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California Highway Patrol Officer (CHP) Job Information

Learn what California Highway Patrol officers do. See what kind of education and training are required for employment. Get the details about career and earning potential to determine if this field is right for you.

Career Definition for a California Highway Patrol Officer

The main duty of a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer is to ensure road safety in California. Additional duties include protecting state buildings, conducting criminal investigations, and assisting local law enforcement agencies and operations. CHP officers are thus charged with enforcing the California Vehicle Code, ensuring safety and public order, and writing tickets and reports when necessary and appropriate.

Education High school diploma
Job Skills Communication skills, decision making, leadership, physical strength
Median Salary (2019)* $113,200
Job Growth (2016-2026)** 7% (all police officers and detective)

Sources: *Payscale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

According to the State of California, the minimum educational requirement to become a CHP officer is a high school diploma, GED or passing score on the California High School Proficiency Exam (www.chp.ca.gov). The California Highway Patrol website states that the CHP highly desires candidates with an associate's degree or higher, with coursework in English, mathematics, computer skills, physical fitness or the social sciences . Earning a 2-year associate's degree or 4-year bachelor's degree in a relevant field, such as criminal justice, pre-law or law enforcement would likely improve your chances of becoming a CHP Officer.

Skills Required

In addition to the educational background outlined above, candidates for the California Highway Patrol should be in good health; must be free of physical, mental or emotional conditions that would prevent them from serving effectively; and should have no prior felony convictions. Applicants for the CHP must also be U.S. Citizens or permanent resident immigrants who are eligible and have applied for citizenship (www.chp.ca.gov).

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the State of California in 2019, cadets-in-training earn a salary between $5,114 and $6,554 per month. In 2019, PayScale.com reported that CHP officers earn a median salary of $113,200. On average, the time from taking a written test to entering the academy is approximately 8-12 months (www.chp.ca.gov). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) reports that jobs for police and detectives in general are expected to increase 7% nationwide from 2016-2026.

Alternate Career Options

Those interested in becoming a highway patrol officer may consider working as an emergency medical technician or correctional officer.

Emergency Medical Technician

An emergency medical technician (EMT) uses highly specialized training to provide urgent medical care to people suffering accident, injury or illness, both on-site and then en-route to hospitals. EMTs are dispatched based on 911 calls. They quickly assess patients' medical needs and transport patients to hospitals via ambulance, informing the receiving medical staff about patients' condition and care provided up to that point.

A variety of postsecondary education and training programs are available for aspiring EMTs; most require a high school diploma and CPR certification to apply. Degree programs in the field are also available for EMTs who may be interested in career advancement to paramedic. Certification and licensing requirements apply in all states. Additional training may be required for EMTs who want to drive ambulances. The BLS predicts that jobs will increase 15% from 2016-2026. The median salary for EMTs was reported to be $33,380 in 2017.

Correctional Officer

A correctional officer works in a jail or correctional facility. He or she oversees the activities of inmates who are waiting for their trials or who are already convicted and serving time. They search for contraband, monitor inmate activities, and transport inmates as required. Aspiring correctional officers typically need to be at least 21 years old and have a high school diploma. Federal jobs require at least a bachelor's degree or a minimum of relevant experience. Correctional officers complete academy training followed by on-the-job training. The BLS predicts that jobs will decrease 7% from 2016-2026; correctional officers earned median pay of $43,540 in 2017.


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