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Zac, there is not too much more I can add to copchika911's post, everything that you asked was hit upon. Don't get confused on the STUDY part, there is no particular study guide for the civil service test. It is mostly reading comprehension and memory based. There are also a number of departments in Massachusetts that are non-civil service that conduct their own testing. Start taking the tests now (civil service and non civil service) if for nothing else practice.

18 is not the crossroads in your life you have plenty of time to make your decision on what you want to do in life, I had a guy in my academy that was in his 50's and was just starting his career in law enforcement. Most departments are looking at applicants over the age of 21 anyway so at the very least you have a few years to plan. Also look into a second language while your attending school, that’s a plus with any department.

There are many departments up your way that have auxiliary units, that might be a way to see if this is something that you are interested in doing. Auxiliary units augment the police department when needed, most perform traffic duty at civic events while others go out on patrol. The down side is that they are 99.9% volunteer and you have to pay for your equipment and uniforms.

Many departments also offer citizen police academies, that will shed a little light on police work and will most likely provide you with a few ride alongs.

A book that you may want to pick up is Trooper Down | Life and Death on the Highway Patrol by Marie Bartlett it hits upon the not so glamorous side of the profession.
 
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