Highway Patrol Officer: Career Profile

Highway patrol officers require some formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Highway patrolmen, or state troopers, are provincial police who enforce traffic laws on interstate highways. They also may perform other duties like aiding town or county police, or protecting government officials. Highway patrol officers must pass various exams, possibly have college coursework, and complete a training academy program.

Essential Information

Highway patrol officers, also known as state troopers, are state police officers who work in all states except Hawaii. They are mainly responsible for enforcing traffic laws and apprehending criminals on a statewide basis. Education and experience requirements vary by state, but new hires typically must complete state police training programs.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent; some states require a year or two of college
Other Requirements State police training program
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 5% for all police and sheriff's patrol officers
Mean Annual Salary (2015)* $67,190 for police officers who work for state governments

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Profile for Highway Patrol Officers

Highway patrol officers may be found on all state highways looking out for public safety. In addition to enforcing traffic and criminal laws, they may also come to the aid of accident victims, attend to emergency situations, act as witnesses at trials and transport prisoners. As part of their non-highway duties, highway patrol officers may have to prepare police reports and attend classes on police training topics. Additional duties may include assisting small town police or other law enforcement agencies.

After receiving additional training, highway patrol officers may advance to more specialized fields, such as instructors for new recruits or for other officers. In these roles, highway patrol officers may be responsible for teaching such skills as detecting drivers under the influence, firearms operation and police driving. Highway patrol officers may also serve as security personnel for government officials.

Training Requirements for Highway Patrol Officers

Educational requirements vary greatly from state to state. Some areas only require that an individual have a high school diploma, while others prefer candidates who have completed one to two years of college. Postsecondary schools offer courses and degrees in criminal justice, police science and law enforcement.

Certain state police departments may require that candidates have worked as local law enforcement officers first. Candidates may be required to undergo physical, personality and drug testing. After acceptance into a department, new recruits must attend a state police training program that usually lasts for a few months.

Employment Outlook Information for Highway Patrol Officers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for police and sheriff's patrol officers, which include highway patrol officers, are expected to grow by five percent between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS notes that job opportunities may be best for bilingual applicants with military backgrounds or postsecondary education in law enforcement. As of May 2015, police officers employed by state governments earned a mean annual salary of $67,190. Most police officers with all employers received between $33,430 and $96,110 per year.

Highway patrol officers undergo similar training to that of local police, except state trooper training is more focused on things related to driving and traffic law. Job growth is slower than average, but employment depends greatly on government decision. It is a competitive field, so those with the most experience and educational background will have the best job prospects.

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