How to Become a Police Officer in Michigan

    Working as a cop or a sheriff in Michigan is a rewarding career. In addition to the state police and sheriff’s departments, there are many local police departments always looking to hire the best people for patrol jobs. According to the most recent statistics, there are 16,720 patrol officers and deputies working in the state.1

    To become a Michigan police officer or deputy, candidates must meet the requirements set by the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES). Different departments within the state may set additional standards above these minimums that candidates must meet to become an officer. Continue reading to learn more about state and select local requirements for prospective cops in Michigan.

    Michigan Police Officer Requirements

    Future cops and sheriff’s deputies in Michigan must meet MCOLES minimum standards and requirements before being offered a job by any type of law enforcement department. These are just the minimum, though, which means that individual departments may set additional standards for their recruits. Basic requirements state that candidates must:

    • Be at least 18 years of age
    • Be a US citizen
    • Have a high school diploma or GED
    • Have a valid driver’s license
    • Not have any disqualifying criminal offenses
    • Be of good moral character
    • Have normal hearing and vision (corrected or uncorrected), including color vision without the use of color enhancing lenses

    Required Examinations

    The path to becoming a cop in Michigan requires passing several physical and written examinations and completing the police academy. For the following exams are required during the hiring process:

    • A basic reading and writing examination
    • A physical health examination to determine there are no diseases or disorders that would affect an individual’s performance as a law enforcement officer, including screening for hearing and vision
    • A mental health evaluation conducted by a licensed physician, psychologist, or psychiatrist
    • A physical fitness examination before admission to a police training program
    • An in-person interview to assess appropriateness for law enforcement, communication skills, and appearance

    Future law enforcement officers and deputies must also participate in an MCOLES-approved police basic training academy and pass the appropriate written and oral examinations during training, as well as an MCOLES licensing examination after basic training.

    “The profession of law enforcement is a call to service, and in order to serve your community effectively, you have to know your community. Avoid any “us vs. them” mentality, and take partnership in the streets, neighborhoods, and businesses that you swore to serve and protect. The best cops are the ones that know how to communicate, and you must remember that part of communication is listening. You are an example of thousands of law enforcement professionals across the county, so always serve with honor, integrity, and respect. Once those are lost, they are very hard to recover. Lastly, one of the old sayings in police work is that the goal is to go home alive at the end of the shift. Maybe we can take that a step further and go home alive at the end of the shift, having done our best to make our beat safer.” – Sergeant Dan Adams, Grand Rapids Police Department

    Michigan State Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

    The Michigan State Police (MSP) patrol the state’s highways, investigate crimes within the state’s jurisdiction, apprehend criminals, and perform community outreach services. The detectives and investigators of the state police work in specialized areas such as fraud, cold case homicides, computer crimes, gaming, bomb squad, traffic crash reconstruction, canine team, and emergency support. Candidates for becoming a Michigan State Trooper must meet state requirements and:

    • Be at least 18 years old at the time that the Entry Level Law Enforcement Exam is passed
    • Be at least 21 years old by police academy graduation
    • Be a Michigan resident upon graduation from the police academy
    • Show fiscal responsibility and good moral character
    • Have a driving record with an acceptable history

    Additionally, while a college degree is not required to become a Michigan state trooper, it is highly recommended. Michigan state troopers earn a starting annual salary of $48,000, which begins once a recruit starts paid academy training.2

    Michigan Sheriff Deputy Requirements

    The requirements and training to become a sheriff’s deputy in Michigan are overseen by the Michigan Sheriffs’ Coordinating and Training Council (MSCTC). It is a part of the state’s Department of Corrections and sets minimum standards for becoming a sheriff’s deputy, along with those already set by MCOLES. As a result, sheriff’s deputy candidates must meet MCOLES standards and:

    • Pass a background check that also includes school records and an assessment of the home environment, as well as an evaluation of civil law violations (in addition to criminal violations)
    • Pass the MSCTC’s written exam

    Note that a county’s sheriff’s office may set additional requirements.

    Wayne County

    Wayne County is the largest county in Michigan, and county-level corrections and law enforcement duties are carried out by the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO). As a large department, the WCSO has specialty units including a special response team and a municipal support enforcement unit. Candidates for sheriff’s deputy positions with the WCSO must meet the state’s minimum requirements.

