New police recruits will no longer have to serve as a bobby on the beat for the first time in Britain under a far-reaching overhaul of recruitment rules.
In what normally takes a decade to achieve, military personnel, security staff and industry professionals will be able to enter the police force as superintendents.
A fast-track scheme aimed at both university graduates and serving officers will allow constables to rise to the rank of inspector in just three years, while foreign candidates will be able to apply for chief constable roles for the first time.
Policing minister Damian Green said the Government wanted to "forge a force fit for the 21st century" by opening up the police to a "wider pool of talent".
But police chiefs said direct entry would increase frustration among ambitious staff already facing fewer promotion opportunities in the wake of 20% budget cuts.
And rank-and-file officers opposed the proposals as they hailed the importance of "first-hand experience" to the senior ranks in commanding operations successfully.
The shake-up was masterminded by ex-rail regulator Tom Winsor as part of the widest-ranging review of police pay and conditions in more than 30 years.
Mr Green said: "This government wants to attract the very best candidates into policing, people who have the right skills and expertise to forge a force fit for the 21st century."
The current approach to recruitment, which involves a single entry point at constable level, dates back to the foundation of the Metropolitan Police in 1829.
Ministers believe existing practices miss too many people who might make effective senior police officers - with the average time to reach the post of chief constable currently at 25 years.