How to Become a Police Officer in Vermont

In 2009 Vermont had only 316 state police officers, which is similar in size to the state police forces of the New England states of New Hampshire and Maine. If you are interested in becoming a cop in Vermont, projections indicate there will be about 40 openings per year up to 2018, due to both expansion and replacing retiring officers. The training required to become a police officer in Vermont is determined by the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council (VCJTC), which sets minimum standards for age, criminal record, and education that are followed throughout the state. However, police agencies have the freedom to set higher standards, and obtaining a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a similar field from an accredited school can help your chances of securing a position, as can honorable military service and law enforcement experience in other states.

Students attend one of the two VCJTC basic training academies in Vermont for basic police training, typically while sponsored by a law enforcement agency that has hired them. Extra spaces are available for students who wish to attend the academy on their own account, but these students must pay their own tuition. In addition, they will not be fully certified as police officers in Vermont until hired by a law enforcement agency. If you already have passed an academy program in another state, you can become a Vermont peace officer by applying for a waiver; you will need to take some refresher courses, but the process will be much quicker than the full academy.

Becoming a police officer in Burlington is not the same process as becoming a law officer in a rural district. Burlington in particular sets higher standards for its potential hires, requiring a higher age (20 in Burlington, versus the VCJTC minimum of 18) and stricter physical standards. If you have concerns about particular standards, or are not able to find clear reference to a local agency’s specific requirements, it is a good idea to contact the recruiter or public relations officer at that agency to discuss the matter.

What are the POST Minimum Standards to Become a Cop in Vermont?

  • You must be at least 18 years of age.
  • You must be a high school graduate or have a GED.
  • You must pass a physical examination which certifies you are free from any physical disorder or disability that would interfere with your ability to complete the academy’s training. Not all disabilities are disqualifications; for instance, correctable hearing and vision problems are often acceptable.
  • You must meet established minimums of physical fitness according to the VCJTC standards, which typically means that you must be at or above the 40th percentile (above average) for your age and gender according to the Cooper Institute’s tests.
  • You must pass a psychological examination to ensure you are on mentally stable and able to handle the responsibilities of a law officer.
  • You must also pass a background examination that will check your criminal record for felonies or misdemeanors involving fraud or violent behavior.
  • You must pass a written examination administered by the Vermont Police Academy, scoring a mark of at least 70 out of 100.

What Could Disqualify Me from Becoming a Vermont Cop?

Applicants to become police officers in Vermont must be free of felony convictions in order to be considered. The Burlington Police Department lists violent crimes, including domestic violence, as a disqualifier to become a police officer, as are habitual or serious traffic offenses. Applicants in Burlington can also expect to submit to a polygraph examination as well as drug screening. If you have specific concerns, contact the agency where you plan to apply to discuss the matter with a recruiter.

Police Training Academies in Vermont

The standards for becoming a cop in Vermont are set by the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council (VCJTC). The VCJTC was founded to increase the standard of training for peace officers throughout the state and is funded by state revenues. All 43 police departments in Vermont participate in the program, either by sending new hires to the police training academies or choosing to hire police officers from recent graduates. The VCJTC standard is the basis for police hiring requirements in Vermont, but departments are permitted to set higher requirements if they choose.

An example would be age requirements; VCJTC’s minimum age for enrollment in the academy is 18, but the Burlington Police Department will not accept applicants under the age of 20, and you must be 21 before being hired. Burlington has other requirements not mentioned in the VCJTC police training standards, such as maintaining first aid certification and a higher standard of physical fitness. There are several routes to police careers in Vermont. The most frequent is being examined, tested and hired by an agency and then sent to the academy. There are also academy programs for out-of-state officers, as well as the opportunity for private students who can pass the core requirements to attend the academy if there are open spaces.

