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How to Become a Police Officer in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has many possibilities for those looking to work in law enforcement. Like most states, Massachusetts sets high standards in terms of police recruitment and the process to become a cop here can be quite challenging, but the end result is certainly rewarding. You will find more information about Massachusetts police requirements below.

Massachusetts Police Officer Requirements

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are currently 17,750 police and sheriff’s patrol officers working in Massachusetts.1 The police training and certification process is regulated and overseen by the Massachusetts Municipal Police Training Committee (MPTC). In order to become a Massachusetts cop, there are a number of requirements aspiring candidates must meet before attending an accredited Massachusetts police academy. Although the requirements listed on this page are followed throughout the state, it is common for local departments to have additional standards above these minimums, such as a college degree.

The first step to becoming a police officer in Massachusetts is passing the state’s Police Officer Civil Service Exam. This exam, which is held once every two years, establishes eligibility for police service by assessing candidates’ written abilities, work-related personal characteristics, and life experiences. While not all cities and towns in Massachusetts require the civil service exam, most do, including Boston. Candidates must pass the exam and:

  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Pass a physical fitness test, medical examination including a psychological component
  • Have no felony convictions (some misdemeanors are also grounds for disqualification)
  • Be official residents in the state and hold a valid drivers license (residency not required to sit for the civil service exam)
  • Be a non-smoker
“Pay attention. To everything around you. All the time. Watch hands. Watch how your training officer and fellow officers do things. Be as safe as you can. Slow down. Remember, just like shooting, slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” – Motorcop (“MC”), pseudonymous author of the Motorcop Blog

Required Examinations

After passing the civil service exam for police officers, candidates will be placed on the eligible list. Candidates will then typically complete a formal application with the police departments for which they are interested in working and take a physical abilities test. Next, candidates will complete a medical examination that includes a psychological evaluation; some jurisdictions also require a polygraph exam. Finally, candidates will complete a formal interview and be appointed as recruits to the police academy.

Massachusetts Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

The Massachusetts State Police (MSP) is responsible for statewide police patrol through the state trooper division. The Massachusetts State Patrol is primarily responsible for patrolling and safeguarding the state’s highway system, among many other duties. To become a Massachusetts state trooper, candidates must:

  • Meet state-level requirements
  • Not have any felony convictions or have any misdemeanor charges or incarcerations related to drug law violations
  • Meet the agency’s tattooo and body modification policies

Accepted candidates will complete an intense training program at the State Police Academy located in New Braintree, Massachusetts. The process is designed to develop the skills needed to perform well under the stressful circumstances often seen on the job. The state trooper curriculum includes a variety of themes, from criminal law and motor vehicle law to court procedures and community policing. Once recruits have graduated from the academy, they will work for 12 weeks under the supervision of a senior officer.

Massachusetts Sheriff Deputy Requirements

The state of Massachusetts currently counts on 14 elected sheriffs around the state to transport and hold inmates at county houses of corrections and in some cases execute court orders and deliver legal documents. Unlike in most other states, Massachusetts sheriff’s deputies do not have law enforcement functions. Prospective deputies must meet the state-level police recruit requirements plus any additional requirements held by the sheriff’s office to which they are applying.

Suffolk County

The largest sheriff’s department in Massachusetts is Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department (SCSD), which encompasses Boston.2 The current sheriff is Steven Tompkins, who is responsible for a department of approximately 1,100 sworn personnel.2 To become a Suffolk sheriff’s deputy, candidates must meet the state-level requirements for police officers.

Essex County

The Essex County Sheriff’s Department (ECSD) is headquartered in Middleton and encompasses such communities as Andover, Salisbury, and Marblehead. To work for the Essex sheriff’s department, candidates must satisfy state requirements and hold an associate’s degree (60 college credit hours) or have two years of military experience.

Police Departments in Massachusetts

Massachusetts hosts one of the nation’s most recognized police forces, the Boston Police Department (BPD). However, the state is home to many more communities, with about 357 law enforcement agencies in total. Within the state, prospective police officers can find opportunities in rural and suburban communities as well as major metro areas like Boston.

Boston

The highly-regarded Boston Police Department (BPD) depends on its sworn officers to cover the Boston area as well as neighboring Cambridge and Quincy. To become a police officer with the BPD, candidates must meet state requirements and:

  • Be a US citizen
  • Be a registered resident of the city
  • Be eligible for a Massachusetts firearms license in the state.
  • Submit to an extensive background check and submit a hair sample for drug testing

Although a high school diploma is the minimum education requirement, the Boston PD highly values college degrees and will often prioritize candidates who hold a degree in criminal justice or a similar field. For more information on the Boston Police Department, take a look at our in-depth guide on How to Become a Police Officer in Boston.

Springfield

Springfield also has a highly-respected police force in the Springfield Police Department (SPD). Springfield is a city of about 153,000 residents that depends on a capable force of 1,740 police and sheriff’s patrol officers to serve and protect the community.3 To become a Springfield police officer, candidates must meet state-level requirements and pass through the department’s hiring process.

For younger people who plan on a career in policing, the department offers the Springfield Cadet Training Program. In order to join the program, candidates must be US citizens between 17.5 and 21.5 years of age, US citizens, and registered residents of Springfield with a valid Massachusetts driver’s license. Recruits who pass the qualifying exam and hold a high school diploma will be appointed as cadets to perform support tasks within the police department. Cadets must enroll in and complete an associate’s degree in criminal justice while enrolled in the cadet program. Cadets are paid, receive benefits, and gain valuable experience while working through school.

Police Training Academies in Massachusetts

The Municipal Police Training Committee (MPTC) sets the requirements for Massachusetts police training. There are five MPTC Training Academies throughout the state: Boylston, Plymouth, Randolph, Reading and Western Mass (STCC). There are also two satellite training locations in Waltham and Foxboro.

The MPTC program is a comprehensive 800-hour curriculum over a 20-week training period with hands-on training and classroom instruction. In Massachusetts, anyone may apply for the police training academies. However, candidates who have already been hired as a police recruit officer may have the $3,000 tuition required of voluntary students paid by their hiring department. Students who are not sponsored by a department are solely responsible for tuition and equipment costs.

There are five regional academies that offer the intense Basic Training program designed by the MPTC:

  • Boylston Police Academy – Boylston, MA
  • Plymouth Police Academy – Plymouth, MA
  • Randolph Police Academy – Randolph, MA
  • Reading Police Academy – Reading, MA
  • Western Mass Police Academy – Springfield, MA

Consult the organization’s website for more information on MPTC training facilities.

Massachusetts Police Jobs Outlook

With an average police salary of $68,190 reported in 2018, Massachusetts can be a good place to become a cop.1 Through 2026, employment of police and sheriff’s patrol officers in Massachusetts is expected to increase by 5.2%, with 1,230 average annual openings including replacements.4 During the next 10 years, a large number of baby boomer-era veteran police officers will be retiring from service, likely creating new openings. As with any sector, job openings and police recruitment cycles are based on annual 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 Massachusetts

CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Boston-Cambridge-Newton1,910$105,800
Framingham Metro Area650$66,770
Springfield Metro MA-CT2,050$63,330

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of March 2018.1

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Massachusetts: https://www.bls.gov/oes/2017/may/oes_ma.htm
2. Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office: http://www.scsdma.org/
3. Springfield Police Department: https://www.springfield-ma.gov/police/
4. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm