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When you become a state trooper, you could be asked to clock speeders, diffuse a domestic argument in the middle of the night or preserve forensic evidence at the scene of a homicide. That's why candidates undergo a battery of screenings and tests before they wear the uniform. You need to prove you’re physically and mentally up to the task. If you make it far enough, you need to overcome the challenges of a multiweek cadet academy training before you can finally wear the badge.
Your Trooper Checklist
Meet the requirements. Many states won’t allow you to apply until you’re 20 and work until you’re 21, although, for New Jersey, the minimum age is 18 and, in Florida, it’s 19. Many states won’t hire you if you’re older than 35. You need at least a high school or GED diploma. Many states require 60 college credits or relevant work experience on top of that. All states prefer you have some college experience before applying.
Pass a background check. You’ll be called on to enforce your state’s laws, so many states will rule you out if you have committed crimes. Low-level offenses, including multiple motor-vehicle violations, can rule you out as trooper. They’ll verify your school records and citizenship status and whether you have issues with drugs or alcohol. They’ll also review your financial records, in particular whether you owe child support.
Stay fit. You may be called on to chase a suspect, so fitness is important. Many states require you to run a mile and a half and complete as many pushups and situps as you can in a set amount of time -- usually a minute or two. You’re scored based on how fast you complete the run and how many pushups and situps you complete. In Missouri, men ages 20 to 29 need to do 22 pushups in a minute, 33 situps in a minute and run 1.5 miles in 16 minutes and 46 seconds. In Georgia, men have all the time they need to do 21 pushups, a minute to do 30 situps and 90 seconds to complete a 300-meter sprint.
Pass an entrance examination. Many states want to make sure you make good decisions and don’t lose your cool under stress. The examination screens out candidates who fail to meet these requirements. The Delaware State Police exam comes in three parts, for instance. In part one, you'll answer 48 multiple-choice questions designed to test your memory, reasoning and ability to order information. Part two, the work styles questionnaire, gives you 74 statements concerning your values and attitudes, and you have to mark from 1 to 5 whether you strongly agree or disagree with the statements. The final portion has 47 multiple-choice questions on your past history and life experience.
Gain a favorable review during a job interview. A face-to-face interview with trooper supervisors gives them an opportunity to supplement what they know about you from the previous screenings. In Michigan, for instance, three police department members will ask you about your ability to build trust, handle stress, adapt in different situations, communicate and make good decisions. By explaining how you exhibited these qualities in your past, you can convince the panel how you'll make a good trooper.
Complete training. If you make it this far, your employment is contingent upon completing police-academy training. Many states require you spend approximately 25 weeks away from your family with breaks only on weekends. In New York, cadets undergo a 26-week program with 1,095 hours of training in police regulations, first-responder duties, penal and traffic law, domestic abuse, maintenance of evidence, public relations, diversity and sexual harassment. You must demonstrate the ability to defend yourself and fire a gun. After that comes 10 weeks of field training where you're matched up with an experienced trooper.
Start a weightlifting and cardiovascular regimen before you consider applying. You’ll need to be in shape to pass the fitness test and make it through the academy.
Each state has its own variations to the general guidelines. Some offer unique challenges. In Florida, for example, you need to complete an obstacle course where you open your vehicle trunk, run, drag a 150-pound dummy and fire your empty gun six times.
- The State of New Jersey: Department of Law & Public Safety, Recruiting
- Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles: Florida Highway Patrol Virtual Career Fair
- Missouri State Police: Applicant Fitness for Duty Minimum Score Charts
- Georgia Department of Public Safety: Georgia State Patrol -- Trooper
- Delaware State Police: Entry-Level Trooper Examination Candidate Preparation Guide
- Michigan State Police: Hiring Process
- New York State Police: Recruitment Center, Basic Curriculum
- Oregon State Police: How to Become an OSP Trooper
- California Highway Patrol: Become a California Highway Patrol Officer
Rudy Miller has been writing professionally since 1996. Miller is a digital team leader for lehighvalleylive.com, a local news website and content provider to the Express-Times newspaper in Easton, Pa. Miller holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Miami.
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