How to Become a State Police Officer

Two Parts:Meeting Minimum CriteriaCompleting Basic Training Requirements

Enlisting to serve as a state police officer requires meeting certain physical, mental and educational criteria. The requirements vary from state to state. In some states, state police officers are known as highway patrol, or state troopers. In general, state police officers help local police with investigations and emergencies that extend beyond the resources and jurisdictional boundaries of the local law enforcement agency.

Part 1
Meeting Minimum Criteria

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    Be a US citizen. All states require their police force to be comprised of United States citizens. To become a state police officer, you must be a United States citizen, or in the process of applying to become a US citizen. Most states also require that you reside in the state where the police department you'll be working is located.[1]
    • Proof of citizenship can be provided through a driver's license, a social security card, or a US passport.
    • Most state police require that you have a state driver's license in order to apply for the police force.
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    Meet the age requirements. The minimum age in most states for application to be a state police officer is 21 years of age, at the date of application, although some states accept applicants as young as 18. States may have an upper age limit for initial applicants of 39; you will be disqualified if you will have reached your 40th birthday prior to completing basic police training.[2]
    • The exact age requirement varies by state. Check with your state police office to see what might be true for your state.
    • Some states have no maximum age requirements.
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    Be in good physical condition. Most state police are required to meet a minimum physical fitness requirement. The requirements may be slightly different for men and women. Physical condition requirements typically include being able to do sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups and running certain lengths within a limited amount of time.[3]
    • Physical fitness training prior to applying to become a state police officer is encouraged.
    • You may also be required to have good dental health, as certified by a dentist.
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    Have good vision. Uncorrected vision must be no more than 100/20, and corrected vision should be 20/20. If you are color blind, or affected by night blindness, you will not qualify for state police work.[4]
    • You will be required to pass a depth perception test in order to work for as a state police officer.
    • If you have corrective surgery to improve your vision, you may need to wait a minimum of 6 months from the date of the surgery before performing certain required trainings with the state police. Inform your recruitment office if you've had corrective surgery.[5]
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    Pass hearing test. In order to qualify for state police work, you may be required to pass an audiometer screening. While standards vary from state to state, an example of uncorrected hearing (i.e. without hearing aids) is being able to discern 25 dB or better for pure tone stimulation between 500 Hz, 1000 Hz, 2000 Hz, and 3000 Hz.[6]
    • In a quiet area, you may be required to hear speech at 25 dB or better.
    • In a noisy area, you must be able to hear 90% or better speech discrimination, where noise doesn't exceed 20 dB of the speech signal.
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    Complete educational requirements. Some states require that state police applicants have college degrees, while others accept high school graduates. In some states, a GED is acceptable. As with many fields, the more education you have already had, the more likely the agency is to look favorably upon your application.[7]
    • College study in fields such as criminal justice are preferred.
    • If you have a GED, it will improve your chances to become a state police officer if you have 2 or more years of either responsible work experience or coursework completed at a community college.
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    Maintain standards of personal appearance. Most state police have specific requirements regarding hairstyle and personal grooming. For instance, hair must be kept short (not touching the collar, for males, and not below the bottom of the uniform collar, for females.) Male applicants may be required to be clean shaven, i.e. no beards and/or mustaches.[8]
    • Wearing clean, professional clothing at all times is a part of becoming a police officer. As a police officer, you'll be required to keep your uniform appearance clean and pressed.
    • Makeup is typically prohibited.
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    Don't have tattoos or body piercings. Almost all states prohibit their police officers from having any visible tattoos or body piercings. This includes intentional visible scarring, branding, subcutaneous implants to the head, neck, hands and arms, etc.[9]
    • Wearing earrings while on duty may be prohibited.
    • Any visible tattoos on the hands, wrists, arms, neck or head must be removed.
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    Pass a criminal background check. In most states, any prior convictions held by a candidate for state police must be no more than minor misdemeanors. Having convictions for any drug use, reckless driving, DUI or other offense may be sufficient for dismissing your application.[10]
    • You may be able to expunge your record of certain criminal convictions if sufficient time has passed. State laws vary on this; check with your local statutes to learn if this is true in your state.
    • Certain criminal convictions (for example, conviction for domestic or sexual violence) automatically disqualify you for state police duty.
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    Demonstrate good moral character. In addition to passing a criminal background check, most police officers are also required to demonstrate good moral character. Any history of fraud, misrepresentation, dishonesty or deceit may be grounds for disqualification.[11]
    • This includes acts or behavior that might lead a reasonable person to assume possibility of deception.
    • Any other issues of conduct that negatively reflects upon the individual's character may interfere with your being able to become a police officer.
    • The specifics for your state may vary. Talk to the Human Resources department at your state police recruitment center for more detailed information.

Part 2
Completing Basic Training Requirements

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    Submit an application. You can download an application from your local state police website, or request an application at your local recruitment center. Along with your basic contact information, you should be prepared to submit additional supporting documents.[12]
    • Include documents to prove citizenship, such as a copy of your birth certificate or comparable document which proves citizenship.
    • Include documents which prove educational achievements, such as a copy of your high school diploma or equivalent, or high school transcripts.
    • If you have served in the military, certain educational requirements may be waived. Include a copy of your DD-214 if you served in the military.
    • You'll need to include a photocopy of your driver's license, if you have one.
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    Pass the written tests. The written tests required for a state police officer assess the applicant's ability in areas of common knowledge. In addition to math, spelling, and vocabulary questions, you'll also be asked questions to assess your judgement, memory and observation skills, and understanding of human character.[13]
    • To prepare for these tests, it's recommended that you spend time every day reading the news. Consider what elements went into a news story, and how the police handled situations found in the news.
    • Written tests tend to be given in multiple choice format.
    • Listen carefully and follow all instructions when taking this test. Any accidental error will decrease your score.
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    Pass the physical tests. Each state offers a different version of a physical fitness test, but in general the areas assessed by the fitness tests are similar. An aspiring police officer must be able to do a certain number of push-ups, sit-ups within a set time frame. He must also be able to run both 1 1/2 miles and 75 yards within a certain length of time. Inability to perform any one of these tests may disqualify you from serving as a state police officer.[14]
    • Most states require that applicants be physically able to fire a gun with either hand.
    • Some states may require you to pass flexibility tests as well.
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    Take psychological evaluations. The particular psychological examination requirements will vary from state to state, but in general you can assume that you will be required to submit to multiple psychological tests administered by a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist or psychological assistant.[15]
    • Dress for your psychological appointment as if you were attending a job interview. Your appearance should be professional and neat.
    • These tests may take several hours to complete, and consist of 300-600 different questions.
    • Answer each question honestly and completely. While certain conditions may work against your application, if you lie during your application process you may be subject to criminal charges of false representation.
    • You may be required to complete a polygraph as a condition of your application.
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    Complete the state police training program. Nearly all states require attendance at their state police training academy or program. This is an intensive residential program for new recruits that combines physical training with classroom work. Training times vary, with some states requiring 22-26 weeks of attendance (Monday-Friday).[16]
    • Training academy covers the various areas of law enforcement as practiced in that state, including tactics, laws of arrest, criminal procedures, search and seizure, emergency vehicle operations, first aid, verbal judo, computer science, firearms proficiency, cultural diversity, and crisis intervention.
    • Training candidates must be willing and able to receive oleoresin capsicum (O.C.) spray, as well as receiving shocks from from an electronic control device (Taser).


  • Consider asking your local state police agency to do a "drive-along" in order to learn more about the daily experience of a state police officer.

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Categories: Careers in Government