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Working as a State Trooper

What They Do

Regardless of location, the primary role of a state trooper is to enforce state vehicular laws and regulations. It’s mandatory that a state trooper fully understands constitutional laws as well as their state’s particular laws. They must also stay abreast of any changes and amendments that occur. For example, some states refer to their police force as state highway patrol, highway patrol, or state patrol. Since state troopers patrol the roadways and often encounter reckless drivers or drivers traveling at excessive speeds, it is critical that they are constantly alert and prepared for various scenarios. For example, in the case of suspected drunk drivers, a state trooper must use his or her judgment on whether to give an alcohol breathalyzer test.

Sometimes state troopers are the first responders at accident scenes; in this case, they must administer first aid and quickly call for emergency assistance. Sometimes a trooper may be responsible for operating emergency equipment to help an injured or trapped person. 

Additional duties include:

  • Directing traffic
  • Issuing citations
  • Arresting criminals
  • Preventing disturbances and riots
  • Relaying evidence to detectives and testifying in court
  • Assisting local law enforcement agencies in administrative tasks such as documenting evidence, taking photographs and conducting interviews
  • Educating the public
  • Acting as a backup for other officers 

Working Conditions

State troopers spend the majority of their shifts working from their patrol car. However, there will be times when they will spend time in police departments or courtrooms. Troopers work full-time and their work is scheduled in shifts so that their patrol area is covered around the clock. While experience and seniority decreases the number of night, weekend, and holiday shifts, beginners should expect to work long hours with overtime. Similarly to other law enforcement professionals, state troopers encounter dangerous and stressful situations daily. They must keep a cool head to deal with these situations effectively. 

Career Growth and Salary Potential

Salaries for troopers vary from state to state, so those interested in becoming one should investigate hiring criteria and pay rates specific to the state where they will work. According to Zip Recruiter, the highest-earning state troopers are in New York ($59,147), Massachusetts ($58,765), Nebraska ($55,639), Maryland ($55,501), and California ($54,682). The lowest-earning state troopers are in Michigan ($47,445), Missouri ($46,981), Mississippi ($46,981), Florida ($45,357), and North Carolina ($41,512). Minnesota state troopers earn an average of $51,719. Promotions can become available when senior officers retire; a promotion would mean a higher annual salary. The need for more state troopers rises with population growth.

Education and Training

Each state is different, but like most careers within law enforcement the minimum education required to become a state trooper is a high school diploma or GED. That said, candidates who hold a B.A. in criminal justice or an M.A. in criminal justice leadership will increase their attractiveness to employers. They will also likely earn a higher salary and have greater opportunities for advancement. 

Graduation from a police academy is mandatory for troopers. This involves intense physical and mental preparation, and typically takes 12 to 14 weeks. However, some academies run longer and are more extensive. In addition to physical training each day, police academy students take courses in civil rights, traffic control, first aid, self-defense, and firearm safety. Once employed, training continues on the job.

Special Skills and Qualifications

No matter where they work, it is required for state troopers to have outstanding driving abilities. It is also important for troopers to maintain their best physical health. Strong written/verbal communication and reporting skills are also a must. It is crucial that those interested in becoming a state trooper have sound emotional and mental health, physical fitness, and can remain calm under pressure. 

A career as a state trooper is intense, but rewarding for both the individual and community they serve. Concordia St. Paul’s online criminal justice degree boasts excellent placement rates and gives students the opportunity to begin a fulfilling career as a state trooper.