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A partnership between the SC Technical College System and the SC Criminal Justice Academy, Police Pre-Academy Training (PPAT) Certificate is designed to address the industry’s current workforce shortage and enhance the policing profession overall. PPAT allows those who are at least 20 years old and have a clean background to attend the first part of the police academy BEFORE becoming employed. In short, the PPAT certificate provides a simpler path to becoming a law enforcement officer.

How long does it take to complete?

The certificate can be completed in only one 14-week semester. Over that time, you will learn basic and introductory law enforcement training, tactics, and procedures. You’ll take two courses at a time and complete each set of courses in only 7 weeks. The 12 credit hours you’ll earn can apply toward the 66 credits required to earn an associate degree should you decide to further your studies.


What are the steps to take?


  • Apply to Tri-County Technical College.
  • Complete the 14-week certificate program.
  • Secure employment with a South Carolina law enforcement agency within one year.
  • Take and pass a cumulative exam and physical assessment test administered by the SC Criminal Justice Academy.
  • Complete an eight-week training program at the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy in Columbia. Note: You will have to become employed with an SC Law Enforcement Agency before attending this 8-week program.

Once these steps are complete, candidates are ready to begin their career as a certified law enforcement officer in South Carolina.

There are certification requirements for the PPAT program.

  • Must be a U.S. Citizen.
  • Must be a high school graduate or have an equivalency.
  • Must successfully pass a criminal background check and drug screening.1
  • Must wear appropriate program attire on select instructional days and all field training. 1
  • Must be at least 20 years of age to enter the program. 2


1 Individuals will be responsible for the cost of the background check and drug screening (must be performed by an approved organization; contact the Criminal Justice Program Director or Department Chair for more information). They will also be responsible for the costs of program polo shirts.


2 Individuals do not have to be 21 years old to enter the program but should not be more than a year away from turning 21 when entering the program. An individual who is currently 19 but will turn 20 before finishing the PPAT program can still enroll and begin the certificate program.

Why should you choose the Tri-County PPAT program?

While this certification is available at many other technical colleges throughout the state, we believe the backgrounds and experiences of our instructors truly set us apart. Plus, we offer additional training and certifications that will give you an edge in your law enforcement career. These are industry-recognized certifications above and beyond what you will get from many other PPAT programs!


  • Tri-County instructors have more than 30 years of experience in the Criminal Justice System and all have extensive Law Enforcement experience.
  • Our law enforcement and law experience include Patrol, Investigations, Traffic Detail, Patrol Supervisors, DUI Task Force, Narcotics Interdiction, Honor Guard, Airport Police, and Campus Police.
  • Our instructors are also experienced in the fields of Attorneys at Law (Former Prosecutor & Judge), Victim’s Advocacy and Detention Center/Corrections.
  • Two of our instructors are current Reserve Police Officers. They provide ride-a-longs while they are on duty to students to help bridge connections and explore differences between academic knowledge and practical application.
  • Adjunct and guest instructors are currently working in law enforcement, corrections/detention centers, special teams/units, probation, and parole.


What other certifications will I earn?

Because our instructors are also current certified Law Enforcement Instructors with many industry contacts, students completing our PPAT program will also have an opportunity to earn the following industry certifications while completing our program:

  • Axon Academy-Taser Operator (X26P, X2, Taser-7)
  • T.E.C.C. Certification (via TCTC Paramedic Program)
  • NAMI (Mental Awareness)
  • Crisis Intervention/De-escalation




Tuition for the PPAT program can be offset by Lottery Tuition Assistance and the SC Wins Scholarship.