How to Become a Police Officer in Illinois
Illinois is home to several widely respected and experienced police forces, with an estimated 31,430 police officers and sheriff’s deputies working in the state.1 The state’s law enforcement departments include the Chicago Police Department, the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, and the Illinois State Police. There are a number of requirements for prospective officers that are imposed by state law, and certain individual departments may have additional requirements. Continue reading to learn more about what it takes to become a police officer in Illinois.
Illinois Police Officer Requirements
The Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board oversees the state’s law enforcement hiring process by setting basic standards of eligibility. The requirements listed below are the minimum requirements for new recruits with all law enforcement departments in Illinois.
To become a police officer in Illinois, you must meet the following basic requirements:
- Be a US citizen either by birth or naturalization
- Be 21 years of age or older at the time of hire
- Possess a valid driver’s license
- Have a high school diploma or GED
- Complete an approved basic training course within six months of initial hire
- Not have any felony convictions nor convictions of disqualifying misdemeanors
While all law enforcement officers must hold these qualifications, individual departments are permitted to have additional requirements for new recruits beyond the state minimums. For example, Chicago police officers are required to have 60 semester hours of college credit or three years of consecutive military service, or a combination. Aurora police officers with college coursework or a degree are paid more than those with a high school diploma. Aspiring police officers in Naperville are required to have a bachelor’s degree by the time they begin employment with the department.
Illinois State Trooper Requirements
The Illinois State Police (ISP) is the state highway patrol, which is responsible for upholding motor vehicle laws, responding to emergencies, and illegal drug enforcement, among other duties. Over 2,000 men and women work for the ISP.2
To be a state trooper, you must meet the state requirements and:
- Hold, with a GPA average of a C or better, a bachelor’s degree OR an associate’s degree in law enforcement/criminal justice plus three years of service as a police officer or in the military OR have a distinguished record of military service within ISP hiring guidelines
- Have uncorrected vision at a minimum of 20/40 and aided vision correctable to 20/20
- Be willing to accept an assignment anywhere in the state
Aspiring Illinois state troopers must pass a number of written and physical examinations before being eligible to train at the Academy. Initially, two written tests will be administered to candidates: a test that assesses character, work attitude, and overall employment suitability and the National Criminal Justice Officer Selection Inventory, which includes both cognitive and attitude assessments. All candidates must also pass a physical fitness test. Applicants are ranked after this step of the process.
All candidates will be subjected to an extensive background investigation, which will include personal and employment references as well as traffic, criminal, and credit history investigations. Candidates may have to submit to a polygraph test at any stage of the background process. Those who advance in the hiring process will be scheduled for a medical examination as well as a psychological exam and will complete an oral interview. Accepted recruits will be scheduled for the Illinois State Police training academy.
Illinois Sheriff’s Deputy Requirements
There are over 100 counties in Illinois and most have an elected sheriff. The most populous county in Illinois is Cook County, in which Chicago and several collar suburbs are located. In order to become a deputy sheriff, candidates must meet state requirements for law enforcement officers and:
- Can not have ever been classified as a conscientious objector by a local draft board
- Can not concurrently hold the office of county treasurer
- Can not, after appointment, appear in court as an attorney, nor become security for individuals in any legal proceedings
- Can not, after appointment, purchase property at any sheriff’s sale
The Cook County Sheriff’s Office is the third-largest law enforcement agency in the state, with over 500 officers and 100 civilian personnel.3 The current Cook County Sheriff is Tom Dart, a former prosecutor and state legislator. Dart has served Cook County since 2006 and perhaps is best known for his major overhaul of the Cook County Jail, the nation’s largest single-site jail.3
In order to work in the sheriff’s department in Cook County, candidates must meet the requirements set by the state and the Cook County Sheriff’s Merit Board. In addition to state minimums, prospective deputies must also:
- Hold a valid Firearm Owners Identification Card (FOID) or be able to obtain such a card prior to certification
- Not have ever sold illegal drugs nor used illegal drugs within a timeframe acceptable to the Merit Board
- Not have extensive debt or a history of financial negligence
The DuPage County Sheriff’s Office oversees the second-largest county in Illinois, with over 900,000 official county residents and an additional population of 104,000 in unincorporated areas.4 The starting salary for DuPage County sheriff’s depuities is $56,152 per year.4 In addition to meeting minimum state requirements, DuPage County sheriff’s deputies must:
- Be a current resident of Illinois by the time of placement on the candidate list
- Be, or become within one year of hire, a resident within the boundaries of DuPage, Kane, Cook, Kendall, or Northern Will County
Police Departments in Illinois
There are nearly 750 municipal police departments within the state of Illinois, ranging from departments that protect small rural communities to departments that oversee the emerging megacity of Chicago.
