How to Become a Police Officer in Tennessee

From the big city of Memphis to Music City, also known as Nashville, and the mountain city of Knoxville, Tennessee is a diverse and interesting place to live. Part of the south, but also bordering northern states, the Volunteer State is home to a rich variety of culture and history. Many people work here and make Tennessee their home, including 12,790 police officers and sheriff’s deputies1

For hopeful law enforcement recruits in Tennessee, the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission (POST), sets the minimum requirements. POST certifies law enforcement officers in the state, a certification that is needed to work as a cop or deputy sheriff.

Tennessee Police Officer Requirements

To work as a police officer in Tennessee, individuals must first apply to a police department and be offered employment. Recruits must then pass a POST-approved police training academy within six months of working as a full-time, certified officer. POST sets these basic requirements, in addition to any other requirements of local departments:

  • A minimum age of 18
  • US citizenship
  • High school diploma or GED
  • A clean felony record
  • No dishonorable discharge from the military
  • Pass physical and mental health examinations
  • Good moral character
  • Fingerprints on file with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations

Tennessee Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

The Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) is responsible for patrolling state highways, enforcing laws, serving motorists, crash and crime investigation, preparing for disasters, and safety education. New recruits must apply with the THP and meet the following requirements in addition to those set by POST:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Be willing and able to carry and use a gun
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Have vision correctable to 20/30

Tennessee Sheriff Deputy Requirements

Each Tennessee county sheriff’s office sets its own hiring process for taking on new sheriff’s deputies. These deputies work in the management of county jails, serve civil warrants, and perform other important law enforcement duties. POST’s minimum requirements apply to future deputy sheriffs, but each county can include further requirements, additional testing and hiring procedures.

Shelby County

With the state’s largest city, Memphis, as its county seat, Shelby County is the most populous county in Tennessee and has a sizable sheriff’s office. To become a deputy on the Shelby force, new recruits have to meet the POST minimum standards, but also these:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Be able to pass a physical fitness test
  • Be able to pass a written examination
  • Live in Shelby County at official employment date and thereafter
  • Be willing to work any shifts including holidays and weekends

Knox County

Situated in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Knox County is a scenic place to live and work as a deputy for the Knox County Sheriff. To become a deputy, individuals must apply in person at the Sheriff’s Office. In addition to POST standards, new recruits must be at least 21 years old and have or be eligible for a Tennessee driver’s license.

Police Departments in Tennessee

With the great diversity of regions in Tennessee, anyone hoping to work as a cop for a local police department has a lot of options. From the big city of Memphis to the college campuses of Nashville and the scenic mountains of Knoxville, Tennessee police work in a variety of environments. To become a police officer anywhere in the state, individuals must apply with a police department, meet all of the requirements in addition to those set by POST, be offered employment, and then pass a state training course.


Memphis is Tennessee’s largest and most urban city. The Memphis Police Department employs hundreds of officers and is always seeking well-qualified new recruits. In addition to meeting the minimum POST standards these new recruits must:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Complete at least 54 college credit hours or serve two years in the military
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Demonstrate honesty, integrity, leadership, and excellence
  • Pass written and physical fitness exams
  • Have a good driving record
  • Not have any history of drug or alcohol addiction

For more information about the MPD, please check out our comprehensive guide How to Become a Police Officer in Memphis.


The large Metropolitan Nashville Police Department is often looking for new recruits up to the task of patrolling the city and keeping residents safe. The hiring process can take up to six months and is rigorous, as demand for positions is high. New recruits begin by filling out an online application and then taking the Civil Service Exam and physical ability test. When these are successfully completed, an extensive background check and interview must be conducted before an offer of employment can be made. Once it is made, recruits can then attend a training academy. The Nashville department encourages military veterans to apply. To find out more, visit our in-depth guide about the MNPD, How to Become a Police Officer in Nashville.


With a population of 170,000 in the city, the Knoxville Police Department (KPD) employs over 400 sworn officers for its force.2 In addition to meeting the POST requirements, new recruits must be at least 21 years old and have a valid driver’s license. The hiring procedure includes an application, written test and physical fitness test, an interview, a background check, and orientation, culminating at a training academy and a KPD field training officer program.

Police Training Academies in Tennessee

The hiring process and requirements to work in law enforcement in Tennessee are rigorous and challenging. Those recruits who make it through and are offered employment with the THP, a police department, or a sheriff’s department must then complete a training course at a POST-approved law enforcement academy. Some of the qualified academies include:

  • Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy – Nashville, TN
  • Cleveland State Community College basic Police Academy – Cleveland, TN
  • Memphis Police Academy – Memphis, TN
  • Knoxville Police Department Training Division – Knoxville, TN
  • Metro Nashville Police Academy, Nashville – TN

Tennessee Police Jobs Outlook

In Tennessee those individuals hoping to find work in law enforcement can look forward to growth in the industry. Between now and 2022 the number of positions is expected to grow by 10.9 percent, which means an average of 490 new job opportunities for cops and deputies each year.3 The average annual salary for deputies and patrol officers in Tennessee is currently $42,190.4

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

Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Tennessee

CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary

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

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Tennessee: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current//oes_tn.htm#33-0000
2. City of Knoxville Police Department: http://www.knoxvilletn.gov/government/city_departments_offices/police_department/
3. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm