How to Become a Police Officer in Virginia

    Over 18,700 police officers are employed in the state of Virginia.1 Police departments in Virginia are often hiring new police officers to keep up with population growth. The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) sets minimum training standards for recruits, who must meet minimum qualifications that are set by the state legislature plus any special requirements held by the hiring agency. Continue reading to learn more about how to qualify for police jobs in Virginia.

    Virginia Police Officer Requirements

    The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) has many responsibilities, including accrediting law enforcement agencies in the state and maintaining training programs for in-service and entry-level police officers. In order to qualify for the police academy, candidates need to meet qualifications set by the Virginia legislature and DCJS. This means that prospective Virginia police must:

    • Be 18 years of age
    • Have a high school diploma or GED
    • Be a US citizen
    • Submit to a background investigation
    • Have a valid driver’s license with an acceptable driving record
    • Have no felony convictions or disqualifying misdemeanors
    • Not indulge in drug use or excessive use of alcohol

    Required Exams

    Police candidates must typically establish eligibility by meeting the above requirements and taking a written exam as well as a physical ability test. In the physical ability test, candidates are typically asked to complete push-ups and sit-ups, pull heavy weights, and complete a run within a designated timeframe. A background investigation and polygraph examination will be one of the next steps in the recruitment process. Candidates are typically then reviewed by a prescreening board and proceed to an oral interview. A psychological examination and physical (medical) examination are the final few items to clear before being assigned to the police academy to train as a Virginia police officer.

    “The Petersburg Bureau of Police encourages all high school students to complete school and earn a college degree as well as serve their city, town, state, or country. To be a public servant is not something you do, rather it’s who you are. It’s the opportunity to do more than just have a job, it’s your new way of life. As such, the lifestyle speaks to honor, virtue, selflessness, and commitment. The oath one takes does not address pay, assignment, hours worked, or time of day you work; it focuses on being a good community member and a better public servant.” -Kenneth (Kenny) Miller, Chief of Police, Petersburg Bureau of Police.

    Virginia Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

    The Virginia State Police (VSP) manages enforcement on over 64,000 miles of roads and highways in Virginia.2 The VSP maintains multiple specialty units to which troopers may apply after two years of patrol service. These include an arson/bomb unit, a counter-terrorism and criminal interdiction unit, and a hazardous material unit. To become a Virginia state trooper, you must:

    • Live in a state east of the Mississippi at the time of application
    • Be at least 21 years of age
    • Have a high school diploma or GED
    • Be a US citizen
    • Have a valid driver’s license and good driving record
    • Meet the agency’s proportionate height and weight standards
    • Not have any disqualifying body art or modifications
    • Be willing to relocate to anywhere in the state
    • Not have any past or recent disqualifying history of drug use, including marijuana
    • Not have any driving under the influence convictions within the past five years, nor more than one conviction in a lifetime

    Virginia Deputy Sheriff Requirements

    Virginia sheriffs and deputy sheriffs work in detention centers, provide security at courthouses, and provide rural patrol and law enforcement services. To become a Virginia deputy sheriff, you must at least meet the state minimums for law enforcement officers. Some departments may have additional qualifications for candidates.

    Virginia Beach

    The Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office (VSBO) employs 548 people, including sworn, civilian, part-time, and auxiliary staff.3 The Virginia Beach Correctional Center handles about 1,300 pretrial and convicted inmates.3 This sheriff’s office also takes care of the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program, as well as provides security to 28 courts. The VSBO requires the applicant to meet state minimums for sworn officers. In addition, candidates must not have:

    • Any criminal convictions of any kind, including domestic violence
    • Three or more points on their driver’s license, in- or out-of-state
    • Any disqualifying involvement in drugs as an adult, including marijuana use in the past 24 months
    • Filed for Chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy
    • Any visible tattoos

    Deputy sheriffs with the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office start at an annual salary of $41,683.3

    Richmond City

    The Richmond City Sheriff’s Office (RSO) is one of the largest in the Commonwealth of Virginia, with almost 500 employees.4 Successful applicants will handle community relations, such as high school programs, in addition to working at the jail and local courts. To be a deputy sheriff at this office, candidates must:

    • Be a US citizen
    • Be at least 21 years of age
    • Have a driver’s license with a good driving history
    • Not have been convicted of domestic violence, serious misdemeanors, felonies, or felony nolle prosse charges
    • Submit to an extensive background investigation, polygraph examination, and medical exam/drug screening
    “A.) In order to be competitive, applicants need to have committed to pursuing the career field long before they begin the application process. Today’s most highly qualified candidates are those who have pursued higher education and/or devoted a portion of their life to military service. Life choices are equally as important. Certain personal conduct can eliminate an applicant from consideration, regardless of their qualifications.

