How to Become a Police Officer in North Dakota

    The Midwestern state of North Dakota is home to nearly 750,000 people.1 The overall cost of living is close to the national average, and the unemployment rate is low at 2.7%.1 The North Dakota Peace Officer Standards and Training Board (POST) sets minimum requirements for police officers in the state. This guide will provide an overview of those prerequisites in addition to more specific requirements for sheriff’s deputies, state patrol, and a few local police departments in the state.

    North Dakota Police Officer Requirements

    The North Dakota Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) board establishes the training curriculum for all public law enforcement agencies in North Dakota and certifies officers. These guidelines are seen as a minimum, however, leaving individual agencies free to set requirements above the state standards. At a minimum, prospective cops looking for employment in North Dakota must:

    • Be at least 21 years of age
    • Have a high school diploma or GED
    • Be a US citizen or a resident alien (as defined by the Immigration and Naturalization Service laws)
    • Have no felony or domestic violence convictions, nor have convictions for any crimes of moral turpitude
    • Not be prohibited from using or having a firearm in the state of North Dakota

    Required Examinations

    To move from an applicant to a recruit, potential cops must pass a medical exam and a psychological evaluation from a POST-approved psychologist. While a physical fitness test is not specifically required by the North Dakota POST, many agencies do have minimum fitness standards. Similarly, a written exam is not required by the POST board, but some departments will require a written exam during the hiring process, usually as a first step.

    North Dakota State Patrol Requirements

    The North Dakota Highway Patrol (NDHP) employs approximately 146 sworn highway patrol officers.2 To become a North Dakota state trooper, applicants must meet state minimums and:

    • Have been a US citizen for at least two years
    • Be at least 21 years of age
    • Have visual acuity of 20/30 (corrected) in each eye and normal color and depth perception
    • Have no class A misdemeanors within the past five years, no class B misdemeanor convictions within the past three years, nor any felony or domestic violence convictions
    • Pass a written and physical exam, psychological and polygraph evaluation, an oral interview and a background examination
    • Have no suspension or revocation of driver’s license within the past three years
    • Possess a valid unrestricted driver’s license (except for corrective lenses)

    In addition to those basic requirements, hopeful state patrol officers must:

    • Have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university OR
    • Have an associate’s degree (60 credit hours) from a regionally accredited college or university plus two years of work experience dealing with the public OR
    • Have an associate degree* from an accredited college or university plus two years of military service

    The starting wage for North Dakota State Patrol is $4,284 per month during training and $4,553 per month after training, with annual merit-based increases thereafter.2

    North Dakota Sheriff Deputy Requirements

    North Dakota sheriff’s offices uphold public safety in the state’s 53 counties. Sheriff’s deputies must meet the basic state qualifications for law enforcement officers plus any additional requirements imposed by the county.

    Cass County

    The Cass County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) serves the state’s largest county, with a population of over 177,000.3 The CCSO has four divisions for deputies: administrative/court services, field services, jail and corrections, and special projects. To join the CCSO, aspiring law enforcement officers must meet state requirements.

    Police Departments in North Dakota

    Approximately 1,640 cops are currently employed in the state of North Dakota.4 Police officers patrol all types of communities in the state, from highly rural towns to larger cities like Bismarck. All potential cops must meet the minimum requirements defined by the North Dakota POST, but other requirements may vary by city.


    The Fargo Police Department (FPD) employs over 150 sworn officers.5 The department has several divisions, including a canine (K9) unit, crisis intervention team, and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT). To become a Fargo police officer, potential cops must meet state minimums and:

    • Have visual acuity of 20/20 (corrected)
    • Possess a valid driver’s license
    • Have an associate degree or 60 credit hours from an accredited college or university
    • Not have used marijuana regularly within the past five years or occasionally within the past three years, and not have used other controlled substances
    • Have no class A misdemeanors within the past three years, no class B misdemeanors within the past year, and no felony convictions
    • Have no drug convictions (excluding marijuana), no impaired driving convictions within the past two years (or refusal to submit to a chemical test)
    • Have no visible tattoos, body piercing or extreme body modification
    • Be honorably discharged from the military, if a veteran

    The starting pay for Fargo police officers is $54,142 per year.5 Each year thereafter for 13 years, officers receive a pay increase; in the 13th year, the base salary is $73,466 annually.5 The department also offers incentives including tuition reimbursement, a wellness program, and early retirement.


    The Bismarck Police Department (BPD) works to keep the city of Bismarck’s 67,000 residents safe.6 The BPD employs 129 sworn officers, the majority (116) of whom are assigned to the Field Services Division, which includes patrol.6 The Bismarck Police Department has numerous opportunities outside of patrol, such as SWAT, the Hostage Negotiations Team, Bomb Squad, Traffic, Investigations, School Resource Officers, K-9, Field Training Officer, training officer, and more. To become a part of the BPD, applicants must:

    • Be at least 18 years of age
    • Possess (or be eligible to possess) a North Dakota driver’s license
    • Score 70% or higher on the Law Enforcement Entrance Exam
    • Have an associate degree or 60 credit hours with a GPA of 2.0 or higher from an accredited college or university OR have served at least four years of full-time active duty in the military or national guard (with an honorable discharge) OR have three years of full-time work experience as a sworn law enforcement officer with experience in another jurisdiction OR an acceptable combination of education and relevant work experience
    • Possess good verbal and written skills
    • Possess good personal interaction skills
    • Have no DUIs within the past year
    • Have no felony convictions
    • Have no documented dishonesty and/or integrity issues that would disqualify you as a court witness

    Police Training Academies in North Dakota

    Aspiring law enforcement officers in North Dakota will have to attend a four-month basic training at a POST-approved training academy. A few of the topics will include criminal and traffic law, firearm use, criminal investigation, and defensive driving. There are two training academies in North Dakota:

    • Law Enforcement Training Academy – Bismarck, ND
    • Peace Officer Training Program – Devils Lake, ND

    To learn more about police training in North Dakota, visit the ND Post website.

    “Never stop learning; never assume that anything you learn or observe is irrelevant; never assume that anything or anyone is safe; and never forget that you are here to protect and serve; that everyone deserves respect without earning it and no one deserves trust unless they earn it” – Dr. Joel F. Shults, author of The Badge and the Brain

    North Dakota Police Jobs Outlook

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are currently 1,640 cops in North Dakota, with an average annual salary of $56,420.4 It is projected that by 2026, the number of law enforcement officers in North Dakota will grow by 13.2% with an average of 130 annual job openings.7 The number of new police officers a city can hire is closely tied to a city’s budget and priorities, affecting the number of job openings.

    To search law enforcement jobs in North Dakota, check out our police jobs board.

    Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in North Dakota

    CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
    Fargo ND-MN500$60,800
    Grand Forks, ND-NM80$55,700

    Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of March 2018.4

    1. Sperling’s Best Places, North Dakota: https://www.bestplaces.net/state/north_dakota
    2. North Dakota Highway Patrol: https://www.nd.gov/ndhp/
    3. Cass County Sheriff’s Office: https://www.casscountynd.gov/our-county/sheriff
    4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, State and Occupational Employment and Wages Estimates, North Dakota: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nd.htm
    5. Fargo Police Department: https://fargond.gov/city-government/departments/police/about
    6. Bismarck Police Department: https://www.bismarcknd.gov/94/Police
    7. Projections Central: https://www.projectionscentral.org/projections/longterm