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State Police Officer Job Description, Career as a State Police Officer, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training High school plus training

Salary Median—$23.55 per hour

Employment Outlook Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

State police officers, or troopers, patrol and enforce laws on highways, issuing traffic tickets, investigating accidents, and administering first aid. They also help motorists by radioing for automobile mechanics and by giving directions and tourist information. Sometimes they check the weight of commercial vehicles and give the public information about highway safety.

Some specialize, conducting fingerprint classification, analyzing microscopic evidence, and piloting police aircraft. Others work in special units such as the mounted police or canine corps. In areas that do not have regular police forces, troopers help city or county police investigate crimes. However, most of their work is restricted to highway matters.

Education and Training Requirements

Most states require troopers to have high school diplomas or the equivalent. Courses in English, social science, government, chemistry, and physics are good preparation for the job.

All states provide formal training, usually lasting several months, that covers state laws, procedures for accident investigation, and traffic control. Recruits are also taught how to use guns, administer first aid, and handle cars at very high speeds.

Many officers continue their education while on the job, particularly if they are interested in advancing to higher positions. Several two- and four-year colleges offer courses in criminology and police science.

Getting the Job

To become a state trooper, you must be a U.S. citizen. In most states, you must be at least twenty-one years old and meet height, weight, and eyesight requirements. You will be selected on the basis of your score on a civil service exam, a personal interview with an officer, and an investigation of your character.

In some states you can become a cadet when you graduate from high school. You will receive a salary while you attend classes to learn about police work. If you are successful at nonenforcement duties, you may become a trooper at age twenty-one.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

New recruits, who usually start as privates, are required to serve probationary periods lasting from six months to three years. Examinations are necessary to advance in rank to corporal, sergeant, first sergeant, lieutenant, and captain. State police officers who show administrative ability may become commissioners or directors.

The number of job openings for state police officers is expected to grow as fast as the average through 2014. Some openings will occur when experienced officers retire or leave the force. Stiff competition is expected in many states.

Working Conditions

Police protection is provided twenty-four hours a day, so troopers usually work rotating shifts, including weekends and holidays. Overtime is often required, because troopers are on call at all times for emergencies.

Troopers spend most of their time driving police cars and are exposed to all types of weather. Like other police officers, they may deal with dangerous and stressful situations and risk their lives in the line of duty. However, the job can also be rewarding, for they aid stranded motorists and prevent accidents. At all times they must be tactful, patient, and alert.

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary from state to state. In 2004 the median wage for state patrol officers was $23.55 per hour. Earnings increase with advancement to higher ranks.

Where to Go for More Information

National Association of Police Organizations
750 First St. NE, Ste. 920
Washington, DC, 20002
(202) 842-4420

National Fraternal Order of Police
1410 Donelson Pike, Ste. A-17
Nashville, TN 37217-2933
(615) 399-0999

Most states provide uniforms or uniform allowances. Benefits usually include paid vacations, sick leave, health and life insurance, and pension plans.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesLaw and Public Service