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​Criminal Justice Academies

 Frequently Asked Questions About Self-Sponsored Academy Recruits

(These are answers for the most commonly asked questions for students wanting to send themselves through a police academy)


 This document was prepared to serve as a mechanism to answer many of the Frequently Asked Questions regarding self-sponsored participation in the Basic Academy Course at the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy.  After reviewing the document please direct further questions to the Criminal Justice Academies staff who are happy to serve you.
Q: What is the difference between a sponsored and self-sponsored academy trainee?
A: A sponsored academy trainee has already been hired by a policing agency that is sponsoring (paying for) the trainees’ training experience.  A self-sponsored trainee is attending the academy as a Santa Ana College student who pays for his or her own police training experience.

Other differences include:

  • Sponsored trainees receive pay and benefits during their academy training
  • Sponsored trainees have workman’s compensation protection during their academy training because they are employees of a policing agency
  • Sponsored trainees have already passed a personal history background process because it is required before they are employed as a police employee
  • Sponsored trainees already have a law enforcement job once the academy training is completed
Q: What is the ratio of sponsored versus self-sponsored trainees at the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy?
A: Currenty, as of 9/2013  the ratio of self sponsor recruits is less than 10 percent.
Q: What motivates the typical self-sponsored trainee to enter the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy?
A: Different individuals have different reasons.  Some candidates interested in sponsoring themselves through the program have had difficulty being hired by one of the premiere policing agencies in the region.  By completing this program, trainees believe they have greatly enhanced their value and marketability with the upper-tiered or premiere policing agencies.  Other candidates have reported that they are frustrated and impatient with lengthy recruiting and hiring processes and are anxious to expedite their professional training experience.      
Q: Do sponsored and self-sponsored trainees wear the same uniforms?
A: No. 
Sponsored trainees wear uniforms that are the same color as their on-duty personnel (Sheriffs-green, Municipal Agencies-navy blue) along with their agency's shoulder patch.
Self-sponsored trainees wear navy blue uniforms and the Santa Ana College shoulder patch. 
Q: How much does it cost for a self-sponsored trainee to attend the academy?
A: Total costs, not including the cost of a weapon and a medical screening by the trainee’s doctor, are between $7,000 and $8,000.
Q: What do those costs include?
A: Tuition, fees, uniforms and equipment including:
Fees for prerequisite college courses
College tuition and health fees
DOJ (Department of Justice) Livescan fingerprint screening fee  
Weapon (a limited number of college owned, loaner weapons are available to students during training)
Uniforms, shoes, leather gear
Other supplies
Physical training gear
Driver’s Training
Training Ammunition
The employing police agencies pay these costs for sponsored trainees.  Self-sponsored, college trainees are responsible for paying these expenses on their own.  
Q: Do sponsored and self-sponsored trainees receive the same level and quality of training?
A: Yes, absolutely.  All trainees are treated the same and exposed to the same learning experience. 
Q: What level of physical conditioning should I be in before entering the academy?
A: Adequate physical conditioning seems to be the most underestimated portion of academy preparation for most trainees. Trainees who enter the academy in good physical shape have a much better chance of graduating from the program.  Individual conditioning expectations increase during the length of the course.  Formal training to prepare for the physical challenges of the academy can be obtained by enrolling in the Physical Fitness for Law Enforcement Applicants Course offered by Santa Ana College.
For a more detailed look at physical conditioning for the academy please watch the movie below.
To watch a the video go to and type in Orange County Sheriff's.  There are two parts to this video so make
sure you click on part 2 when the first video finishes.
Q: What is the relationship between Santa Ana College and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department?
A: For over 40 years, the College and the Sheriff’s Department have partnered in providing professional police training throughout the region
Q: How long does the police academy last?
A: Approximately six months, plus an optional 2 week pre-academy preparation program
Q: How often is the Basic Academy Course offered at the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy?
A: The Basic class is offered 4-5 times per year with a new class starting approximately 2 months apart.
Q: If I were to graduate from this program, what would I receive?
A: Program graduates earn a certificate of completion for the Basic Academy Course as defined by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) and credit for 20.5 college semester units from Santa Ana College.
