State Trooper: Career Guide
Each 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.
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. 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.
Steps for Becoming a State Trooper
State troopers are uniformed and sworn law enforcement officers. The minimum requirement for a position with the state police includes being at least 21 years of age and the possession of a high school diploma or GED, but many states recommend that candidates for trooper school have an associate’s degree or higher. To become a state trooper, you can expect to undergo a process similar to the following:
- Attend a degree program and/or gain experience in a related field.*
- Apply for an open position with the state police.
- Be interviewed for the position.
- Complete a physical examination, drug test, polygraph exam, and background investigation.
- Complete a state trooper training academy.
- Be hired as a state trooper.
- Continue on-the-job training once hired.
*Check with the specific requirements of the state trooper job for which you are applying for educational requirements.
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. 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.
Possible Job Titles for This Career
- Highway Patrol
- State Highway Patrol
- State Patrol
- State Police
- State Trooper
State Trooper Salary and Job 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 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.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Question: How important is education when seeking a position as a state patrol officer?
Answer: 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.
Question: What kind of hours do state troopers generally work?
Answer: 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.
Question: What benefits do state police generally receive?
Answer: Again, benefits may vary on a state-by-state basis. However, benefits may include health insurance, life insurance, retirement, and paid time off.
- National Association of Police Organizations – A national coalition of police associations and police units, dedicated to education, advocacy, and political action.
- International Union of Police Associations: National Police and Troopers Association – A professional organization dedicated to assisting police officers and state troopers with education, communication, and earning better pay.
- National Troopers Coalition – A nonprofit organization for state troopers across the United States, assists state trooper associations with helping their members get the best salaries, benefits, and working conditions.
- The American Association of State Troopers – A national fraternal organization for state troopers.
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Programs
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages May 2015, Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333051.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Police and Detectives: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/police-and-detectives.htm