How to Become a Police Officer in Utah
Utah is known for many things, including its beautiful and rugged natural scenery. The state can also be a great place to launch a career in law enforcement. Currently, over 4,400 police officers work in Utah.1 Those hoping to join a law enforcement agency in Utah need to meet the requirements set by the state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST). Continue reading to learn more about what it takes to become a police officer in Utah.
Utah Police Officer Requirements
The Utah POST sets the basic minimum requirements for any law enforcement officer in the state. Local cops, state police, and sheriff’s deputies must all meet these requirements before being certified as a law enforcement agent. They include having:
- A minimum age of 21
- US citizenship
- A high school diploma or GED
- Good moral character as determined by a thorough background check
- No felony convictions or other disqualifying offenses
- No dishonorable discharge from the military
Note that while the state does set minimums, individual agencies are permitted to set stricter standards for their own recruits.
Candidates for peace officer positions in Utah must pass a background check, medical exam, physical agility test, and psychological evaluation. Most agencies also use a qualifying written exam to measure candidates’ reading, writing, and logic skills. With minimum requirements met, recruits must be hired by a law enforcement agency and attend the police academy.
Utah Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements
The Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) hires troopers to protect travelers and Utah residents by keeping drunk drivers off the roads, seizing drugs, monitoring the safety of commercial vehicles, and educating young people about road and driving safety. Recruits can work toward specialty trooper units including the K-9 unit, executive protection, the SWAT team, and the helicopter division. In addition to meeting POST minimum requirements, hopeful new troopers must have:
- A clean driving record
- No visible tattoos while in uniform
- No illegal drug use within the last five years
- No misdemeanor or domestic violence charges
- No crimes of dishonesty within the last four years
The starting salary for Utah state troopers is $42,640 per year, and up to $64,480 per year with experience, with opportunities for overtime and other incentives.2
Utah Sheriff Deputy Requirements
All counties in Utah have a sheriff’s office and each has its own process and standards for hiring deputies. Sheriffs in Utah are typically responsible for county correctional facilities, providing courthouse security, and rural patrol. Those hired as sheriff’s deputies must meet POST minimum requirements and complete training and certification through the POST police academy or one of its satellite campuses.
Salt Lake County
With its county seat in the largest city in the state, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County has a sizable sheriff’s office in the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office (SLCSO). The SLCSO relies on over 1,100 employees and volunteers to carry out its responsibilities for two corrections facilities, crime prevention in the county, and search and rescue, among other initiatives.3 The sheriff’s office hires deputies for both corrections and patrol and protection duties and follows the requirements set by the POST. Salt Lake County runs its own satellite of the POST Academy, which new recruits attend for 12 weeks to become certified.
Davis County has its county seat in the city of Farmington and is home to the Davis County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) and its staff of dedicated deputies. To be considered for a position as a deputy here, new recruits have to meet the POST standards and also must:
- Have a valid Utah driver’s license
- Have proof of current auto insurance
- Be willing to work weekends, holidays, and rotating shifts
- Score at least 70 percent on the POST entrance exam
- Pass a drug screening
Police Departments in Utah
From Salt Lake City to rural Utah, the state is home to many local police departments and hopeful new cops have plenty of opportunities for employment. As of 2017, there were an estimated 4,410 police and sheriff’s patrol officers in the state.
Salt Lake City
With an estimated population of over 200,000, Salt Lake City is Utah’s largest city.4 The Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD) recruits dedicated people wanting to make a difference. The SLCPD offers competitive pay and benefits including longevity pay and accumulated personal leave time. To be considered for a position as an officer, new recruits must meet POST requirements and:
- Pass a physical agility test
- Pass an interview
- Have good communication skills
- Pass a psychological examination
- Pass a medical examination and a drug screening
- Have a valid Utah driver’s license within 30 days of being hired
Entry-level Salt Lake City police earn $20.60 per hour and qualify for raises every other year, up to $33.10 after eight years of service (plus shift differentials and other incentives).5
West Valley City
West Valley City is a suburb of Salt Lake City and the state’s second-largest city.6 The West Valley City Police Department (WVCPD), which is the only nationally accredited law enforcement agency in Utah, is always looking for qualified and devoted new police officers to join its roster of over 190 sworn officers.6 Hopeful recruits must meet POST requirements, complete an application and written examination, successfully finish a physical fitness test and undergo a background investigation, a psychological and medical examination, and an interview. Preference is given to candidates with:
- Military experience
- Any level of college degree, including an associate’s degree
- Proficiency in a foreign language
- Residency in West Valley City
The hourly salary for West Valley City police is $19.75 to $34.89 per hour based on experience, plus incentives.6
- Interpersonal Communication Skills – Those officers who have an ability to connect with a variety of people through the spoken word find success in the law enforcement profession. They have an innate ability to display a command presence, while still showing compassion and empathy with their words and tone.
- Writing Skills – The ability to document a volatile situation in a clear, concise written report with the reader being able to accurately picture everything that occurred without the benefit of actually being there is an invaluable skill for a police officer. Additionally, it is the best way to develop a positive reputation with stakeholders (attorneys, media outlets, citizens, police administrators, fellow officers) who don’t have the benefit of seeing officers do their job on a daily basis, but see many of their reports.
- Physical Fitness – When potential recruits articulate how they focus on keeping themselves physically fit through a continual regimen or through their hobbies, it tells police administrators they understand how important wellness is for an officer to have a successful career. It also lessens the concern of police administrators that the recruit will not be able to pass a new-hire fitness test, or they will not be able to handle the rigors (long workdays, inconsistent schedules, exposure to traumatic events) of the law enforcement profession.
Of course, experience and education related to the job are always beneficial, but the above-identified characteristics allowed candidates to separate themselves from the others and ultimately get hired in our department.” – Don Hutson, Chief of Police, Riverton Police Department
Police Training Academies in Utah
The main police training academy in Utah is the POST Academy in Sandy, Utah. The POST Council also certifies several satellite academies at college campuses throughout the state:
- Bridgerland Applied Technology College – Logan, UT
- Dixie State University – St. George, UT
- Salt Lake Community College – Salt Lake City, UT
- Utah State University Eastern – Price, UT
- Utah Valley University – Orem, UT
- Weber State University – Ogden, UT
Future cops who meet the state’s requirements and are willing to pay tuition may be permitted to attend one of the satellite police training programs. To learn more about training and other opportunities, visit the POST website.
Utah Police Jobs Outlook
The outlook for sheriff’s deputy and police jobs in the state of Utah is promising. Between now and 2026 projections call for 23.2% growth in law enforcement jobs in the state, with 420 annual openings on average.7 The average salary for patrol officers and deputies in Utah is $52,410, although actual salaries vary by department, experience, and other factors.1
For more information about current law enforcement openings, take a look at our police jobs board.
Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Utah
|City||Number Employed||Average Annual Salary|
|Salt Lake City||1,720||$54,840|
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of March 2018.1
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Utah: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ut.htm
2. Utah Highway Patrol: https://highwaypatrol.utah.gov/
3. Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office: https://slco.org/sheriff/
4. US Census Bureau, Utah: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/UT/PST045219
5. Salt Lake City Police Department: http://www.slcpd.com/
6. West Valley City Police Department: http://www.wvc-ut.gov/24/Police-Department
7. Projections Central: https://www.projectionscentral.org/projections/longterm