How to Become a Police Officer in Wisconsin

    With over 5.7 million residents, Wisconsin has a healthy economy and enjoys a cost of living slightly below the US national average.1 To help keep residents safe, over 12,000 sworn police and patrol officers are employed in Wisconsin.2 The number of police agencies in the state provides numerous opportunities for those seeking a career within the law enforcement career field. The state has a set of requirements for prospective law enforcement officers, while each city and sheriff’s office may have additional criteria. Continue reading to learn more about what it takes to start a police career in Wisconsin.

    Wisconsin Police Officer Requirements

    The Wisconsin Law Enforcement Standards Board (LESB) oversees the training and certification of sworn Wisconsin law enforcement personnel. The process is highly selective. Hopeful cops must:

    • Be at least 18 years of age
    • Have a high school diploma or GED
    • Have a valid Wisconsin driver’s license
    • Possess a two-year associate degree or 60 credit hours from an accredited school (within five years of employment)
    • Have never been convicted of a felony or disqualifying misdemeanor, such as domestic violence

    Required Exams

    In addition to meeting the qualifications above, candidates for police jobs in Wisconsin must pass several exams in order to be hired. These include a thorough background check based on fingerprinting, a physical abilities test, a physical exam by a licensed physician, and a psychological exam by a licensed psychologist. Candidates must also complete an oral interview and a drug test. Successful recruits will be appointed to an upcoming police academy.

    “While policing is a dangerous occupation, it is not as dangerous as many people think. The incidence of fatal injuries for police is much lower than for other professions, including loggers, fishers, roofers, and airline pilots.” – David Couper, Former Police Chief of Madison

    Wisconsin Trooper or Highway Patrol Requirements

    The Wisconsin State Patrol (WSP) was founded as the Wisconsin Trooper and State Patrol in 1939, and has since reorganized to provide better services for residents. There are many career paths available to Wisconsin state troopers including field operations, transportation safety, and support services. Candidates for trooper positions must meet state requirements and:

    • Have authorization to work in the United States, such as citizenship or an I-9
    • Meet the patrol’s hearing ability requirements with no more than a 20 decibel hearing loss
    • Have uncorrected vision of 20/100 in each eye correctable to 20/20

    Successful recruits will undergo 25 weeks of paid training at the State Patrol Academy. The starting salary for state troopers is $21 per hour.3

    Wisconsin Sheriff’s Deputy Requirements

    Wisconsin has a sheriff for each of the 72 counties in the state. Sheriffs may appoint sheriff’s deputies, who are sworn law enforcement officers, to carry out the duties of the office. These commonly include prisoner transport and housing, rural patrol, and civil process. The requirements for sheriff’s deputies in Wisconsin are the same as for other law enforcement officers in the state.

    Milwaukee County

    Milwaukee is the largest city in the state of Wisconsin and is home to the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO).4 The MCSO is the oldest sheriff’s office in Wisconsin, with a history dating back to 1835.4 Milwaukee sheriff’s deputies must qualify under state standards and:

    • Be 21 years of age or older
    • Be a citizen of the United States
    • Be a current resident of the state of Wisconsin
    • Have 60 college credit hours at the time of hire

    The MCSO frequently prefers to hire those who have already completed a law enforcement recruit training course or have already been certified as sworn officers in Wisconsin. Milwaukee deputy sheriffs earn between $23.83 and $34.19 per hour depending on experience and qualifications.4

    Dane County

    There are over 550 sheriff’s deputies in Dane County, making the Dane County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) the largest law enforcement agency in Dane County and the fourth-largest in Wisconsin overall.5 Sheriff’s deputy recruits in Dane County must meet state requirements and:

    • Be at least 21 years of age
    • Have a high school diploma or equivalent
    • Be a citizen of the United States

    The starting salary for deputy sheriffs in Dane County is $50,498 per year.5 A 12% incentive is offered for those who hold 60 college credit hours, and an 18% incentive is offered to those who hold a bachelor’s degree.5 Generous incentives are also offered for longevity.

