Almost 7,500 people have applied for just 100 jobs as police officers – with Catholics making up nearly a third of the applicants.
Police yesterday revealed the huge response to their recent recruitment drive, the first in three years.
Launching the recruitment campaign, Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie said the PSNI was particularly keen to draw applications from Catholics and women.
Two-thirds of those who subsequently applied for the posts are from a Protestant background, with a similar ratio of men to women seeking to join.
Police said 30.6% of applicants are from a Catholic background, with 2.7% undetermined.
Almost half of all those who applied are aged 18 to 24.
Ms Gillespie yesterday said she was delighted with the response.
"Initially, 100 successful applicants will attend the Police College, Garnerville, for 21 weeks of intensive training, which will include practical and operational policing skills, to ensure they are mentally and physically equipped to perform the important role of police constable," she added. "Subject to securing additional funding, we hope to be able to appoint up to 378 further student officers from the merit pool of candidates generated by this recruitment campaign."
Candidates completed an online application and those wishing to join must have five A*-C GCSE grades and an IT qualification.
The starting salary is approximately £23,000.
The new recruits will not be qualified until next March.
Despite the additional recruits, the Police Federation believes the force needs an extra 1,000 officers to cope with current demands.
The PSNI currently has 6,900 officers. Chief Constable Matt Baggott (left) has also warned police numbers are at risk of falling to critically low levels.
In September Mr Baggott raised concerns at a briefing with the Stormont justice committee in which he told MLAs at least 7,000 officers were needed to police the streets and protect the public.
"We are on a downward path in terms of numbers," he said. "I am concerned about that."
Mr Baggott said a volatile year of protests, coupled with the severe terrorist threat, was taking its toll on resources and morale.
The PSNI chief claimed there had been 3,000 fewer arrests compared to the same period for 2012 because officers were being regularly diverted from ordinary roles to public order duties.
In 2011 the 50/50 recruitment drive to increase the number of Catholic police officers ended.
At that time 29% of officers came from a Catholic background. Before its introduction, only 8% of RUC officers were Catholics.FACTFILE
The breakdown of initial candidates by religion, gender and age: