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How to Become a Police Officer in Virginia

Over 18,000 police officers are employed by the state of Virginia, with an average salary of $51,900 per year.1 Although the salary isn’t the highest in the country, the abundance of positions to be filled means that departments are often hiring. Application requirements for any department in the state of Virginia vary, but the common requisite is an age of 18 and education of at least a high school diploma or GED equivalent. College experience isn’t a necessity, but is usually recommended.

Virginia Police Officer Requirements

Once you meet the baseline requirements for becoming a Virginia police officer, you must complete an online application, as well as a written exam, which will test your ability to think clearly through a crisis and your ability to navigate emotional situations. The baseline requires the candidate to:

  • Be 18 years of age
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Be a US citizen
  • Submit to a background investigation
  • Have a clear driver’s license with no criminal or motor vehicle record
  • Submit to a physical examination*
  • Have no felony convictions
  • Not indulge in drug use or excessive alcohol

Following the written exam, you must also pass a physical ability test. You will be asked to complete 11 push-ups as well as run 300 meters within 112 seconds; there are sit and reach and trunk pull exercises as well. A background investigation and polygraph examination will be one of the last steps of the recruitment process, which will reviewed by a prescreening board. Once the board gives you the go ahead, you will then proceed to an oral interview. A firearms check, fingerprint check, psychological examination and physical (medical) examination are the final few items to clear before becoming a Virginia police officer.

Virginia Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

The Bureau of Field Operations, led by Lt. Col. George L. Daniels, Jr., manages enforcement on over 64,000 miles of roads and highways in Virginia.2 The requirements to become a Virginia state trooper are fairly similar to becoming a police officer. You must:

  • Be a Virginia resident
  • Be at least 21
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Be a US citizen
  • Have a valid driver’s license and good driving record
  • Be willing to relocate elsewhere in the state

Virginia Deputy Sheriff Requirements

Most Virginia deputy sheriffs work in the Detention Center, as well as provide security at the courthouse. To become a Virginia deputy sheriff, you must be at least 21 years old, be a US citizen, and either have a high school diploma or a GED. Additional certifications within one year of being hired must also be completed, including being certified as a law enforcement officer, jailer, court security and civil process, or in firearms proficiency. Some departments may be very particular about who they accept as candidates.

Virginia Beach

The Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office employs 548 people, including sworn, civilian, part time and auxiliary staff. The Virginia Beach Correctional Center handles about 1,300 pretrial and convicted inmates. This sheriff’s office also takes care of the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program, as well as provides security to 28 courts. The Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office requires the applicant not have:

  • Any convictions of any kind, including domestic violence
  • Six or more points on any driver’s license, in or out of state
  • Any involvement in drugs as an adult
  • Filed for Chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy
  • Any visible tattoos

Richmond City

The Richmond City Deputy Sheriff’s Office has an entry-level salary of $32,280.3 Successful applicants will handle community relations, such as high school programs, in addition to working at the jail and local courts. To be a deputy sheriff at this office, candidates must:

  • Be a US citizen
  • Have a driver’s license in good standing
  • Not have been convicted of domestic violence, serious misdemeanors, felonies or felony nolle prosse charges
  • Submit to an extensive background investigation, polygraph examination and medical exam/drug screening

Police Departments in Virginia

There are 18,270 police officers employed in Virginia, with the largest department being Virginia Beach.1 Candidates looking to go into law enforcement must meet all of the department’s requirements, which include a minimum age of 21, and a high school diploma or equivalent. In addition, candidates must go through a designated Police Academy and have on-the-job training.

Virginia Beach

There are four precincts the Virginia Beach Police Department, and many departments for the up-and-coming police officer to apply for. These include a bomb squad, motorcycles, horses and K-9 unit, as well as SWAT and helicopter. The area of Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News employs 4,680 officers.4 Chief J.A. Cervera has been in his position since Sept. 1, 2010. Candidates with some college experience are preferred, but a high school diploma or equivalent and a minimum age of 21 are required. For more information on the VBPD, visit our comprehensive guide How to Become a Police Officer in Virginia Beach.

Richmond

There are 750 sworn officers in Richmond, the capital of Virginia, all within four precincts and 12 sectors, for the city with a population of over 200,000.5,6 Potential applicants to the Richmond Police Department must be 21 years of age, have at least a high school diploma or GED, and also have a valid driver’s license, with no DUI convictions in the past five years. Chief Alfred Durham was sworn in as Chief on Feb. 2, 2015. He says the following about his department and Virginia as a whole:

“As Virginia’s capital, Richmond is a progressive city offering beautiful neighborhoods characterized by striking architecture, a culturally diverse population and noted historic prestige. Our community policing strategies provide you with a wide range of skill development opportunities, from increasing your problem solving abilities to enhancing your interpersonal skills, the Richmond City Police Department is here to provide you with a tremendous opportunity for professional growth and advancement.” -Chief Alfred Durham

Police Training Academies

Successful candidates are required to attend a training academy, where they will learn a variety of skills. These courses will cover criminal law, the motor vehicle code, laws of arrest, and search and seizure, among others. There are 10 academies established by the Commonwealth of Virginia, being the:

  • Central Virginia Criminal Justice Academy – Lynchburg, VA
  • Crater Criminal Justice Training Academy – Disputanta, VA
  • Fairfax County Criminal Justice Academy – Chantilly, VA
  • Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy – Fredericksburg, VA
  • Cardinal Criminal Justice Academy – Salem, VA
  • Commonwealth Criminal Justice Academy – Fredericksburg, VA
  • Southwest Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy – Bristol, VA
  • Hampton Roads Criminal Justice Training Academy – Newport News, VA
  • Piedmont Regional Criminal Justice Training Academy – Martinsville, VA
  • Central Shenandoah Criminal Justice Academy – Weyers Cave, VA

Police Jobs Outlook

The projected job growth for police officers in Virginia has a bright outlook – the long-term occupational projection for police and sheriff’s patrol officers is expected to increase by 12.7% by 2022, with average job openings of 810.7 As more and more baby boomers retire, that number will expand by quite a bit; older officers will retire, leaving more room for young officers to take their place. With high salaries of over $50,000 per year, and a projected increase of 12.7% through 2022 (much higher than the national average of 5%), Virginia is an ideal place for prospective cops to enter a lucrative career in law enforcement.8

For police officer job listings, please visit our Police Jobs page.

Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Virginia

City Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria 15,550 $66,060
Virginia Beach, Norfolk-Newport News 4,680 $49,090
Richmond 3,220 $49,150

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333051.htm#st
2. Virginia State Police 2013 Facts And Figures Report: http://www.vsp.state.va.us/downloads/Annual_Report_Facts_Figures/Update-%202013%20Facts%20and%20Figures1.pdf
3. Richmond City Sheriff’s Office: http://www.richmondgov.com/Sheriff/documents/RSO_Recruitment_Brochure.pdf
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_47260.htm
5. Richmond Police Department: http://www.richmondgov.com/Police/Faq.aspx
6. US Census Bureau, Virginia: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/51/51760.html
7. Projections Central http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
8. Virginia Employment Commission, VA Job Outlook: http://virginialmi.com/content/pdfs/outlook_brochure_2013.pdf