    Oakland County

    The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) is the largest sheriff’s office in Michigan, and serves over 343,000 residents with primary law enforcement services.3 The department has over 1,400 employees divided between Law Enforcement Services, Corrections/Courts Services, and Administrative Services.3 Prospective officers must meet state minimum requirements and may need to meet additional requirements depending on the specific job opportunity; for example, OCSO mounted deputies must have, board, and care for their own horse and trailer and tow equipment.

    “I would strongly encourage any individual seeking a career in law enforcement to seek out an agency that has a Police Cadet Program. These programs do an excellent job of helping students determine if this career is really for them. Typically, the student will attend college and work part-time at the police agency. At the LE agency, they will experience what the job is really like, not just read about it in a book. At the same time, you will build the confidence you need to be successful as you will likely have personal experience to go along with book knowledge during an interview. Having conducted hundreds of interviews, I can tell you that applicants with relevant job experience do much better in the interview process.” – Thomas G. Hillen, Chief of Police, Kentwood Police Department

    Police Departments in Michigan

    In addition to the Michigan State Police and the county sheriffs’ offices, candidates for law enforcement who meet the MCOLES requirements may consider working for one of the state’s many local police departments. Two of the largest forces in the state are the Detroit Police Department and the Grand Rapids Police Department. In addition to the minimum requirements for being any kind of law enforcement officer in the state, those wishing to apply to a particular city’s force must also meet the standards of that department.


    As the largest city in the state, Detroit also has the largest police force, the Detroit Police Department (DPD). The DPD employs 2,200 sworn police officers.4 Officers in the Detroit Police Department earn a starting salary of $37,822 and can qualify for a base salary of up to $59,118 with longevity and special training.4 Detroit cops must meet the MCOLES minimum standards and:

    • Attend an application orientation
    • Complete an oral board review
    • Pass the department’s physical, written, medical, and psychological exams

    Once an acceptance letter is offered, the recruit must complete and pass the police academy. To read more about careers with the Detroit Police Department, check out our comprehensive Detroit police guide.

    Grand Rapids

    With a population of 192,294, Grand Rapids is the second-largest city in Michigan and has a sizable police force in the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD).4 The GRPD requires recruits to meet MCOLES standards and generally looks for recruits who already have some employment experience that involved interactions with the public. Once hired, officer candidates will complete an eight-week orientation and 17-week field training. Officers remain on probation for one year and earn a starting salary of $45,368.4

    Police Training Academies in Michigan

    One of the basic requirements set by MCOLES for all law enforcement officers in the state is to complete an approved police training academy program. These programs are designed to be intensive and provide new recruits with training in the essential areas of police work. This includes firearms training, traffic codes, criminal law, ethics, and physical fitness. Some academies are based on college campuses and are combined with two-year associate degrees in criminal justice. The list of MCOLES-approved police academies comprises 21 institutions, including:

    • Lake Superior State University – Sault Ste. Marie, MI
    • Washtenaw Community College – Ann Arbor, MI
    • Oakland Police Academy – Auburn Hills, MI
    • Grand Rapids Community College – Grand Rapids, MI
    • Detroit Metropolitan Police Academy – Detroit, MI
    • Kalamazoo Law Enforcement Training Center – Kalamazoo, MI

    For a complete list of the approved academies see the MCOLES website.

    Michigan Police Jobs Outlook

    For anyone looking for an exciting career in Michigan, job growth for police officers in the state is looking optimistic. Projections for police officers and sheriff’s deputies in Michigan anticipate jobs growth of 6.6% through 2026, with an average of 1,330 annual job openings expected when including replacements.6 The average annual salary for cops in Michigan is $55,780, which is below the US average for police officers ($64,490).1,7 The cost of living in Michigan is 3.3% below the national average.8

    For more information about current law enforcement openings, take a look at our police jobs board.

    Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Michigan

    CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
    Grand Rapids-Wyoming1,320$61,400
    Lansing-East Lansing840$56,090

    Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of March 2018.1

    1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Michigan: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_mi.htm
    2. Michigan State Police: https://www.michigan.gov/msp
    3. Oakland County Sheriff’s Office: https://www.oakgov.com/government/sheriff
    4. Detroit Police Department: https://detroitmi.gov/departments/police-department
    5. City of Grand Rapids, Police Department Recruiting: https://www.grandrapidsmi.gov/Jobs
    6. Projections Central: https://www.projectionscentral.org/projections/longterm
    7. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333051.htm
    8. Sperling’s Best Places, Michigan: https://www.bestplaces.net/state/michigan