    Police Departments in Wisconsin

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 12,000 police and sheriff’s patrol officers are employed in Wisconsin.2 Law enforcement career opportunities can be found in metros like Madison and Milwaukee, tourist communities like Wisconsin Dells and Baraboo, and rural towns across the state. While all prospective officers must meet the state’s requirements, individual departments may have additional hiring standards.


    The Madison Police Department (MPD) has an authorized force of 468 commissioned officers and 115 full-time civilians.6 To become one of Madison’s finest, applicants must:

    • Be at least 18 years of age; preference is given to individuals with maturity and experience
    • Have vision of 20/100 in each eye correctable to 20/30 and pass either or both the Ishihara and Farnsworth color vision test without color corrective lenses
    • Meet other occupational health standards including TB testing, fitness to use a respirator, hearing standards, and lab tests

    While it is not required, most people hired by the MPD have a bachelor’s degree.6 Applicants must pass qualifying written and physical tests as well as an interview and background check. The starting salary for Madison police officers is $51,423 annually, which rises to $57,178 after six months.6


    Milwaukee is home to one of the largest police forces in Wisconsin, with the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) employing over 2,000 sworn police officers.7 The MPD works to provide a safer, higher quality of life for the residents of Milwaukee. Prospective Milwaukee police officers must meet state standards and:

    • Be at least 21 years of age at appointment (20 at time of application)
    • Be a US citizen
    • Meet the department’s tattoo policies
    • Live within 15 miles of Milwaukee within six months of hire

    The MPD offers officers a starting salary of $59,989 per year.7 Visit our in-depth guide to Milwaukee police careers for information on requirements and the hiring process.

    The Milwaukee Police Department’s mission: “In partnership with the community, we will create and maintain neighborhoods capable of sustaining civic life. We commit to reducing the levels of crime, fear, and disorder through community-based, problem-oriented, and data-driven policing.”

    Police Training Academies in Wisconsin

    Once the initial requirements for becoming a Wisconsin cop are met and the required entrance exams have been passed, recruits must attend and complete a training program at one of the state-approved police training academies. Certified police academies must follow the state’s curriculum standards for basic training; many agencies, such as the Wisconsin State Patrol, require additional training both in recruit school and in the form of field training.

    Wisconsin LESB basic training academies include:

    • Blackhawk Technical College Police Academy – Janesville, WI
    • Gateway Technical College Police Academy – Kenosha, WI
    • Lakeshore Technical College Police Academy – Cleveland, WI
    • Madison Police Academy – Madison, WI
    • Milwaukee Area Technical College – Milwaukee, WI

    For a complete list of all Wisconsin police academies in the state, check out WILEnet, the official website of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Standards Board (LESB).

    Wisconsin Police Jobs Outlook

    The future is bright for those who wish to work in Wisconsin’s law enforcement field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that police officers in Wisconsin earned an average annual wage of $60,800 in 2017.2 It is expected that law enforcement jobs in the state will increase by 5.8% through 2026, with 860 annual openings including replacements.8 The need for new police officers is expected to be driven in part by police officers retiring within the next few years and state and local budgets for law enforcement.

    To find out the current law enforcement openings in your area, check out our police jobs board.

    Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officer Salary in Wisconsin

    CityNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
    Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis3,510$69,590

    Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of March 2018.2

    1. Sperling’s Best Places, Wisconsin: https://www.bestplaces.net/state/wisconsin
    2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Wisconsin: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_wi.htm
    3. Wisconsin State Patrol: https://wisconsindot.gov/Pages/about-wisdot/who-we-are/dsp/dsp.aspx
    4. Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office: https://county.milwaukee.gov/EN/Sheriff
    5. Dane County Sheriff’s Office: https://www.danesheriff.com/
    6. Madison Police Department: https://www.cityofmadison.com/police/
    7. Milwaukee Police Department: https://city.milwaukee.gov/police
    8. Projections Central: https://www.projectionscentral.org/projections/longterm