Anyone who can pass the requisite tests and checks can attempt police training courses in Vermont. Those tests include an examination of general educational level, as well as medical and psychological examinations. Academy police training is provided at no charge to students who have been sent by their departments; if you are studying on your own, however, tuition charges do apply, and you should contact the VCJTC to find out the current rates for tuition. You will receive certification as a graduate after successfully completing the course of study, although if you have paid your own way, applying for a job as a peace officer is necessary before your certification becomes valid. Academy students receive classroom instruction in law in addition to participating in practical exercises with driving and firearms.

Police training in Vermont involves 803 hours of POST basic instruction, which are divided to provide instruction in core learning areas. If you are taking the full-time course (as most non-veteran officers do) you will need to live on campus. Subjects you would study include:

  • Doppler Radar Operation
  • Patrol Procedures
  • Crash Investigation
  • Criminal Law
  • History and Principles of Policing

Law Enforcement Jobs and Salary in Vermont

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Vermont employed 1,250 police officers as of May 2011, which was much lower than the number of officers employed by neighboring New Hampshire. The average police officer salary in Vermont at that time was $44,270, somewhat lower than that of a New Hampshire peace officer, despite the fact that the two states have very similar costs of living. Vermont law enforcement jobs are also a little safer, as demonstrated by Vermont’s slightly lower rate of violent crime, according to 2009 statistics.

While the VCTCJ certified training courses in Vermont are a strong unifying element throughout the state’s law enforcement community, there may be a different hierarchy in some agencies. The Vermont State Police use a paramilitary organization of ranks, based on the United States Marine Corps, which includes nine distinct ranks. From highest to lowest, these ranks are:

  • Colonel – Colonels lead the Vermont State Police. The Director of the agency can be promoted to a full colonelcy at the discretion of the Commissioner of Public Safety.
  • Lieutenant Colonel – Lieutenant Colonels provide leadership in the Vermont State Police; the director of the agency is appointed by the Commissioner for three-year terms, renewed at the Commissioner’s discretion.
  • Major – Majors oversee divisions of the Vermont State Police, providing top-level executive leadership and communicating with the Lt. Colonel. These divisions include Support Services and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
  • Captain – Captains lead troops in particular regions in the state, managing personnel and guiding local posts. Captains also often fill staff positions at headquarters, filing reports and monitoring investigations.
  • Lieutenant – Lieutenants command state police stations and specialized units such as Fleet Services and Governor’s Highway Safety. Lieutenants must possess a bachelor’s degree to qualify for this rank, and thus for all higher ranks as well.
  • Sergeant – Sergeants directly supervise other officers and are often known as Patrol Commanders, coordinating activity and supervising investigations. In order to be promoted to Sergeant, you must possess an associate degree.
  • Corporal – Corporals are promoted to this rank after fifteen years of service without other promotion.
  • Trooper First Class – Troopers First Class serve the public interest, safeguard the highways and state property of Vermont, assist stranded travelers, and investigate crimes. Troopers First Class achieve the rank after a year of honorable service as troopers.
  • Trooper Second Class – Troopers Second Class perform duties similar to those of Troopers First Class. This is the entry-level rank to the Vermont State Police.

Law Enforcement and Related Online Colleges in Vermont

Vermont has more colleges per capita than any other U.S. state and has a long history of education, with two colleges dating back to the 1700s. A college degree is not necessary to become a police officer in Vermont, but it can often be a requirement for promotions and can help you stand out from other applicants. While criminal justice is an obvious choice, fields as varied as psychology, accounting, and biology will help you start your career as a Vermont police officer.

A degree in psychology can give you insight into the criminal mind, as well as familiarity with how to aid those suffering from mental difficulties. Accounting can help you reveal serious crimes that often go overlooked and can aid in tracing criminal activity. Studying biology will not only give you information that may be applicable to medical difficulties or crimes, but may open up careers as a wildlife police officer in the mountainous state of Vermont.

A degree in any field, whether an associates degree or a masters, will help you build critical thinking and communication skills that can be vital in police work. If you are curious about degrees that can help your law enforcement career, take a look at this directory of traditional and online colleges in Vermont.