With with over 13,000 officers, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) is the largest police force in Illinois and the second-largest city police force in the US behind the New York City Police Department.5 It is also one of the oldest modern police forces in the US.5 After 18 months on the job, CPD officers are paid an annual salary of $72,510.5 Eddie T. Johnson is the current Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. Prospective CPD officers must meet Illinois state qualifications and:
- Hold at least an associate’s degree or 60 semester hours from an accredited university or college OR have completed three consecutive years on active duty in the US Armed Forces
- Hold a valid FOID card
- Be a resident of the City of Chicago
Learn more about requirements for city cops on our Chicago page.
The Aurora Police Department (APD) is responsible for serving and protecting Illinois’ second-largest city. The current Police Chief of Aurora is Kristen Ziman, a 25-year veteran of the Aurora PD. Aurora recruits are paid $23.13 per hour during the academy, which rises up to $36.75 after one year of service.6 In order to work on the Aurora police force, candidates must satisfy state requirements and:
- Be at least 20 years of age but not more than 35 years of age at the time they take the written exam
- Have a 2.5 (out of 4.0) or better high school GPA or a GED with a composite score of 2480 or better, or have 16 college credit hours with a GPA of 2.5 or better
- Have vision correctable to 20/20 with normal depth perception, field of vision, and color vision
Rockford is the third-largest city in Illinois with a population of over 155,000.7 The current Chief of Police at the Rockford Police Department (RPD) is Chief Daniel G. O’Shea, who oversees the Department’s authorized strength of 302 police officers.7 To become an officer in the Rockford Police Force, applicants must meet state minimums and:
- Be between 21 and 34 years old (there may be exceptions made for US veterans and those with prior law enforcement experience)
- Be willing to work any of the RPD’s three 10-hour shift assignments
Police Training Academies in Illinois
Once applicants have met the basic requirements set by the state and local departments, all police recruits are required to complete training at an approved academy. The Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board (ILETSB) sets the requirements and curriculum for Illinois police training.
Approved police training academies in Illinois include:
- Chicago Police Academy – Chicago, IL
- Cook County Sheriff’s Bureau of Training & Education, Police Academy – River Grove, IL
- Illinois State Police Academy – Springfield, IL
- Macon County Law Enforcement Training Center – Decatur, IL
- Police Training Institute – Champaign, IL
- Southwestern Police Academy – Belleville, IL
- Suburban Law Enforcement Academy – Glen Ellyn, IL
Read more about approved police training academies in Illinois on the ILETSB website.
Illinois Police Jobs Outlook
For those interested in pursuing law enforcement careers in Illinois, there is a lot of promise. Statewide, Illinois cops earn an average annual salary of $73,870, and the Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights metro division has the third-highest average law enforcement salary in the US, at $79,690 per year.1 The projected jobs growth through 2026 for Illinois cops is 4.1%, with an anticipated average of 2,380 job openings every year.8
A large part of the growth expected is due to population growth. Another expected driver of police hiring in the coming years is the number of baby boomer veteran police officers who will be retiring. This situation is expected to result in a high number of replacement hirings. However, as with most public service jobs, employment cycles are dependent on state and city budgets.
For more information current law enforcement openings, take a look at our police jobs board.
Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Illinois
|City||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Elgin Metro Division||1,210||$76,590|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.9
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. Illinois State Police: https://isp.illinois.gov/
3. Cook County Sheriff’s Office: https://www.cookcountysheriff.org/departments/c-c-s-p-d/
4. DuPage County Sheriff: https://www.dupagesheriff.org/
5. Chicago Police Department: https://home.chicagopolice.org/
6. Aurora Police Department: https://www.aurora-il.org/342/Police-Department
7. Rockford Police Department: https://rockfordil.gov/city-departments/police/
8. Projections Central: https://www.projectionscentral.org/projections/longterm
9. Bureau of Labor Statistics, State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Illinois: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_il.htm#otherlinks