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How to Become a State Trooper

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Make a Solid Income as You Serve and Protect

If you enjoy excitement and have a passion to serve people and keep them safe, a career as a state trooper could be fulfilling and rewarding. Troopers can work odd hours at times, since the community needs protection 24 hours a day, which could be challenging with little ones at home. Reliable childcare and family support helps make this career possible. On the plus side, excellent benefits and a stable income could be attractive to those raising a family and planning for future college expenses or retirement.

Job Description

Most state troopers work from their squad cars to ensure safe vehicle operation. This involves conducting traffic stops, directing traffic, attending to vehicle accidents and assisting in road safety during inclement weather. Some troopers may also specialize in criminal investigations, tactical operations, narcotics enforcement, counter-terrorism, computer crime, gangs, organized crime or even work on a team with a canine officer. State troopers must keep meticulous records, properly follow procedures, stay in top physical condition, practice firearm skills and wear safety gear like bulletproof vests. They must possess excellent people skills, communication skills and conflict-resolution skills to help prevent or diffuse conflicts under stressful conditions. Because of the high-stress nature of the field, excellent self-care skills are necessary for career longevity. Risk of injury or post-traumatic stress disorder are important considerations, but following protocols and making use of department medical, mental health and chaplaincy services can help to manage those risks.

Education Requirements

Requirements to become a state trooper vary from state to state, but a high school diploma or the equivalent is the minimum requirement to begin training. Many states prefer candidates with a college degree and may have physical, weight and age requirements. Some states require candidates to be at least 21 years old but less than 40 years old, and to pass an exam. If you meet the requirements, your department will require you to attend training that lasts for anywhere from six months to more than a year, depending on the state. During this training, you will complete classroom education, firearm training and tactical training, and you'll practice your skills in a variety of simulated and real-life law enforcement situations. Once you graduate from training, you will work as a probationary officer before you are considered a full officer and allowed to work on your own.

The median annual salary for all police and detectives as of May 2016 is $61,600, which means that half earn more than this while the other half earns less. The top 10 percent earns more than $102,750, while the bottom 10 percent earns less than $34,970.

Industry

State troopers make up around 11 percent of all law enforcement officers. They typically spend most of the day in their squad cars, driving and responding to calls for help or intervention. Some time at the highway patrol office is necessary when picking up the squad car for a shift, booking a suspect, turning in paperwork or preparing to leave at the end of the day. A few troopers have desk jobs, especially those whose physical health requires them to be in the office instead of in the field. Work is highly risky, so troopers must remain alert, aware of their surroundings and ready to respond swiftly at all times.

Years of Experience

All law enforcement officers, including state troopers, can expect to see salary increase with time on the job, specialized training and particular department assignment. One projection looks like this:

  • Entry-Level: $29,337 - $66,896
  • Mid-Career: $33,611 - $84,060
  • Experienced: $35,179 - $94,231
  • Late-Career: $38,689 - $106,940

Job Growth Trend

Job opportunities for police and detectives, including state troopers, are expected to increase by 7 percent over the next decade, which is about as fast as other industries. Turnover is low and competition for positions can be steep. Those with military or investigative experience have an edge over the competition in securing new positions in the field.