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State Trooper Career Guide

State TrooperEach state has a force of state troopers dedicated to traffic safety and the enforcement of motor vehicle laws. State troopers have the authority to ticket, and even arrest, individuals who violate state and federal law. Their specific working title depends on the state in which they work and they may be referred to as state highway patrol, highway patrol, or state patrol.

State Trooper Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

State troopers enforce vehicle safety laws on the area’s highways and interstates, respond to accident scenes, conduct accident investigations, prepare court reports, and testify in court. Other common tasks include public education, heavy motor vehicle law enforcement (such as semi trucks and other shipping or large capacity vehicles on state highways and interstates), and public safety. In rural areas or areas with small police forces, state troopers are often the backup for local and county officers.

How to Become a State Trooper: Requirements and Qualifications

State troopers are uniformed and sworn law enforcement officers. The minimum requirement for a position with the state police includes a high school diploma or GED, successful completion of specialized training for state officers, a clean criminal record, and the ability to work well with the public. State troopers must be self-motivated, have good communication skills, and have the ability to work in all weather conditions. They must also be in good physical condition and have the ability to work alone or with others. Many states recommend that candidates for trooper school have an associate’s degree or higher. Promotions through the ranks are possible for qualified officers. However, since state trooper agencies only tend to grow in tandem with state population growth, higher ranking positions usually do not open until senior officers retire.

State Trooper Job Training

Training depends on the state in which the newly hired state trooper works. Rhode Island, for example, requires that all newly hired state troopers successfully complete a 22-week training academy. Recruits in that state must live on the training academy’s campus each week from Sunday evening to Friday evening. Each day runs from 6 AM to 10 PM and troopers can expect a rigorous schedule that includes physical fitness training, classes, demonstrations, and lectures. State police must generally pass the training academy to maintain employment.

Other Helpful Skills and Experience

Prospective state troopers should have a strong grasp of basic math and should be able to communicate effectively both verbally and in written form. Sound judgment, the ability to perform in stressful situations, and self-control are all essential to the success of a state police officer. Previous law enforcement or military experience may be beneficial.

Examples of Possible Job Titles for this Career

  • Highway patrol
  • State highway patrol
  • State patrol
  • State police

Career Opportunities and Employers

Depending on performance in their positions, troopers may enjoy such advancement opportunities as senior trooper, captain, lieutenant, and sergeant. State police officers work for the state.

State Trooper Salary and Outlook

State trooper salaries vary depending on the state in which they work. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary nationally is $61,270 for police and sheriff’s patrol officers.1 The BLS estimates 4% job growth for police and detectives from 2014 to 2024.2

Frequently Asked Questions About This Career

How important is education when seeking a position as a state patrol officer?

While most states only require a high school diploma or GED, an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a similar field may give candidates an edge during the hiring process.

What kind of hours do state troopers generally work?

State troopers typically work a 40 hour week, although overtime may be required. Schedules depend on the state for which the patrol officer works. State police in New York state, for example, work 12-hour shifts for 14 days each month. Night and weekend shifts are common, especially for junior officers.

What benefits do state police generally receive?

Again, benefits may vary on a state-by-state basis. However, benefits may include health insurance, life insurance, retirement, and paid time off.

Additional Resources

Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Programs

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1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages May 2015, Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333051.htm
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Police and Detectives: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm