State troopers are among the most important police officials within any state, and their salaries often reflect their qualifications and broad job responsibilities. These salaries are often much higher than those found in city or other municipal police organizations, and there is usually considerable room for promotion and salary increases. While the exact range of salaries for state troopers is contingent upon the state, most salaries fall into a range around the national salary average of $55,000. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Factors That Influence a State Trooper’s Salary
Geographical Location – The state in which a trooper serves can be the most important factor in determining what their salary will be. States with robust economies like New York and California can offer starting salaries of $50,374 and $67,764, respectively, while troopers in states with lower economic activity usually pay much lower salaries.
The salaries of troopers are usually dependent upon two factors: (1) State budgets and (2) Cost of living. In states, where the cost of living is relatively high, the salaries are typically higher to attract the most qualified applicants. Some states may be able to provide larger salaries than expected because they benefit from strong economies or wise fiscal managers.
Even within a state, the salary of a state trooper may depend on the job posting; assignments within major metropolitan areas are often better compensated than those within rural areas.
Education – State police organizations are seeking the most qualified applicants possible. State troopers are expected to fulfill a wide variety of responsibilities so these organizations attempt to recruit individuals with an array of skills that are usually acquired through collegiate education.
Most state police organizations will provide a bonus to the starting state trooper salary for those with a bachelor’s, associate’s, or master’s degree. For example, the Washington State Patrol will add 2 percent to the starting salary for officers with an associate’s degree and 4 percent for those with a bachelor’s degree.
Advanced degrees also help in the hiring and promotion process by demonstrating that candidates possess the intellectual capacity to perform the complex tasks required of senior officers.
Military Service – While education is an important factor, most state police also place a similar premium on military service. Veterans are not only familiar with the regimented lifestyles that many police organizations demand, but they usually have many of the skills that state troopers need to function. Military veterans are comfortable with devoting their time to improving their fitness and combat skills, which often translate well into the demanding environment of law enforcement.
Of great importance to many police organizations is the assurance that a new hire will be able to perform under the stresses of a high-risk situation. Veterans who have served in combat are able to provide such assurance, and many state police encourage their interest by providing preference during the application process and salary bonuses when they join the organization.
Seniority –Most state police organizations provide a structured promotion plan that offers incremental salary increases throughout a trooper’s career. Some states implement these salary increases on an annual basis, while others may implement a multi-step program that provides multiple increases over similar time periods. State troopers who remain loyal to their organizations are highly valued for their experience and acquired skills, so most states provide salary and other incentives to retain them.
Seniority may also be acquired before joining the state police. Some police groups will provide some seniority to officers who have served in other law enforcement agencies or the military. While these individuals have not served with the state police, they often possess knowledge and skills that inexperienced officers would not, and this often merits higher standing and salary.
Job Responsibility –State troopers are most recognized for their presence on the highways, but these organizations usually possess many specialized departments that are less visible to the public. While most state police require troopers to serve their initial years in the traffic division, they usually allow motivated recruits to apply for these departments after a probationary period. These can include SWAT, narcotics enforcement, bomb disposal, counterterrorism or criminal investigations.
In order to join these specialized units, candidates must possess the skills necessary to perform related functions. Some groups like SWAT may require a rigorous screening process, while others usually only require a recommendation or successful passage of a specialized examination. In order to compensate members for their extended training and unique qualifications, most of these specialized officers receive titles like Detective or Agent, and larger salaries. In California, for example, the salary for a regular state trooper is capped at $84,036, but a specialized airplane pilot officer can receive up to $98,256.