match skills rather than time served.
Policing was traditionally a preserve of the white working class, offering some officers better terms and conditions than other public sector jobs, with social standing and secure employment. A review of pay by Sir Tom Winsor in 2011 found they were “comparatively well paid – 10% to 15% higher than some other emergency workers and the armed forces.”