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How to Become a Police Officer in West Virginia

Straddling the boundary between north and south, West Virginia has a unique culture and draws in tourists for its historic sites, white water rafting, and traditional bluegrass music. The state’s cost of living is 16.4% lower than the national average, and the population is remaining stable with 2% growth over the past two decades.1 An estimated 3,800 cops and sheriff’s deputies work in West Virginia.2 Continue reading to learn more about requirements for police officers in West Virginia at the state and local levels.

West Virginia Police Officer Requirements

The West Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards (LEPS) program is tasked with overseeing training and certification for all law enforcement officers in the state. LEPS sets curriculum standards for the state’s only basic training police academy and sets the minimum requirements for admission and certification. To qualify for law enforcement work in West Virginia, candidates must:

  • Complete a medical examination
  • Have adequate physical fitness
  • Complete a background check
  • Complete the state’s basic police training

West Virginia is unusual in that state law does not provide minimum hiring age or other common standards such as outlining generally accepted disqualifying criminal history reports, education, or citizenship status by legislation. However, applicants will find that individual agencies within the state generally do have such guidelines.

Required Exams

The hiring process for West Virginia police officers may vary from department to department, but testing requirements are largely the same. All candidates will need to pass a background check. All prospective cops must pass a physical abilities test based on Cooper Institute of Aerobics Research standards and perform at the 40th percentile or better to pass. Candidates must also undergo medical and physical examinations to be certified as not having any conditions that would interfere with their ability to perform essential functions of police work. A psychological exam is typically administered to ensure that candidates are mentally suited to the job. Finally, recruits will attend at least 800 hours of police academy training and must successfully pass all segments of training in order to become sworn officers.

West Virginia Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

The West Virginia State Police (WVSP), founded in 1919, is the fourth-oldest organized state police agency in the country.3 In order to be considered for a position as a WVSP trooper, new recruits must meet the state standards as well as these additional requirements:

  • Be at least 21 years old, but no older than 39
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Have a valid driver’s license for two years before applying
  • Have no domestic violence convictions

Prospective recruits submitting an application who meet the requirements must pass a written test and a fitness test on an open testing date, followed by an oral interview. Candidates who move forward in the process will complete psychological and medical testing as well as a background check. Accepted recruits will be assigned to a training class. The annual starting salary for West Virginia state troopers is $36,154 during training and $43,414 upon graduation.3

West Virginia Sheriff Deputy Requirements

All counties in West Virginia have a sheriff’s department or office responsible for overseeing several aspects of law enforcement within the county. These offices are staffed by deputies who take on several roles including prisoner guarding and transport, road patrolling, and criminal investigations, among many others. Requirements for West Virginia sheriff’s deputies are similar to those for police officers.

Kanawha County

Kanawha County is West Virginia’s most populous county and includes a sizable staff of deputies at the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO). The county seat is Charleston, which is both the largest city in the state and the state capital. New recruits must meet the LEPS standards and then proceed through a series of written, fitness, medical, psychological, and polygraph exams, as well as a background check and an interview, before being considered for a position. The starting salary for deputy sheriffs with the KCSO is $38,500 to $41,348 per year prior to certification, which rises to $41,288 to $45,873 per year after the probationary period.4

Jefferson County

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) serves over 56,000 residents in the eastern panhandle of the state.5 Deputies working in this department are responsible for all areas of law enforcement, from patrolling to making arrests to transporting prisoners. In addition to state requirements, candidates for a Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy position must:

  • Be between the ages of 18 and 45
  • Be a US citizen
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Pass a competitive written civil service test
  • Have vision correctable to 20/20
  • Have no hearing deficiencies

Once these basic requirements are met, new recruits must pass the same exams as all other law enforcement officers in West Virginia, which include a physical fitness test, a background check, a polygraph test, and medical and psychological examinations. The starting salary for JCSO sheriff’s deputies is $41,300 per year.5

Police Departments in West Virginia

From the larger cities of Charleston and Huntington to the rural villages of the Appalachian Mountains, West Virginia is a diverse state with a wide range of police departments and law enforcement career paths. While the state sets minimum guidelines for police certification and training, individual departments may set their own requirements on top of these guidelines.

Charleston

Charleston is the capital of West Virginia and is also the largest city in the state, with over 50,000 residents.6 The Charleston Police Department (CPD) has 162 sworn officers and 21 civilian employees and is often recruiting competitive candidates interested in policing careers.6 The CPD requires that applicants:

  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Be between the ages of 18 and 40
  • Pass a written and a physical fitness test before being considered for further screening

Those hired will train at the state police academy and then complete CPD field training.

Huntington

Huntington, with a population of about 47,000, is West Virginia’s second-largest city but is part of the largest greater metropolitan area in the state.7 The police force includes 111 sworn officers and a handful of civilian employees.7 The Huntington Police Department (HPD) frequently hires new police officers. To become an HPD police recruit, candidates must:

  • Be between the ages of 18 and 40
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Be a US citizen
  • Meet all West Virginia state requirements for law enforcement

Prospective recruits must pass a written test and a physical fitness test. After meeting these requirements, candidates will take medical, psychological, and polygraph examinations, as well as a background check and an oral interview, before being considered for conditional hire and police academy training. The base salary for Huntington police officers is $37,643 per year; the average salary for experienced patrol officers is $52,000 per year.7

Police Training Academies in West Virginia

There is only one basic training academy in West Virginia, the West Virginia State Police Academy, located in Institute. All new recruits hired by a law enforcement agency in the state must attend basic training here in order to be certified as a peace officer. Individual agencies may also require further training for their new hires. The academy includes live-in training and all cadets must achieve a passing grade of at least 75% on each exam during training to be certified. After graduating from the academy, newly-sworn police officers will typically undergo field training with their home agency prior to being assigned to patrol.

West Virginia Police Jobs Outlook

The number of positions for police patrol officers and sheriff’s deputies is expected to grow over the coming years. Through 2026, projections suggest jobs growth of 8.5% for police and sheriff’s patrol officers in West Virginia, with an average of 32 new positions available each year and 280 average annual openings including replacements.8 The average annual salary for law enforcement officers in West Virginia is $43,050.2

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

Police and Sheriff Patrol Officer Salary in West Virginia

CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Charleston760$45,930
Huntington-Ashland WV-KY-OH590$41,100
Wheeling WV-OH500$43,330

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of March 2018.2

References:
1. Sperling’s Best Places, West Virginia: https://www.bestplaces.net/state/west_virginia
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, West Virginia: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_wv.htm
3. West Virginia State Police: http://www.wvsp.gov/pages/colonel.aspx
4. Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office: http://www.kanawhasheriff.us/
5. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office: http://www.jeffersoncountywv.org/county-government/elected-officials/sheriff-s-law-enforcement-office
6. Charleston Police Department: http://www.charlestonwvpolice.org/
7. Huntington Police Department: https://hpdwv.com/
8. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm