How to Become a Police Officer in New York

new-york-policeThe NYPD is perhaps the most famous police force in the nation, if not the entire world. Repeatedly shown on the small and big screen, the New York Police Force has become its own marketing machine. However, despite their on-camera image, the NYPD is one of the most respected and highly trained police forces in the US. Today, the New York State Police depends on 52,240 sworn police and sheriff patrol officers to protect and serve the New York area.1

Anyone looking to become a New York police officer would be wise to speak with officers in the area they would like to serve. Although New York Department of Law Enforcement sets a list of criteria for new recruits, each NY county has its own set of requirements. This page serves as a guide for the state regulations needed to become a NY police officer as well as a guide to some of the top NY areas for law enforcement careers within the city.

New York Police Officer Requirements

To become one of New York’s “finest,” there are quite a number of requirements candidates must meet before becoming eligible to serve the NY public. All candidates are required to possess certain experiences as far as education and background. Additionally, there are a number of written and physical tests that must be passed by recruits. Long time NY residents, children of NY police officers or those with military experience may be able to have extra points added to their written examination.

Although the specific requirements can change from county to county, the state of NY has a list of guidelines that each aspiring NY cop must meet, as specified below.

Nationality, Age and Education

Each New York police officer candidate must:

  • Be at least 21 years old and younger than 35 at the time of hire*
  • Be a US citizen, either by birth or by the naturalization process
  • Hold a valid drivers license at time of hire

*Candidates that are 35 and over and have active United States military service may deduct up to 6 years from the age requirement.

The educational requirement for New York police recruits include holding a high school diploma or GED equivalent, plus 60 college credits with a 2.0 GPA from an accredited college or university OR 2 years of full-time active military service in the United States Armed Forces with an honorable discharge and have a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Required Examinations

All NY police candidates must take a written Civil Service examination, which is administered by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS). Additionally, all candidates must take the Police Officer Written Exam, which measures cognitive ability, observational skills and mental acuity of applicants. Although passing these tests is required, a passing score does not necessarily mean guaranteed employment on the force. Additionally, after a candidate has successfully passed the first two written exams, aspiring cops must also submit to a character and background examination, oral psychological exam, medical physical and physical agility test.

Background Clearance

All NY police candidates will be submitted to an extensive background examination, including drug/alcohol screening. Candidates eligible for service in the NYPD must have no prior felonies, or any repeated convictions such as petit larceny, domestic violence, or any crime that may represent a disposition towards violence and disorder.

“As an ‘applicant’ keep your nose clean! Go cut your neighbor’s lawn and shovel his snow because he may get a call asking what kind of person you are! Challenges would involve any history you have such as tickets or scrapes with the law. If you weren’t a stupid teenager, you probably missed a lot, but good for you! Don’t get discouraged if a particular job or department is not coming through. Take any test that you can and you will still be able to continue pursuing the department of your dreams even after you have been hired somewhere else.” – John Paolucci, Retired Police Officer and Forensics Expert at the NYPD

New York Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

The New York State Troopers, under the supervision of the New York State Executive Department, operates with over 4,500 state troopers and more than 900 non-sworn employees.2 The state is divided into 10 troops, with each geographic area headed by a Troop Commander.

To become a state trooper in NY State, there are quite a few requirements. Like most law enforcement positions in the state, all candidates must be between the age of 21 and 36. However, in many cases, there may be exceptions for prior military service. Additionally, all candidates must be a New York State resident and have a valid New York State driver’s license at time of appointment. Candidates must pass a Physical Ability Test (PAT), which includes a required number of sit-ups, push-ups and a one-and-one-half mile run.

Educational requirements for NY state trooper eligibility state that candidates must have the following:

  • High school diploma, or
  • New York State GED certificate, or
  • Military GED certificate, or
  • Out-of-state high school equivalency diploma converted into a NY state high school equivalency diploma

In addition to the requirements above, future NY troopers must have at least sixty hours of college credit* at an accredited college or university. Official documentation (transcripts) must be shown at the trooper candidate processing to demonstrate that candidates have already completed or are in the process of completing the minimum college credit requirement.

* Prior military service with honorable discharge and those candidates who have successfully completed a Certified Police Officer Training Course may be eligible for an exemption of required course hours reduction.

