Postgraduate Queries: 'How do I become a police negotiator? And, which are the best courses for learning to speak Arabic?'


Force for good

Q. Last month someone asked about the routes into forensic science. Is it as difficult to get a job as a police negotiator, or are there some general courses I could apply for which would help me into this career?

This is such a specialised job that openings in the UK will be rare and, where they exist at all, highly competitive. That is because few police forces can afford to employ full-time negotiating specialists. The career is more common in the USA, where you might find more openings and opportunities for training, but getting a position is still likely to be very competitive.

An undergraduate background in psychology, sociology or counselling should stand you in good stead. Careers in counselling psychology, for example, require a first degree recognised for Graduate Basis Registration of the British Psychological Society (BPS). However, even if you have little or no experience of the subject, don't fret: plenty of universities offer postgraduate conversion courses aimed at students who have become interested in the subject after their first degree. Visit the careers section of the BPS website at www.bps.org.uk for more details and lists of accredited courses.

A general qualification such as this will not be enough to get you in: you will also need to be a trained police officer with experience of dealing with such situations. Academic study is an increasingly important part of modern policing, and training options can even include fields such as psychology. It depends which local force you join, but many offer specialist training for various roles including hostage negotiating.

If you are keen enough and don't mind the stressful nature of the job, you could try to rise through the ranks as a specialist in this area – but don't be surprised if you have to do your fair share of regular policing to get there.

Contact your local force for details of recruitment and the types of training that they could offer, or visit the police recruitment website at www.police-recruitment.com.

Arabic ambition

Q. At the moment I only speak English but I'd like to learn Arabic, preferably in a country where it's the native language. Do you know of any good overseas Arabic language courses? Or would I be better off studying in the UK?

If this is to be your first venture into a foreign language, it's hardly the easiest choice. If your main reasons for learning Arabic are social, cultural or recreational, then you don't need a formal qualification: you'll probably find that there are suitable courses at your local university in the extra-mural department, which might also incorporate other aspects of arts and culture that will also interest you.

However, if you need to learn Arabic as a way into a future career, then the support of a recognised qualification will add credibility to your CV. Learn Direct (www.learndirect-advice.co.uk) lists a number of courses across the UK in all modes of study. If you have your heart set on learning Arabic in a foreign country – usually the best way to become fluent in any language – then an internet search will throw up a plethora of companies keen to accept you. The biggest is probably Language Courses Abroad (www.languagesabroad.co.uk), which offers intensive Arabic tuition at its school in Cairo.

Although it's very difficult to gauge the quality of the teaching, it's a good sign if they offer an internationally recognised syllabus or qualification and are willing to tell you the results that they have achieved. Do some careful research, ask questions and try to talk to ex-students: personal recommendation is probably the most reliable way of assessing the quality of these courses.

Thanks to careers consultants Liz Hagger and Mike Cox.

Please send your postgraduate queries to Chris Green at c.green@independent.co.uk

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