Q: After graduating from the Basic Academy Course as a self-sponsored trainee, what else do I have to do in order to become a police officer or deputy sheriff?
A: Apply for and be hired by a policing agency whose selection processes typically include the following:
Written test
Physical agility course
Oral interview
Medical and Psychological exam
Thorough background investigation
At some agencies, academy graduates have certain, non-mandatory processes waived.
Q: Is the Basic Academy Course accredited?
A: Yes.  The Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy is one of 39 P.O.S.T.-Certified Basic Training Academies in California. Instruction is offered in an intensive (versus extended) format.  P.O.S.T. requires a minimum of 664 hours of training for Basic Academy training.  The Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Basic Academy Course consists of 984 hours of instruction, exceeding State requirements.  Other pertinent information regarding required learning domains, instruction and testing may be viewed  
Q: How challenging is the police academy?
A: Very challenging!  Most graduates report that attending the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy Basic Course was one of the most difficult challenges they ever experienced.  The program is meant to be challenging.
It was designed to challenge each trainee, both academically and physically, at his or her highest level.  Although class rankings are kept, each trainee is pushed to achieve his or her own personal best performance.
After a full workday, participants typically spend a significant amount of after-hours time studying and preparing themselves for the following day.
It is impractical to plan on having any kind of part-time employment while attending the police academy.  The training experience will require all of your time, energy and attention. 
Q: I’ve heard the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy is a “full-stress academy.”  What does that mean and why?
A: The training experience provided at the Orange County Regional Training Academy has a history and tradition of being taught at a very intense level.
It is believed that the intensity of the experience is a further screening/testing method to ensure that the trainees are capable of performing the high stress responsibilities expected of a police officer while under pressure. 
Failure in the training academy is preferred to failure in the field where lives and community safety are at stake.
If a less stressful training experience is sought, other fully accredited training opportunities are available.
Q: Where does the training take place?
A: The majority of the training is provided at the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy located in the City of Tustin.  Other, specialized training is provided at other law enforcement training sites in the region.
Q: How long does the application/screening process take for a self-sponsored applicant?
A: Depending on the applicant’s individual experience and circumstances, the process could take several months.  Applicants who are truly interested in applying for admission are encouraged to begin the process as soon as possible. 
Q: Do I need to compete with others to enter the program?
A: No.  To attend the program you simply need to pass the prerequisite test and courses, complete the application process, and pay the required fees.  Remember, you are not competing for a job, simply qualifying and registering for a block of college instruction.
Q: What are the consequences if I fail to successfully complete the academy program?
A: Failure in the academy could have significant career ramifications.  Specifically, hiring agencies might take your failure as a measure of your ability to complete similar mandatory training or that you lack the aptitude to successfully function as a sworn peace officer.  Accordingly, individuals should not enter the program until they are fully prepared mentally, physically and emotionally to take on this extraordinary challenge.   
Q: If I am interested in becoming a self-sponsored trainee, what is the process for application?   
A: The self-sponsored trainee application process includes:


  • A counseling appointment with the CJA (Criminal Justice Academies) Training Coordinator
  • Passing the POST Entry-Level Law Enforcement Test Battery
  • Completion of a prerequisite college course
  • CJA 010: Pre-employment preparation for Law Enforcement
  • Complete forms for CJA (Criminal Justice Academies) file:
  • Academy Information Sheet
  • Physical Agility Test Verification (from CJA 010 Course)
  • Employment Consideration Form
  • Academy Success Criteria Form/Code of Conduct Form
  • Authorization to Release Student Records
  • Felony Disclaimer
  • Copy of California Driver’s License
  • Completed Personal History statement from our office
  • Written Medical Clearance from trainee’s personal physician
  • DOJ (Department of Justice) Livescan and Driver’s History Clearance

It is hoped that you found this document useful.  Further questions regarding becoming a self-sponsored trainee of the Basic Academy Course at the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy should be directed to Santa Ana College, Criminal Justice Academies staff located at 15991 Armstrong Avenue, Tustin, CA, by calling 714-566-9200, or e-mail   

The screening process takes several months to complete.  We encourage recruits to contact the CJA office as soon as possible be begin their process!

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