What is a State Trooper?
State troopers, also known as state police officers, state patrol or highway patrol, are law enforcement officers who work on a state level. They often have different working titles depending on the state they work in.
Many state troopers cover the roads and highways within a state jurisdiction, giving tickets for speeding infractions or arresting those who are driving while impaired or on drugs and alcohol.
It is a common misconception that state troopers only cover roads and highways. In fact, state troopers are the ‘bridge’ between local police departments and federal agencies, and work across a wide range of responsibilities. They protect rural areas, state property and national parks. State troopers also run their own criminal investigations and provide vital support in search and rescue missions and disaster relief situations.
Job Description and Common Tasks
No day is the same for state troopers. With a focus on the roads, many state troopers spend their time patrolling state-owned highways and federal interstates, monitoring traffic and responding to calls both emergency and non-emergency within their jurisdiction.
They will often be the first on the scene after an accident and conduct investigations, often providing support for local police units.
State troopers also conduct larger criminal investigations into state crimes such as drug trafficking and organized criminal activity.
Day-to-day tasks include:
- Patrolling roads, highways and interstates for illegal vehicle activity
- Monitoring and controlling traffic
- Compiling accident or crime reports which will be used as evidence in court
- Testifying in court
- Responding to emergency or non-emergency calls
- Making and processing arrests, detaining those who have been arrested
Many state police departments have specially trained units for larger investigations which require a range of specialized skills and resources.
These include aviation units for search and rescue missions, forensic specialist units for crime scene and DNA analysis, canine units for dog handling and even scuba units for underwater investigations and the recovery of bodies and vehicles.
How to Become a State Trooper
The minimum age to apply to become a state trooper varies depending on the state, between 19 and 21 years. To become a trooper you must be a U.S. Citizen and hold a high school diploma or GED. Some states also require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
Experience in the military or in another field of law enforcement is a large advantage for those who want to become state troopers.
Those who want to be a state trooper must go through a background criminal check and are often required to pass a polygraph test to test their honesty, moral character, and clear the applicant of any criminal activity which may affect their suitability for the role.
All state troopers must go through state academy training before they get their badge. Applicants will be run through a series of tests before they are accepted into the academy. These include critical thinking tests, physical assessments and a psychological exam which examines elements such as the applicants’ ability to handle stress and high pressure situations. These are all designed to ensure candidates are up for the often demanding role of state trooper.
Academy training is tough and intense, typically lasting around 24 weeks. Training involves long days of physical training, lectures, demonstrations and specialized training such as firearms. State training standards are exceptionally high to hire those who can handle the diversity and challenges of the role.
Once officers have graduated from the academy, they can then start field training and ride alongside a field training officer.
Pros and Cons of Being A State Trooper
State troopers must hold a range of soft skills, such as good communication (both verbal and written) and a passion for helping others. They must also hold the ability to make good judgements and hold their own in stressful or high-pressure situations. The role is demanding and requires a wide range of skills and a high level of dedication, but it has many rewards.
Pros of Being A State Trooper
State trooper salaries vary from state-to-state, with the average median national salary currently at $63,380 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Alongside a good salary, state troopers also have a wealth of job benefits, including excellent health care and the option for early retirement
The role has many opportunities for advancement, including getting promoted to higher ranks such as captain and lieutenant, working in a special unit, or leading trooper education as a field training officer
Becoming a state trooper is a very fulfilling and varied role. They serve and protect their communities from dangerous driving and crime and make residents feel safer
Cons of Being A State Trooper
State troopers are hard workers, and are expected to put in long and often tiring 12 hour shifts, including night and weekend shifts. Many within the role will experience fatigue, and are expected to respond quickly to call outs
Being a state trooper can lead to confrontations and stressful situations, particularly when arresting and detaining suspects. Troopers must keep their head in high-pressure settings, and may be shouted at or even attacked by suspects. They are often involved in emotional situations which can have an impact on their mental health, and the role requires resilience
State troopers often work outdoors and in all weathers. Applicants must be aware of the physical demands of the role, including working in extreme weather conditions. Once in the role, state troopers regularly go through on the job training and tests to ensure they continue to be in good physical condition for the role
Who Employs State Troopers?
All state troopers are hired by their state government. Every state in America apart from Hawaii have state police.