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Law enforcement takes many forms. City police and county sheriffs cover the smallest areas, while Federal Rangers, the Secret Service, Border Patrol, and FBI can cover much larger areas and cross state lines. In the middle of those two groups, you have State Troopers and State Police.
State police and state troopers remain within their home state and are assigned a region. State police are given general authority. State troopers, on the other hand, are given specific authority to patrol both highways, as well as other types of state property.
While they normally work within their region, they can help other troopers throughout the state. There is a group of state troopers who are specially trained and assigned to work with semi-tractors/trailers and other commercial traffic.
What Is a State Trooper?
A state trooper is a law enforcement officer who has the same basic duties as city and county officers. The only difference is they cover a much larger area. They travel the highways throughout their state, investigate accidents, and write traffic citations.
State troopers are in charge of public safety education. They police commercial carriers and semi-trucks. They are also able to help other law enforcement officers when they are overwhelmed with work. As law enforcement officers, troopers work together to handle a wide variety of situations, whether they involve motor vehicles or not.
State Trooper Duties & Responsibilities
The primary duties of a state trooper are to promote public safety and enforce laws on every level. State police officers work in every area of the state, while troopers patrol the highways assisting motorists, policing commercial vehicles, and enforcing laws that have to do with traffic and other criminal activities that take place on the roads. They also monitor suspects and perform various types of criminal investigations.
Important Skills Required for a State Trooper/Patrol Officer
A state trooper must be highly skilled to be able to meet the demands of their job. This means they must have specific competencies that allow them to be as proficient and detail-driven as possible. The main skills needed to be a state trooper include:
- Mental and Physical Endurance – Long hours and stressful situations are part of the job. Being able to jump into action at any time is a must.
- Team Mentality – Highway patrol officers must work together as a cohesive unit at all times.
- Problem-Solver – Critical thinking is a must. State troopers must be able to resolve issues quickly and efficiently.
- Exceptional Physical Health – In order to deal with the stress and physical demands of the job, a trooper must be in top physical condition.
- Compassionate – An officer must be able to show compassion and empathy for those who are dealing with loss or find themselves in an uncomfortable position.
- Courageous – Having the courage to face difficult situations is a must.
- Intelligent – Law enforcement officers must be able to think quickly during intense situations. Being able to improvise during a difficult situation is a must.
- Not Easily Overwhelmed – An officer may be the first one to arrive at the scene of an accident. Accidents can result in life-threatening, very unpleasant injuries. A good officer will be able to hold it together no matter what they find at the scene.
Minimum Requirements to Be a State Trooper
State troopers follow the slogan “Service with Humility” very closely. No matter what state you reside in, New York, North Carolina, Michigan, California, etc., this slogan is the foundation for a state trooper’s service.
State patrol officers drive the highways constantly, they are the most visible of law enforcement agencies. This visibility means they have an opportunity to set an example when it comes to excellence in service when it comes to the public. To maintain these high professional standards, applicants must meet several minimum requirements if they want to earn their badge.
- Permanent resident of the United States or U.S. Citizen
- The minimum age is 19 or 21 years of age in most states. In New York, applicants must be younger than 30 years of age, with military service increasing that number one year for every year served.
- No felony charges/convictions or DUIs of any kind.
- Valid driver’s license with a clean driving record.
- Required public contact, usually one year or more of experience as a police officer or other position where the applicant works closely with the public.
- Applicants must have 20/30 vision (naturally or with corrective lenses) and be able to see specific colors. Candidates must also be able to pass a hearing test.
- Minimum requirements for physical fitness are also expected to be met. This includes flexibility tests, a medical exam, numbers of push-ups/sit-ups, and being able to run a specific distance that is determined by your gender and age.
Automatic Employment Disqualifiers
A patrol officer must be above reproach in every way possible. This is why meeting all of the employment requirements is so important. There are several automatic disqualifiers that will stop the applicant from moving through the selection process. First and foremost, an applicant must meet the state’s minimum requirements for employment.
- Conviction of any type of felony offense
- Inability to pass an official drug test (random or otherwise)
- Dishonorable discharge from the any branch of the armed services
- Gang affiliations (past or present)
- A failed polygraph or background investigation
- Poor employment history
- In the past, tattoos and piercings were taboo for any type of law enforcement officer. Today, it is up to the agency, whether or not they are allowed.
How to Become a State Trooper
Choosing to become a state trooper is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Being in constant service goes far beyond when you are on duty. Many officers continue to serve even when they are off the clock. There are several steps to becoming a state trooper. Having your high school diploma is a good place to start. Being able to handle a motor vehicle in any situation is also a must.
- Meet the Minimum Requirements – Applicants will be provided with a full list of requirements that must be met.
- Successfully Earn a Bachelor’s Degree – Earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, criminology, forensics, or behavioral science will add to your law enforcement experience.
- Apply for a Position – Check with the local state police post and apply for a position.
- Pass a Fitness Physical – Pass a physical abilities test to ensure you are physically fit enough for the job.
- Pass the Written Examination – Successfully pass the written examination with at least a 70% or better.
- Complete an Interview – Sit for an interview. This will require you to effectively use your communication skills. You will need to express yourself and discuss in-depth your intentions for wanting to become a trooper.
- Pass a Lie Detector Test – Passing a polygraph test is mandatory for most state police positions.
- Pass a Background Investigation – Applicants must also pass a criminal background check.
- Graduate From the State Trooper Training Academy – Applicants must also successfully complete classes at the State Police Academy or the State Trooper Training Academy. This involves intensive classroom and physical training that can last up to 28 weeks.
- Accept a Conditional Employment Offer and Assume Your New Position – Once you have applied and met the requirements, you will be offered a position. When you accept the offer, you will be placed at a post where you will begin to assume your duties as a state trooper.
State Trooper Employment Outlook and Salary
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics is an excellent source of information when it comes to learning about the wages and employment outlook for state troopers across the country. Entry-level troopers can earn about $38,000 per year. With a few years of experience, state troopers can earn between $54,000 and $65,400 per year (as of 2018). Troopers with past law enforcement experience may be eligible for pay increases and bonuses as they move forward.
The outlook for state trooper employment is good. Although this will depend on where you live in the United States. Each state differs when it comes to what benefits may be offered. Agencies will provide new troopers with everything they need to perform the duties associated with their jobs. Health insurance is included as well as paid time off and education incentives.