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Highway Patrol Career Education, Training Programs and Course Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a highway patrol officer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training and job responsibilities to find out if this is the career for you.

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Highway patrol officers, commonly referred to as state troopers, work on state highways and expressways enforcing traffic laws. These officers also provide assistance in car accidents, chase down criminals, and protect public officials. A high school diploma or equivalent may suffice for this job but some college education may be preferred, besides attending a state police academy.

Essential Information

A career in the highway patrol can be exciting, dangerous, rewarding and quite often stressful. Highway patrol officers typically receive education and training at a law enforcement academy managed by the state in which they seek employment.

Required Education High school diploma, GED or college degree
Other Requirements Completion of police academy program
Projected Growth (2014-2024)* 5% for all police and sheriff's patrol officers
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $58,320 for all police and sheriff's patrol officers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Highway Patrol Officer Career Description

Highway patrol officers, sometimes called state police officers or state troopers, respond to situations that are often dangerous and life threatening. These officers mostly enforce motor vehicle laws and guidelines, and arrest those who violate them statewide.

One of the state trooper's most common duties is responding to emergencies like auto accidents. When highway patrol officers arrive on the scene of a crash, they normally administer first aid to victims, help in directing and rerouting traffic and provide other assistance as necessary. Investigating these vehicle accident scenes and compiling written reports also fall under state troopers' jurisdiction. State police officers also bear some courtroom responsibilities in criminal and traffic cases, including testifying, providing evidence and acting as a witness.

Career Skills

Law enforcement agencies usually seek officers who are personable and have a strong sense of honesty, responsibility and integrity. State troopers must be physically fit, know how to operate sophisticated law enforcement equipment and have excellent communication and interpersonal skills.

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Education and Training

There are both legal and academic requirements for a career as a highway patrol officer. Candidates are normally required to be U.S. citizens of at least 21 years old that hold a valid motor vehicle license and are able to meet the mandated medical and physical prerequisites. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) points out that the most desirable assets for prospective highway patrol officers to possess tend to be foreign language fluency, college education in law enforcement or military police training.

Even though much of highway patrol officers' education and training is done on the job, it is not uncommon for an agency to expect applicants to have earned a high school diploma or GED. In some instances, officer candidates are required to complete a law enforcement program, 1-2 years of postsecondary education or a full college education. After applicants are accepted into a highway patrol officer program, they traditionally receive training at a state-run law enforcement academy; this training usually lasts 12-14 weeks.

Course Information

As mentioned above, most highway patrol officers are required to complete a state-run academy. The courses at many of these academies tend to be broken into categories like firearms, driving tactics and leadership.

The course topics that prospective state troopers are likely to study under the leadership umbrella typically include working with aggressive and difficult people, incident and emergency management, and understanding conflict. In driving courses, students learn to drive defensively, pursue other vehicles and safely drive at high speeds. Firearms and use of force training can involve courses in basic firearms, tactical response, confrontational simulations and defensive tactics. Students may gain qualification in the use of rifles, shotguns, handguns and less lethal firearms.

Highway patrol officers must complete an academy program, and many also have a college education. Driving instruction, firearms and leadership are all integrated into the state-run academy programs. Since job growth is slow and it's a competitive job market, the more education and experience you have, can increase your chances of attaining the position of your choice.

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