Life as a State Trooper
State troopers, also known as state police or highway patrol officers, are responsible for enforcing traffic laws along state highways; however, they also assist law enforcement agencies in rural areas. The work of state troopers can be stressful and sometimes dangerous, as they must often work on the side of busy highways and deal with difficult individuals. The work can be both physically and mentally demanding as well. Night and weekend shifts are sometimes required. However, the job can be rewarding for those who are interested in keeping roadways and communities safer.
State Police Requirements
|Degree Level||Associate's degree or bachelor's degree available|
|Degree Field||Criminal justice|
|Experience||Prior experience in the military or as a certified police officer may be substituted for education|
|Key Skills||Strong communication skills, ability to multitask, a willingness to help, good judgement, leadership skills|
|Salary (2019)||$54,866 per year (median salary)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Various Divisions of State Police, Payscale.com
How Long Does it Take to Become a State Trooper?
The length of time it takes to become a state trooper will vary based on each individual. Some state troopers have an associate's or bachelor's degree in criminal justice, while others have prior experience in the military or as a certified police officer, which may be substituted for education.
The key skills required include strong communication skills, ability to multitask, a willingness to help, good judgement, and leadership skills. As of 2019, Payscale.com reported that the median annual salary for all state troopers was $54,866.
How to Become a State Trooper
Step 1: Earn an Undergraduate Degree
Though some states require only a high school diploma to become a state trooper, others require a minimum of an associate's degree, or even a bachelor's degree, in criminal justice or a related field. In addition to taking general education courses, students in criminal justice associate's degree programs typically learn about principles, theories, and techniques used by police officers and state troopers through courses in laws and policies, police supervision, criminal behavior, criminal investigations, and criminal procedures. Bachelor's-level courses generally cover the same areas as those on the associate's level, but they might include more advanced topics.
If you've served in the military or worked as a certified police officer, some states will allow you to substitute this experience for some or all of their education requirements. Military service typically includes time served in the Armed Forces and/or the National Guard or Reserves.
- Pursue a specialization option within a criminal justice program. Look for colleges that offer a concentration in an area like law enforcement, corrections, security, or forensics.
Step 2: Complete a Training Academy
Once a candidate's application to become a state trooper has been accepted, he or she will have to complete a state recruit training program. During this training, which combines classroom work and physical training, applicants might learn about civil rights, state laws, constitutional laws, traffic control, self-defense, firearms, and emergency response. Recruits also will have to pass physical fitness tests involving running, push-ups, and sit-ups as well as general health and vision exams. Typically, the full starting salary for state troopers is paid to candidates attending a training academy.
- Begin physical training before applying to a training academy. Developing a daily workout routine before entering a training academy could make it easier for recruits to meet the physical fitness requirements necessary to work as a state trooper.
Step 3: Career Advancement
Gain additional experience through workshops covering a variety of law enforcement specialized topics. Identify positions of interest within the law enforcement ranks and acquire additional recommended skills.
Hopeful state troopers should look into their state's education requirements and then consider earning an undergraduate degree before entering a state trooper training academy.