How to Become a Police Officer in North Carolina

North Carolina, with the ninth highest population in the United States, is scenic with temperate weather and a low cost of living, about 4.60% lower than the US average.1 North Carolina offers police officers a variety of career paths and many opportunities for advancement.

While each police department will have its own standards in terms of requirements and prerequisites, there are some statewide requirements that all law enforcement officers in the state must meet. These, and city-specific requirements, are listed below.

North Carolina Police Officer Requirements

While higher standards may vary by agency, the minimum requirements for becoming a police officer in North Carolina are that recruits must:

  • Be at least 20 years old
  • Be a United States citizen
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Be of good moral standing
  • Have successfully completed the Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) and passed the BLET exam
  • Successfully complete the agency’s in-service firearms training program
  • Not have committed or been convicted of any felonies, crimes, or misdemeanors
  • Be fingerprinted and allow disclosure of any criminal record
  • Attend a physician’s exam and participate in a drug screening
  • Receive a psychological screening by a clinical psychologist
  • Interview with the department head or representative
  • Notify the standards division of all criminal offenses

North Carolina Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

The North Carolina State Highway Patrol employs over 1,600 troopers who cover at least 78,000 miles of roadways in North Carolina, which is the second highest number of miles after the state of Texas.2 The current commander is Colonel William J. Grey, a 24-year veteran of the North Carolina Highway Patrol. In order to apply, candidates must:

  • Be at least 21 years old and 39 or younger when starting Patrol Basic school
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Be a United States citizen or naturalized
  • Have zero felony offenses and serious misdemeanor convictions, and a good driving record
  • Be willing to work and live in any area of the state of North Carolina
  • Have 20/20 vision in each eye, or uncorrected vision of no more than 20/100 in each eye corrected to 20/20
  • Be physically fit
  • Meet medical, physical, psychological and background requirements:
    • Pass the Cooper Fitness Test with a score of at least 50% for age and gender
    • Pass the standardized test with at least a 10th grade reading level
    • Successfully complete a polygraph examination
    • Complete the background investigation, review boards and physical exam (includes drug screening)
    • Pass the psychological exam

*If you are certified with Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET), you may be eligible for the Fast Track school.

North Carolina Sheriff Deputy Requirements

North Carolina has 100 counties. The three most populous counties are Mecklenburg, Wake, and Guilford; the county seats are Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro, respectively.

While requirements to become a sheriff deputy vary by county, the minimum state requirements are that candidates must:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Be a US citizen
  • Possess or be eligible for a valid North Carolina driver’s license
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Pass a drug test
  • Have zero felony charges or convictions

Mecklenburg County

The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) serves Mecklenburg County, which includes the city of Charlotte, and is the largest metropolitan area in the state. Sheriff Irwin Carmichael has served on the staff of MCSO since 1986, keeping the area safe and free of crime, and was Deputy Sheriff and Captain before he was elected as Sheriff.

Wake County

The Wake County Sheriff’s Office serves the county surrounding the Raleigh area. Sheriff Donnie Harrison was elected in 2002, as the first certified law enforcement officer to be elected to the post in the county. He has served in the law enforcement field for nearly 50 years.

Police Departments in North Carolina

The state of North Carolina employed 19,560 police and sheriff’s patrol officers in 2014.3 Law enforcement candidates must meet local requirements, complete a state-approved training academy, and be trained on the job.


With nearly 2,000 police officers and 500 civilian staff, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) is not only one of the largest departments in North Carolina, but also one of the largest departments in the eastern United States.4 Covering an area of 438 square miles and a population of around 900,000, their mission is to make the city of Charlotte one of the safest large cities in the US.4 The CMPD’s current chief of police is Rodney Monroe, who has over 30 years of experience in the field of law enforcement.

To become an officer at the CMPD, requirements are similar to those for the state of North Carolina, and include having a high school diploma or GED, being at least 21 years of age, possessing a valid North Carolina driver’s license, and passing a physical, written, medical and drug-screening exam. Successful officers must also meet a vision requirement, not being color blind and having better than 20/30 vision at a minimum. For more information, check out our in-depth guide How to Become a Police Officer in Charlotte.


The Raleigh Police Department (RPD) employs over 700 officers and 100 civilian employees for a city population of over 400,000.5 The current police chief is Cassandra Deck-Brown, who has served as interim police chief since 2012. Requirements for becoming a cop at the RPD are similar to those for the state of North Carolina. Candidates must pass a written exam, physical fitness test, medical and psychological checks, a polygraph test, and a background investigation. If you’d like to know more about the RPD, take a look at our comprehensive guide How to Become a Police Officer in Raleigh.

Police Training Academies in North Carolina

The North Carolina Justice Academy trains thousands in the state who are interested in criminal justice. Many state and local agencies utilize the campus facilities, instructional services, and professional staff for training in criminal justice. The police training academy has two campuses in North Carolina: one in Salemburg and one in Edneyville. Basic, intermediate, and advanced training for law enforcement officers is offered here, and topics such as anti-terrorism, community policing, criminal investigation, traffic crash investigation, and self-defense are covered. Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) is for entry level individuals, and covers firearms, driver training, motor vehicle law, arrest, search and seizure. The North Carolina State Highway Patrol Academy offers a basic school that is 29-weeks long and located in Raleigh.

North Carolina Police Jobs Outlook

According to Projections Central, the outlook for cops in North Carolina is better than average. Through 2022, the state expects to see a growth of around 6.4%, or 730 new jobs annually.6 Overall, the state of North Carolina looks more promising for prospective law enforcement officers than the rest of the country, which expects to see a growth of 5% through 2022.6 Applicants with a bachelor’s degree or experience in law enforcement will have a better chance of being hired than those with none. With average salaries around $41,160, North Carolina offers prospective cops a good place to start their careers.3

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

Law Enforcement Salary in North Carolina

CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill4,780$48,150
Other North Carolina nonmetropolitan area1,670$36,680
Western Central North Carolina nonmetropolitan area1,160$35,450

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

1. Sperling’s Best Places, North Carolina: https://www.bestplaces.net/state/north-carolina
2. North Carolina State Highway Patrol: https://www.ncdps.gov/Our-Organization/Law-Enforcement/State-Highway-Patrol
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 Occupational Employment and Wages, Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes333051.htm
4. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department: http://charlottenc.gov/cmpd/Pages/default.aspx
5. Raleigh Police Department: https://www.raleighnc.gov/police
6. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/projections/longterm