    B.) Being competitive as a law enforcement applicant can be simplified into two areas: Preparation and Conduct. Preparation starts long before the applications are submitted, and often consists of pursuing a college degree and/or serving in the military. Conduct is simply the result of your life’s choices. Many ‘qualified’ applicants are not considered for law enforcement positions due to choices they’ve made in their personal lives.” -Sergeant Randy Stackpole, Employment Services Section, Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.

    Police Departments in Virginia

    There are 18,700 police officers employed in Virginia, and the largest police department in the state is the Virginia Beach PD.1,5 Candidates looking to go into law enforcement as a police officer must meet all of the state’s requirements plus any requirements for the hiring agency, complete the selection process, and graduate from the police academy.

    Virginia Beach

    The Virginia Beach Police Department (VBPD) is a great place for an up-and-coming police officer to apply. VBPD units include bomb squad, motorcycle, and K-9 units, as well as SWAT. Candidates with some college experience are preferred, but a high school diploma or equivalent and a minimum age of 21 are required. Candidates also must have a valid Virginia or North Carolina driver’s license or be eligible to obtain one.

    To learn more, see our in-depth guide on becoming a police officer in Virginia Beach.


    The Richmond Police Department (RPD) employs 750 sworn officers to provide law enforcement services to Richmond, the capital of Virginia.6 The RPD was one of the first formally organized law enforcement agencies to be established in the US, with a founding date in 1807. In addition to meeting state standards, applicants to the RPD must:

    • Be 21 years of age
    • Have a valid driver’s license
    • Not have any DUI convictions in the past five years

    The starting salary for Richmond police recruits is $41,000 per year.6

    “As Virginia’s capital, Richmond is a progressive city offering beautiful neighborhoods characterized by striking architecture, a culturally diverse population, and noted historic prestige. Our community policing strategies provide you with a wide range of skill development opportunities, from increasing your problem-solving abilities to enhancing your interpersonal skills. The Richmond City Police Department is here to provide you with a tremendous opportunity for professional growth and advancement.” -Former Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham

    Police Training Academies

    Successful candidates with any law enforcement agency in Virginia are required to attend a training academy, where they will learn a variety of skills. Police academies in Virginia are overseen by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). Courses in the academy will cover criminal law, the motor vehicle code, laws of arrest, and search and seizure, among other topics. There are 10 police academies in the Commonwealth of Virginia:

    • Central Virginia Criminal Justice Academy – Lynchburg, VA
    • Crater Criminal Justice Training Academy – Disputanta, VA
    • Fairfax County Criminal Justice Academy – Chantilly, VA
    • Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy – Fredericksburg, VA
    • Cardinal Criminal Justice Academy – Salem, VA
    • Commonwealth Criminal Justice Academy – Fredericksburg, VA
    • Southwest Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy – Bristol, VA
    • Hampton Roads Criminal Justice Training Academy – Newport News, VA
    • Piedmont Regional Criminal Justice Training Academy – Martinsville, VA
    • Central Shenandoah Criminal Justice Academy – Weyers Cave, VA

    Unlike those many other states, Virginia’s police academies may accept applicants who are willing to pay tuition and who have not been offered a hire letter by a police agency in the state. Known as pre-employment applicants, candidates following this route must apply to the police academy and meet all regular requirements for Virginia police officers.

    For more information on police academies and training in Virginia, visit the DCJS website.

    Police Jobs Outlook

    The law enforcement field in Virginia has a bright career outlook. Jobs for police and sheriff’s patrol officers are expected to increase by 9.4% through 2026, with 1,430 average annual job openings (including replacements).7 The availability of jobs will be fueled in part by older officers retiring, leaving more room for young officers to take their places. The average salary for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in Virginia is $56,290 per year.1 With these statistics in mind, Virginia can be an ideal place for prospective cops to enter a lucrative career in law enforcement.

    For police officer job listings, please visit our police jobs board.

    Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in Virginia

    CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
    Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News4,560$52,770
    Washington-Arlington-Alexandria DC-VA-MD-WV15,850$71,740

    Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of March 2018.1

    1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Virginia: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_va.htm
    2. Virginia State Police: https://www.vsp.virginia.gov/
    3. Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office: https://www.vbso.net/
    4. Richmond City Sheriff’s Office: https://rva.gov/sheriff
    5. Virginia Beach Police Department: https://www.vbgov.com/government/departments/police/Pages/default.aspx
    6. Richmond Police Department: https://rva.gov/index.php/police
    7. Projections Central https://www.projectionscentral.org/projections/longterm