Here’s What You’ll Do in a Career in Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice
A state trooper career is a rewarding job that offers the opportunity to protect and make a difference in local communities. Entering the field requires at least a high school diploma, but students may consider an associate or bachelor's degree to qualify for career advancement opportunities. Requirements to work as a state trooper vary by state, and students should read on to learn more about common educational requirements and traits of successful state troopers.
What Are the Duties and Responsibilities
of a State Trooper?
State troopers work for the state rather than a local municipal government. The state trooper position is typically seen as a level higher than police officer and may come with more responsibility and a higher salary. Exact state trooper job duties may vary by state. Students interested in this career path should research jobs in their state to ensure they qualify.
State troopers work for the state rather than a local municipal government.
The state trooper job description includes promoting public safety by routinely patrolling neighborhoods, responding to emergency or non-emergency calls, and preventing public disturbances. Troopers also assist with crime investigations, making arrests, and creating police reports for all incidents. Other responsibilities of a state trooper include monitoring state-owned highways. They may issue citations for speeding, traffic violations, and issue alcohol breathalyzer tests. State troopers must possess a thorough understanding of state laws to ensure they work lawfully and ethically in their communities.
State Trooper Education Requirements
Earning a degree in criminal justice prepares students for a variety of careers in law enforcement. Common career paths range from legal assistant to state trooper. Working as a state trooper typically requires a minimum high school diploma or GED. However, earning an associate or bachelor's may lead to career advancement opportunities and higher earning potential.
The two most common degrees aspiring state troopers pursue are criminal justice or law enforcement degrees. Criminal justice degrees focus on the application of laws to a suspect's crime and determining their punishment. A degree in law enforcement focuses on crime scene investigation, apprehending criminals, and developing patrol techniques. To work as a state trooper, earning a degree emphasizing law enforcement may be more beneficial since their primary duties include investigating and apprehending criminals. Students may find more details at criminaljustice.com on criminal justice degrees and key information including cost, program length, and common program requirements.
A degree in law enforcement focuses on crime scene investigation, apprehending criminals, and developing patrol techniques.
Educational requirements for state trooper positions vary by state. Some states do not require a college education, but many states prefer candidates with at least 60 credits of university level education. Some states may even prefer a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, law enforcement, or a related field. Industry-related work experience may substitute for education depending on a state's policies. Students should research their state's requirements to ensure they select a program that is right for them.
An associate degree in criminal justice or law enforcement introduces students to the basic principles of criminal justice. Core curriculum typically covers topics including an introduction to criminal justice, correctional systems, and the judicial system. The average associate degree takes two years to complete. Tuition costs vary widely by school, with students paying anywhere from $3,500 to nearly $15,000 per year.
Earning an associate degree in this field qualifies students for entry-level positions in criminal justice or law enforcement. Typical careers with an associate's include security officer, police officer, or border patrol agent. Earning a transfer-friendly associate degree may also prepare students to earn a bachelor's degree. Students should visit criminaljustice.com for more details on earning an associate degree in criminal justice.
A bachelor's degree in criminal justice or law enforcement teaches theories in policing and law, and develops investigative skills. Coursework typically covers topics such as criminal behavior, the American legal system, law and criminal procedure, and criminal justice ethics. A typical program takes four years to complete and costs between $10,000 and $35,000 per year. Tuition varies due to several factors including state residency, and whether a university is private or public.
A bachelor's degree is not required to work as a state trooper; however, many states prefer candidates with a bachelor's, and earning one may give students a competitive advantage. A bachelor's in criminal justice or law enforcement qualifies graduates to work as police officers, state troopers, investigators, legal assistants, paralegals, or probation officers. Students should research their state's specific education requirements to ensure investing in a bachelor's program is right for them. Visit criminaljustice.com to learn more about earning a bachelor's in criminal justice.
Other Requirements for State Troopers
Becoming a state trooper is a competitive process. In addition to meeting educational qualifications, most states require candidates meet certain non-academic requirements. These may include police academy training and passing written, physical, and psychological examinations. States may also require applicants to undergo and pass a polygraph test. Some states prefer candidates with military experience and, in some cases, work in the military may be substituted for previous work experience or education requirements.
State trooper applicants must be 21 years old, a U.S. citizen, and possess a valid driver's license.
State trooper applicants must be 21 years old, a U.S. citizen, and possess a valid driver's license. States also conduct thorough background checks which include interviews with friends, family members, spouses, previous employers, and neighbors. An individual's financial, driving, and education records may also be reviewed as part of the hiring process. State's specific requirements may vary so students should research their state's requirements to ensure they qualify before enrolling in any programs.
Qualities That Make a Great State Trooper
In addition to earning a degree, successful state troopers possess a wide-range of skills and traits. State trooper responsibilities involve handling difficult situations with potentially uncooperative individuals. They must be empathetic, service-minded, and possess emotional intelligence to work respectfully with the public. Other key traits include physical fitness along with critical-thinking, decision-making, and communication skills. Students should carefully view the top 10 traits below to determine whether this career is right for them.
- Physical fitness
- Critical-thinking skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Communication skills
- Emotional intelligence
- Self-motivated and independent
- Decision-making skills
Salary and Employment Opportunities for State Troopers
|State||Mean Annual Salary||Employment|
|Years of Experience||Average Total Compensation|
|Entry Level (0-12 Months)||$49,000|
|Early Career (1-4 Years)||$47,000|
|Midcareer (5-9 Years)||$58,000|
|Experienced (10-19 Years)||$74,000|