State Trooper: Job Description, Salary, and Training
State troopers (also known as highway patrol officers or state police) are police officers that patrol highways and enforce traffic laws, provide emergency assistance and help to prevent crime and apprehend criminal offenders.
Each state has its own hiring criteria, pay rate and job description for their state troopers, so it is important for interested applicants to research the specific criteria for their states. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of police officers is projected to grow 7% from 2010 to 2020.
According to the BLS, the national median salary for police officers is $55,010. The five states with the highest median wage for police officers as of May 2012 are New Jersey (annual median wage of $84,930), California ($84,320), Alaska ($72,240), Washington ($68,920) and New York ($68,510).
Job Skills for State Troopers
Regardless of what state they reside in, all state troopers share certain skill sets. Since so much of their job is done from a patrol car, excellent driving skills are mandatory for this position. State troopers need to be able to safely navigate through busy streets and must be able to do so while driving at very fast speeds when necessary.
State troopers also must be in peak physical condition, as they may have to physically detain suspects during the arrest process. They must also have the other skills necessary to make arrests, like strong communication abilities, attention to detail and reporting skills. Written communication is imperative, as state troopers need to be able to write reports detailing their work.
Work Environment for State Troopers
State troopers work primarily out of their patrol car, though they may spend some time in office or courtroom settings. Their work schedules are generally full-time and are done in shifts to cover every hour of every day. Nights, weekends, holidays and overtime work are likely for state troopers. This is particularly true for those who are newer to the field, as the schedules are usually made based on seniority.
Mental health is just as important as physical health for this position. State troopers and other members of law enforcement have to deal with stressful work environments, a lot of pressure and potentially violent or disturbing situations. It is important for potential state troopers to be emotionally stable and have the ability to stay calm and make the right choices under duress.
Education Requirements for State Troopers
Each state has particular education guidelines for their state troopers. Applicants usually have to pass through their agency’s training program. A high school diploma or GED is usually mandatory. College education is often a requirement as well, whether it is specific number of course hours or an entire degree. Higher education, especially in areas like criminal justice or law enforcement, may help state troopers get hired in at a higher grade level or improve their chances of promotion.