New York Sheriff Deputy Requirements

There are 62 NY sheriffs on active duty throughout the state.3 For those looking to become a sheriff’s deputy in New York, there are the typical basic age, background and educational requirements. All candidates must be at least 25 or older, a U.S. citizen, and a county resident. Any prior convictions of felonies will automatically disqualify a sheriff recruit. Candidates must also have attended a Basic New Sheriff Training Course.

In terms of education, the NY State Sheriffs’ Association requires all candidates to have at least 60 credit hours from an accredited college or university or have five years experience in leadership and management. Additionally, candidates must have five years experience in one of the following: law enforcement, corrections, court security, public safety, civil process, or like experience in the criminal justice, legal field or military command.3

Police Departments in New York

New York City

Obviously there are few police departments that are as well-known as New York City PD. The current police commissioner is William J. Bratton, who is in charge of the approximately 34,500 officers on active duty in NYC.5 Regarding education requirements for aspiring NYC police recruits, all applicants must have a high school diploma or its equivalent and are additionally required to:

  • Complete 60 college credits with a 2.0 GPA from an accredited college or university, OR
  • Have two years of full-time active military service in the United States Armed Forces with an honorable discharge

For more information on the NYC Police Department, take a look at our in-depth guide on How to Become a Police Officer in New York City.


The Buffalo Police Department counts on its law enforcement officers to serve the second most populous city in New York. There are currently 2,440 police and sheriff officers serving the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area.5 The current Police Commissioner is Daniel Derenda.

To be eligible to work as a Buffalo police officer, applicants must:

  • Be between the ages of 19 and 35 on exam date
  • Be official residents of the county
  • Have 60 college credits hours or two years of continuous military service


Syracuse also has a very active police force. The current chief of the Syracuse Police Department is Frank L. Fowler. New York’s fifth most populous city counts on approximately 580 sworn police and civilian employees to keep the streets safe.6

To become a Syracuse police officer, aspiring recruits must be between the ages of 19 and 35, possess a valid state driver’s license and hold a High School Diploma or GED certificate. Like most recruiting police forces, a college degree is always encouraged, but not required to work as an officer in Syracuse, NY.

“Once you get ‘IN’ you will realize that most of the bad guys you arrest won’t typically spend years in prison. Some of the people you help will still despise you and the same people will continue to break the law…get arrested…get released…break the law again. When you see this don’t despair. You are seeing what ‘real life’ is versus all the years to television and movies you based your impression of LE on. You are still doing a needed and worthwhile thing. Some people become jaded and cynical and that can keep you from advancing, from performing to your potential and from enjoying your career.”-Thomas Gerace, Police Lieutenant and FBI National Academy Graduate

Police Training Academies in New York

Once all requirements have been met and the appropriate tests have been taken and passed, all approved NYPD recruits start their career in NY law enforcement as a Recruit Officer in the Police Academy.

Qualified candidates will be assigned to the Police Academy for extensive physical and mental training. The rigorous training takes up to 26 weeks and is known to be one of the most comprehensive training facilities in the country. To graduate, a recruit must successfully complete 1,095 hours of training provided by certified law enforcement staff and NY state police instructors. The curriculum includes a variety of written and physical tests as well as firearm training, law enforcement codes, police and behavioral sciences, etc.

For more information on the NY Police Academy, consult the NYPD Training Bureau.

New York Police Jobs Outlook

There are currently 50,060 police and sheriff officers in New York.1 For anyone looking to enter the state’s law enforcement career path, the future of the city’s police forces looks promising. According to the projected 10-year growth estimate, the state future is considered “very favorable.” The projected growth is estimated at 1.5% with average annual openings estimated to be 2,050 through 2022.7 These job openings are due to growth as well as replacement hirings foreseen over the next five to 10 years. Due to the high number of baby boomer-era police veterans who are expected to retire, local departments will be in various cycles of recruitment.

For more information current law enforcement openings, take a look at our Police Jobs Page.

Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in New York

CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Buffalo-Niagara Falls2,940$61,800

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2012.

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, New York: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ny.htm
2. New York State Police: http://www.nytrooper.com/
3. New York Sheriffs’ Association: http://nysheriffs.org/
4. NYPD Recruit: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/nypd/careers/careers.page
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_15380.htm
6. Syracuse Police Department: http://www.syracusepolice.org/document/615.pdf
7. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm

Image Credit: Cezary Piwowarski